Weekly Meanderings, 29 July 2017

tumblr_nsobx5Dd7c1qfirfao1_1280_optLarry Parsley, Joe Maddon, and Mockingbird:

In Tom Verducci’s entertaining book, The Cub’s Way: The Zen of Building the Best Team in Baseball and Breaking the Curse, he describes an incident very early in skipper Joe Maddon’s career. In 1986, Maddon was managing the Double-A Midland Angels in Texas. They were a bad team who had just suffered another bad loss. Maddon was apoplectic. He found a newspaper stand, purchased a variety of papers, and began cutting out the classified ads. Later, he taped up these “Help Wanted” advertisements all over the clubhouse, including on the backs of bathroom stalls. The message was clear: “If you’re not going to play baseball hard and you’re not going to play baseball well, these are your alternatives!” It felt like a good idea at the time, but he later learned the lesson that “there was no room for negativity in a clubhouse.” And you could arguably say that paradigm shift helped Maddon go on to break the 108-year World Series drought.

I can only imagine the psychological dynamics that drove Maddon’s cutting and pasting — the “creativity” of the idea, the intentionality to purchase the papers and cut out the want ads, the motivation to ensure that this not-so-subtle message could be seen pretty much everywhere. I can only guess that, in that moment, Maddon received a temporary release by offloading all his shame for his losing record onto others (all under the ploy of “motivation”).

In my line of work as a senior pastor, that temptation is ever-present….What is it about shaming that feels so tantalizing in the moment? Is it the brutal clarity of the message? The visceral reaction it so often sparks? Now, baseball is a game of numbers, and players with low batting averages and high ERA’s and few wins tend to know the score. Players, like pastors and church members and people in general, need honest conversations about painful realities. But shame? Shame is an “epidemic,” and it sure ain’t helping us play above .500. What we crave is for someone to see us at our worst, to see what anyone with a box score can plainly see, and yet still say: “Who condemns you? Neither do I condemn you.”

More recess, please!

Four times a day, the doors of Eagle Mountain Elementary in Fort Worth, Texas, fling open to let bouncy, bubbly, excited kindergarteners and first-graders pounce onto the playground.

The youngest kids at this school now enjoy two 15-minute breaks in the morning and two in the afternoon for a total of one hour of recess a day. That’s three times longer and three more breaks than they used to get.

The children always go outside to play games or use the swings and slides, even if it’s drizzly or cold.

“There was a part of me that was very nervous about it,” Donna McBride, a first-grade teacher at the school, told TODAY Parents.

“I was trying to wrap my head around my class going outside four times a day and still being able to teach those children all the things they needed to learn.”

Some five months into the experiment, McBride’s fears have been alleviated. Her students are less fidgety and more focused, she said. They listen more attentively, follow directions and try to solve problems on their own instead of coming to the teacher to fix everything. There are fewer discipline issues.

“We’re seeing really good results,” she noted.

Parents are seeing them, too. Amy Longspaugh noticed her 6-year-old daughter Maribel, who is in McBride’s class, has become more independent and writes with more detail and creativity. Maribel has also made more friends as the kids mingle outside.

“It is what they look forward to every day,” Longspaugh said.

Forest bathing (not what you think):

When my editors asked me to report on forest bathing, I packed a swimsuit. I assumed it must involve a dip in the water.

It turns out, my interpretation was too literal.

I met certified Forest Therapy guide Melanie Choukas-Bradley and several other women who’d come along for the adventure at the footbridge to Theodore Roosevelt Island, a dense jungle of an urban forest along the Potomac River in Washington, D.C.

Here, I began to get it. Forest bathing isn’t a bath. We sat on the banks of the river, but we did not get in the water.

It’s not a hike, either. We did walk the forest trails, but we meandered with no particular destination in mind.

The aim of forest bathing, Choukas-Bradley explained, is to slow down and become immersed in the natural environment. She helped us tune in to the smells, textures, tastes and sights of the forest. We took in our surroundings by using all our senses.

As we passed through a stand of pawpaw trees, we touched the bark. We smelled the black walnuts, which give off a lovely citrus fragrance. We got a little shower of ripe mulberries, too.

“Close your eyes and just breathe, just breathe,” Choukas-Bradley intoned. It felt a bit like a meditation retreat.

It took me a few minutes to clear out the clutter in my brain, and tune in to the natural world.

“When you open your eyes, imagine you’re seeing the world for the very first time,” Choukas-Bradley told us.

Wisconsin company installs microchips in employees:

Welcome to the future?

A Wisconsin technology company is offering its employees microchip implants that can be used to scan into the building and purchase food at work. Whether or not to get a chip is up to the employee to decide.

Three Square Market, a company that provides technology for break-room or micro markets, has over 50 employees who plan to have the devices implanted. The tiny chip, which uses RFID technology or Radio-Frequency Identification, can be implanted between the thumb and forefinger “within seconds,” according to a statement from the company.

The company, which is based in River Falls, Wisc., envisions the rice-sized micro chip allowing employees to easily pay for items, access the building and their computers all with a scan of their hand.

“We foresee the use of RFID technology to drive everything from making purchases in our office break room market, opening doors, use of copy machines, logging into our office computers, unlocking phones, sharing business cards, storing medical/health information, and used as payment at other RFID terminals,” CEO Todd Westby said in a company statement. “Eventually, this technology will become standardized allowing you to use this as your passport, public transit, all purchasing opportunities, etc.”

And while microchipping employees may sound like something out of a horror film, the company is partnering with Swedish company BioHax International, which already has many “chipped” employees.

Employees are not required to get the microchips, and Westby told the station there is no GPS tracking.

Mommas don’t let your babies grow up to be footballers:

(CNN)Chronic traumatic encephalopathy, known as CTE, was found in 99% of deceased NFL players’ brains that were donated to scientific research, according to a study published Tuesday in the medical journal JAMA.

The neurodegenerative brain disease can be found in individuals who have been exposed to repeated head trauma. The disease is pathologically marked by an buildup of abnormal tau protein in the brain that can disable neuropathways and lead to a variety of clinical symptoms. These include memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, aggression, depression, anxiety, impulse control issues and sometimes suicidal behavior.

It can only be formally diagnosed with an autopsy, and most cases, although not all, have been seen in either veterans or people who played contact sports, particularly American football.

“There’s no question that there’s a problem in football. That people who play football are at risk for this disease,” said Dr. Ann McKee, director of Boston University’s CTE Center and coauthor of the new study. “And we urgently need to find answers for not just football players, but veterans and other individuals exposed to head trauma.”

The JAMA study is the largest of its kind and all of those studied were required to have football as their primary exposure to head trauma. The criteria for submitting a brain was based on exposure to repetitive head trauma, regardless of whether that individual exhibited symptoms during their lifetime.

Algae turning Greenland green:

Thanks to global warming, algae are expanding on Greenland, helping to slowly melt the massive island’s ice sheet and turning it “green.”

The microscopic algae that grow on the Greenland ice sheet are dark, which means they absorb more sunlight and warm up the surface more quickly than white ice, which reflects light.

“More algae means a darker surface, and darker surfaces melt faster,” said Martyn Tranter, head of the British research project Black and Bloom, the first group to study the phenomenon.

As this feedback loop continues, the extra warming from increased algae coverage causes a more rapid melting of the ice sheet. That’s a problem because if all the ice on Greenland melted, sea levels would rise by as much as 20 feet in spots worldwide, inundating coastal cities.

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