Weekly Meanderings, 11 November 2017

Screen Shot 2017-10-05 at 11.22.00 AMGood for these students: From Geoffrey Wilson

Six months ago, a third-grade class in Pleasant Valley, New York, learned about the negative environmental impact caused by a foam used in a common type of cup in restaurants across the country.

So they chose to take a stand.

The students presented their research on polystyrene foam to older classes at Joseph D’Aquanni West Road Intermediate School, wrote letters to government leaders and ultimately addressed the Dutchess County (N.Y.) Legislature.

“It really took off,” Barbara Kurdziel, the class’ teacher, said. “They were so engaged and outraged about the effects of polystyrene.”

The result of that advocacy took shape Friday, as Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro signed a law prohibiting the use of polystyrene foam cups and food containers in chain restaurants and county facilities.

Now in fourth grade, the students responsible for bringing the issue to the Legislature attended the signing and received proclamations from the county honoring their advocacy.

Sad for these students:

(CNN)A Miami private school is offering parents an unusual item for sale: bulletproof panels for their kids’ backpacks.

The Florida Christian School website has a list of items available for purchase. These include winter wear, red school logo T-shirts and ballistic panels.
George Gulla, dean of students and head of school security at Florida Christian School, told CNN the bulletproof panels would add “another level of protection” to students of the pre-K through grade 12 school “in the event of an active shooter.”
The school has never had a shooting incident.
“The teachers are trained to instruct the students to use their backpacks as a shield to protect themselves,” Gulla told CNN in an email.

Good for this student, Miles Bridges, by Carvell Wallace:

I find myself, unexpectedly, at an informal Bible study in a nondescript Michigan State dorm room. I squeeze onto a couch beside two or three earnest-looking college kids. I think the spot I’ve claimed may have actually belonged to Spartans star sophomore forward Miles Bridges. There was this awkward thing that happened when I first arrived: I picked the seat out, plugged in my rapidly dying phone near it, then went to get some water.

In my absence, Bridges came to the spot on the couch, hovered over it, appeared ready to snag it, but then he got pulled away. And so I slipped back in. From his point of view, was it reasonable to suspect I just straight up took his seat? Yes. Did I do it on purpose? Maybe. All I’ve heard since I got to campus is how kind Miles Bridges is. How unfailingly polite. How humble. Maybe the reporter in me wants to test the veracity of these claims. He is without doubt the biggest and most important athletic figure in this room and possibly on this campus. He was a projected NBA lottery pick after just one statistically dominant season. His crossovers made national highlights. His 3s put daggers in his opponents’ hearts. And yet he stayed in East Lansing. Tonight, he has every reason to flex a little in this dorm room filled with wide-eyed young Christians and teammates; every reason to say calmly but with great authority, “Hey man, you took my seat.” Maybe I want to see if he will. …

Senior point guard Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairn Jr. is the de facto leader of both the team and this Bible study. He is a compact young man, tightly wound and seemingly constructed entirely of muscle. He has boundless energy and enthusiasm, with kind eyes and a handshake and a joke for literally everyone who works in Michigan State athletics. Sophomore combo guard Josh Langford functions as something of the straight man of the group. I would deem him Most Likely to Call Every Adult Sir or Ma’am. Arriving late to the study is 6-foot-8 big man Xavier Tillman. Though only a freshman, Tillman is so firmly accepted by this group that the study won’t begin without him. When Tillman does arrive, he carries his reason for being late: his infant daughter, whom he holds and dotes on for the majority of the evening.

The night’s topics range from having a relationship with God to reconciling shaken faith to the easy lure of temptations. These kids are wrestling, in their own earnest way, with the deepest spiritual questions they can think of. And sitting on the floor is one of the top-ranked basketball players in the country.

At the end, we are asked to share what part of the night had the biggest impact on us. When Bridges’ turn comes, he seems lost in thought.

“I’m just still thinking about the question of what is your life’s purpose.”

Umberto Eco:

How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read, by Pierre Bayard, a psychoanalyst and professor of literature, is not about how you might know not to read a book but how you can happily talk about a book you haven’t read, even to your students, even when it’s a book of extraordinary importance. His calculation is scientific. Good libraries hold several millions of books: even if we read a book a day, we would read only 365 a year, around 3,600 in ten years, and between the ages of ten and eighty we’ll have read only 25,200. A trifle. On the other hand, any Italian who’s had a good secondary education knows perfectly well that they can participate in a discussion, let’s say, on Matteo Bandello, Francesco Guicciardini, Matteo Boiardo, on the tragedies of Vittorio Alfieri, or on Ippolito Nievo’s Confessions of an Italian, knowing only the name and something about the critical context, but without ever having read a word.

And critical context is Bayard’s crucial point. He declares without shame that he has never read James Joyce’s Ulysses, but that he can talk about it by alluding to the fact that it’s a retelling of the Odyssey, which he also admits never having read in its entirety, that it is based on an internal monologue, that the action unfolds in Dublin during a single day, et cetera. “As a result,” he writes, “I often find myself alluding to Joyce without the slightest anxiety.” Knowing a book’s relationship to other books often means you know more about it than you do on actually reading it.

Bayard shows how, when you read certain neglected books, you realize you’re familiar with their contents because they have been read by others who have talked about them, quoted from them, or have moved in the same current of ideas. He makes some extremely amusing observations on a number of literary texts that refer to books never read, including Robert Musil, Graham Greene, Paul Valéry, Anatole France, and David Lodge. And he does me the honor of devoting a whole chapter to my The Name of the Rose, where William of Baskerville demonstrates a familiarity with the second book of Aristotle’s Poetics while holding it in his hands for the very first time. He does so for the simple reason that he infers what it says from some other pages of Aristotle. I’m not citing this passage out of mere vanity, though, as we shall see at the end of this article.

An intriguing aspect of this book, which is less paradoxical than it might seem, is that we also forget a very large percentage of the books we have actually read, and indeed we build a sort of virtual picture of them that consists not so much of what they say but what they have conjured up in our mind. So that if someone who hasn’t read a book cites nonexistent passages or situations from it, we are ready to believe that they are in the book. [HT: JS]

Pete Enns on the God of the Bible:

The bottom line, mainstream view—I shudder even to attempt to summarize it in one sentence—is that the Hebrew scriptures contain a record of Israel’s diverse and changing views concerning God, where the experience of the Babylonian Exile was a major turning point in the emergence of monotheism (the belief that only one God exists) out of monolatry (many gods exist but only Yahweh is worthy of worship).

God, in other words, has a history—or at least on the pages of the Old Testament. We are seeing development over time in how God was understood .

This mainstream view does not rest well with the biblical progression of events, namely: Israel knew Yahweh as the/their only God from the time of Abraham, and how well they did as a people/nation depended on remembering that and worshiping/obeying Yahweh alone. [HT: JS]

The.Best.Apples.Ever. (And I’m an apple-a-day kind of guy.)

Ask any American to name their favorite kind of apple and the answer is likely to come quickly and with capital letters. Maybe Granny Smith or Fuji. Perhaps a hipper Pink Lady or even a  SnapDragon.

Pose the same question about, say, bananas and you might get a, “Um, yellow?” in response.

The lunchbox staple, as all-American as the pie that bears its name, is more than a simple fruit. It’s a marketing marvel, the result of a decades-long campaign to transform preferences with the goal of making money grow on trees.

Today, with various shades of red, green and yellow and different sizes and tastes that run from sugary sweet to puckery tart, apples have become the most heavily branded produce on Earth.

The turning point for apple branding was the debut of the Honeycrisp, which turns 20 years old this year. The variety created by the University of Minnesota’s acclaimed apple breeding program proved that the 99-cents-per-pound that most supermarkets didn’t exceed could be lifted and that the days of pricing as high as $3.99 a pound had arrived. Now, hipster apples, such as the Sekai-ichi, sell for as much as $21 per pound.

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