Weekly Meanderings

Weekly Meanderings March 31, 2012


Tamara Out Loud, Mama for a moment.

The Oregon Ducks win! (Top Ten College Towns) Comment: For the life of me, how can anyone not have Pepperdine (Malibu for goodness sake) and Point Loma University (San Diego, on the beach) on a list of top college locations!

Women and politics, By : Karen Tumulty has a terrible story in the paper today. Of course, it’s very well done. But in it, she reports that a major reason there aren’t more women in elected office is that, having seen how Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin, among others, were treated when they ran, a number of prospective female candidates have decided they’re not up for more of the same. … Women are certainly well aware that, as Mitt Romney said, politics“ain’t the beanbag.” But if fewer of us are willing to take and throw a punch, is that so horrible? In one way, yes — because the result is that we remain chronically underrepresented….What can those of us who do not sit on the Supreme Court do? Stop supporting the extremes and rewarding negative attacks, that’s what. We all play some part in the tone of the conversation, and as consumers, in defining what’s fair and unfair commentary. I have to wonder if anyone who’d describe Michele Bachmann as the “queen of rage” ever heard her extremely conservative but calm, low-decibel pitch. When magazine covers like that stop selling, they’ll stop being printed.”

Must-read post of the week.

Arlen Specter, as I remember his saying this on CNN’s news yesterday … “Teddy Kennedy, with his 280 pounds [naked come up somewhere] plopped into the hot tub … you know what a rising tide is? My head hit the ceiling!”

Stunningly insightful comment by Carl Trueman: “If Roman Catholics are free to argue that the history of Protestantism has made the Bible impossible, I submit that for Protestants like myself, the history of Roman Catholicism has made the Church implausible.”

Leadership is relationship with Bill Donahue. “Today it was just raw, relationship-at-the-core leadership, with no demands, no controlling interests, and no need to impress one another. Perhaps this is why I love doing so much work with groups and teams, helping leaders establish a real sense of community, whether between individuals or throughout organizations. It is because I am privileged to serve leaders who, at the center of all they are and do, are “relaters.” Here’s a thought: Perhaps this is what we need in more organizations and in our government: a Chief Relating Officer or Relater in Chief (RIO).”

Kris and I really enjoyed this news item by Chris Boren: “When Jeremy Lin said he harbored no ill feelings over a racially insensitive headline about him that appeared on ESPN, he meant it. Lin recently had lunch with the editor who was fired for writing the headline during the height of Linsanity with the New York Knicks in February. Anthony Federico apologized after the incident andNewsday’s Anthony Rieber reports that the meeting came at the instigation of the Asian-American point guard.”

Michael Mercer’s story into the mainline. Patrick Mitchel has a helpful, informative discussion on religion in Ireland.

Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns is one of the best books on racial relations in America, so her words about Trayvon Martin are worth your careful reading: “(CNN) — Isolated in the moment, the shooting death of Trayvon Martin may seem a singular tragedy: a teenager mistaken for a criminal by an overzealous neighborhood watchman armed with a gun and backed by a state law that gives greater latitude to people to defend themselves when they feel threatened. But that moment in February in the central Florida town of Sanford was steeped in a history that has haunted the state, the South and the country for generations. No matter the state, the circumstances are eerily familiar: a slaying. Minimal police investigation. A suspect known to authorities. No arrest. Protests and outrage in a racially charged atmosphere. Florida is known for its amusement parks, beaches and pensioners from the North. But history bears out that Florida has been as much a part of the South and its vigilante-enforced racial caste system as Georgia and Alabama.”

Christian Smith gives sociology professors, who are often ignorant of religion, an ear full.

Impassible God is impossible God.

Meanderings in the News

If you are not feeling philosophical, skip this; if you are, read this piece by Gary Gutting.

What happens to numbers when sports broadcasters get them? (HT: JT) See cartoon below.

I support Bob Greene’s idea: “If there were clean, convenient, phone(less) booths readily available, don’t you think that people would step into them to make their cell phone calls? Who wouldn’t opt for privacy and quiet if it was there for them to take? A savvy entrepreneur could finance the project by selling advertising space both outside and — especially — inside the new phone booths, whether on the streets, in malls, restaurants — anywhere that people gather. National advertisers would literally have a captive audience. The person in the booth would have no choice but to stare at the advertising.”

Moderates are having a hard time, acc to David Brooks. “On Wednesday, in a move reflecting long-term disillusionment and in an effort to shake up the campaign, Fletcher said he is leaving the Republican Party. He is becoming an independent. In his announcement video, he railed against the strategy he saw in both parties — the unwillingness to negotiate with the other side to keep it from being able to take credit for any accomplishment. He declared, “I believe it’s more important to solve a problem than to preserve that problem to use on a campaign. I am willing to work or share or give all the credit to someone if the idea is good. I don’t believe we have to treat people we disagree with as an enemy. I’ve fought in a war. I have seen the enemy. We don’t have enemies in our political environment here.” Fletcher is the decided underdog in the June 5 voting. But he represents a nationally important test case. Can the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, who were trained to be ruthlessly pragmatic, find a home in either political party? Can center-right moderates find a home in the G.O.P., even in coastal California? As the two parties become more insular, is it possible to mount an independent alternative?”

See these NCAA basketball coach salaries? Yowzers!

It’s in the brain and rewiring, by Diane Ackerman: “So how does this play out beyond the lab? I saw the healing process up close after my 74-year-old husband, who is also a writer, suffered a left-hemisphere stroke that wiped out a lifetime of language. All he could utter was “mem.” Mourning the loss of our duet of decades, I began exploring new ways to communicate, through caring gestures, pantomime, facial expressions, humor, play, empathy and tons of affection — the brain’s epitome of a safe attachment. That, plus the admittedly eccentric home schooling I provided, and his diligent practice, helped rewire his brain to a startling degree, and in time we were able to talk again, he returned to writing books, and even his vision improved. The brain changes with experience throughout our lives; it’s in loving relationships of all sorts — partners, children, close friends — that brain and body really thrive. During idylls of safety, when your brain knows you’re with someone you can trust, it needn’t waste precious resources coping with stressors or menace. Instead it may spend its lifeblood learning new things or fine-tuning the process of healing. Its doors of perception swing wide open. The flip side is that, given how vulnerable one then is, love lessons — sweet or villainous — can make a deep impression. Wedded hearts change everything, even the brain.”

This guy’s a dipstick who doesn’t know how to compare work hours.

From Kurzweil on autism medical research: “Researchers at Berzelii Centre and the Science for Life Laboratory in Uppsala and Linnaeus University in Sweden and the Faculty of Medicine in Tehran, Iran have identified a protein in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The researchers performed a detailed protein analysis of blood plasma from children with ASD compared with a control group. Using advanced mass spectrometric methods, they succeeded in identifying peptides consisting of fragments of the complement factor C3 protein, whose natural function is in the immune system. There is already a known connection between this protein and ASD, which further reinforces the findings, says Jonas Bergquist, professor of analytical chemistry and neurochemistry at the Department of Chemistry, at the BMC (Biomedical Center) in Uppsala. The hope is that this new set of biomarkers ultimately will lead to a reliable blood-based diagnostic tool. Ref.: N Momeni et al., A novel blood-based biomarker for detection of autism spectrum disorders, Nature Translational Psychiatry, 2012 [DOI: 10.1038/tp.2012.19] (open access)”

Meanderings in Sports

Good for Northwestern: “”We’re far from perfect but our compass is our compass and I never want to stray from that,” Phillips said. “It is about academic integrity and graduating student-athletes and off-the-court issues and trying to make sure we hold our guys accountable and that they represent something larger than themselves.” Every BCS school says that. How many live it? “It is about trying to mold leaders and winning and competing for championships,” Phillips said. “It’s all part of the equation. At the heart of it, we want to win badly at Northwestern but we’re not going to win at all costs. We’re not going to do it without the right values.” Roll your eyes and look up Pollyannaish if you wish. But ultimately Phillips’ decision embodied the mandate for college sports programs Secretary of Education Arne Duncan outlined in a news conference on the eve of the NCAA tournament intended to remind schools of their priorities. Theoretically, Northwestern’s stance also reflected the emphasis more Big Ten and BCS-conference universities must consider in light of the NCAA linking academic progress rate with tournament eligibility beginning in 2013.”

Good for Matt Murton.

It’s New York’s turn to Tebow, and Ross Douthat has this set of observations: “But let’s be unsophisticated for a moment. Why is Tim Tebow such a fascinating and polarizing figure? Not just because he claims to be religious; that claim is commonplace among football stars and ordinary Americans alike. Rather, it’s because his conduct — kind, charitable, chaste, guileless — seems to actually vindicate his claim to be in possession of a life-altering truth. Nothing discredits religion quite like the gap that often yawns between what believers profess and how they live. With Tebow, that gap seems so narrow as to be invisible. (“There’s not an ounce of artifice or phoniness or Hollywood in this kid Tebow,” ESPN’s Rick Reilly wrote last year of the quarterback’s charitable works, “and I’ve looked everywhere for it.”) He fascinates, in part, because he behaves — at least in public, and at least for now — the way one would expect more Christians to behave if their faith were really true.

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  • In Diane Ackerman’s wonderful article on how relationships affect the brain, I see a strong reason to be a member in a healthy congregation.

    For example: “During idylls of safety, when your brain knows you’re with someone you can trust, it needn’t waste precious resources coping with stressors or menace. Instead it may spend its lifeblood learning new things or fine-tuning the process of healing. Its doors of perception swing wide open.”

    Kind of makes one glad to be part of a community in which such moments occur!

  • RJS

    Wow, great stuff.

    Diane Ackerman’s article highlighted by Mark and Bill Donahue’s post on “Leadership is Relationship” are very thought provoking and insightful – especially taken together.

    I wonder, though, how far Donahue sees the relationship motif at play. This was a gathering of a network of “leaders” with no hierarchical relationship it appears. It was “safe” in the sense of Ackerman’s article. How does this play out in a forum where one is expected to lead rather than relate?

    I really like Mark’s insight – in considering Ackerman’s article we see a strong reason to be a member of a healthy congregation.

  • PLTK

    Wow, read the WP article on faculty hours. What a ignorant person who either has no idea what goes into an academic job or is being deliberately deceptive for political purposes. On the other hand, perhaps his comments are reflective of his own teaching practices before he went into administration. My husband is at a “teaching” university and teaches “only” 3 courses a semester for 9 contact hours a week, but regularly puts in 50+ during the academic year which drops back to 40 during the summer. Granted, he does take about 4 weeks off total for vacation during the year where he does not bring work with him and focuses on family.

  • Diane

    I can understand that the article on faculty teaching hours would make your blood boil. It makes mine boil, for any number of reasons. Not only do most faculty I know work long hours, with no “quitting time” and a seemingly endless list of responsibilities, it infuriates me that, once again, the work force is reduced to the least common denominator. WHy not cut everyone down to minimum wage and a 40-hour plus work week with one week off (no sick leave) because some people have to endure that? Why do we valorize the race to the bottom? Given the high levels of unemployment, how about putting everyone on the 30 week work year? Think of the boost to employment! And to family life–how could would that be for children? What happened to those sci-fi stories from my childhood, where massive increases in productivity meant shorter work weeks, more family time, more time for social and personal enrichment, etc?

  • Diane

    Great story on religion, social class and decline–“must read” of the week. It’s fascinating to me to watch the growth of religion on college campuses.

  • Kyle J

    On the Brooks piece, I don’t buy that both parties are becoming “insular.”

    Whatever you might think of health care reform, the Democrats are defending a plan that was created by Republicans.

    On deficit reduction, the president is proposing a framework in which tax increases are well below half of the savings.

    Meanwhile, the Ryan plan pushes far to the right of any plan we’ve seen before–cutting taxes at the sometime it forces dramatic reductions in domestic programs–and some Republicans still think it’s not extreme enough.

    At some point, Brooks is going to own up to the idea that, in the current po logical environment, he’s a Democrat.

  • Kyle J

    Should be “political” in that final sentence. (You can argue the whole post was “political,” I suppose!)

  • Scot — agree with Kyle, but more to the point — college towns.

    Having lived and schooled in Eugene — I agree. It is a great college town. It defines the city.

    My wife is a Pepperdine alum and Malibu is a beautiful setting, but there’s nothing but the beach nearby. To do anything you have to go to Thousand Oaks or Santa Monica. Besides when people think of Malibu they don’t think of Pepperdine. Same is true of Point Loma. It’s a beautiful campus, great location, but you don’t think of PLNU when you think San Diego.

    In the end though, all I can say is: Go Ducks!!

  • Pat Pope

    Women and Politics: the same can be said for the Church. When anyone sees how others are treated in leadership, it makes them leery of getting involved. Whether it’s women being marginalized or just leaders who tried to make a difference being thrown under the bus, rejected, vilified, etc.

  • Dana Ames

    Re Ackerman piece,

    each person is indeed a Unity – and no person is an island 😉

    Love truly does constitute us – love brings us to life.


  • Bob Smallman

    Don’t worry too much about “dipstick’s” evaluation of your teaching load — I get a nice salary for one day’s work a week!

    The Tebow article was pretty cool. I’ve not been a big fan (something about praying in your “closet”), but I’m impressed by his follow through.

  • Brad Lockner

    RE. College Towns.

    How about Charlottesville and U of Virginia; Berkeley and UC; and Williamstown and Williams College?

  • Barb

    Glad I looked at the whole list of 10 college towns before commenting–my hometown Davis CA came in at number 2–but it IS number 1 in my book–the weather is much better there than Eugene.