Weekly Meanderings

Weekly Meanderings May 5, 2012

Churches being churches, not perfect churches, just churches, by Jessica Goudeau — at Rachel’s blog: “When a refugee friend came to us to ask for a job, we called our church. They hired him as a janitor on the spot. When we found out that man’s wife made jewelry, our church bought the supplies for her to crochet these gorgeous necklaces. We watched that quiet woman become a leader and teacher for other Hill Country Hill Triber artisans within months; the money she earned and the respect that she felt from using her gifts to support her family made a difference in her life. And so, that Burmese husband and wife brought their friends to our church. Thirty to fifty Burmese refugees, dressed in traditional hand-woven clothes, sit in our mauve pews each week beside suburban Texas families in their Sunday best. We look at each other and wonder, “Who but God could have made this happen?” The truth is, my church is pretty average. Sure, there are some amazing people, but there are some really weird ones too. As an adult, I’ve gone to eight different churches on three different continents. Each had their own conflicts and points of contention. Every single church was as quirky as could be.”

Speaking of the church, it’s a tree for Don Johnson.

Dan Reid’s sermon: The Living Faith of the Dead. New atheists, puritanical Christian critics, and Shrovetide.

Why I like IBI — this place is transparent.

Why I like :mic — he sees the big perspective.

Larry Hurtado complains about Christians institutions dismissing faculty because of the consituency’s pressure.

Quite the Commencement speech outline. The nuns using social media to attract young adults into the vocations.

Wow, gorgeous libraries.

Pole fishing vs. Net fishing — Jesus style, with Robert Crosby.

OK scientists and mathematicians and engineers… some advice for writing.

Paul Miller quits internet for one year.

Meanderings in the News

For the English lovers amongst us, by Mary Norris: “The special tool we use here at The New Yorker for punching out the two dots that we then center carefully over the second vowel in such words as “naïve” and “Laocoön” will be getting a workout this year, as the Democrats coöperate to reëlect the President. Those two dots, often mistaken for an umlaut, are actually a diaeresis (pronounced “die heiresses”; it’s from the Greek for “divide”). The difference is that an umlaut is a German thing that alters the pronunciation of a vowel (Brünnhilde), and often changes the meaning of a word: schon (adv.), already; schön (adj.), beautiful. In the case of a diphthong, the umlaut goes over the first vowel. And it is crucial. A diaeresis goes over the second vowel and indicates that it forms a separate syllable. Most of the English-speaking world finds the diaeresis inessential. Even Fowler, of Fowler’s “Modern English Usage,” says that the diaeresis “is in English an obsolescent symbol.”

Interested in neuroscience? A brief.

I believe we will see a number of articles this year that seek to “inform” the American public about Mormonism that will be designed to sway voters away from Romney, and here is a good one. Listen to these words: “It is not going to happen. The Obama campaign gurus are wise enough to know there is nothing to gain by opening up the can of very fat worms that is religion.” This statement was preceded by these: “Jokes about polygamy and funny long underwear aside, Mitt Romney‘s Mormon faith has not been, and will not become, a factor in the presidential campaign of 2012. I have a friend who wishes that were not so. She thinks it’s creepy that Mormons comb genealogical records to find people to retroactively baptize into the church — people who were not Mormons when they were alive and probably would not want to be Mormons if they still were. Knowing that the one constant in Mr. Romney’s otherwise malleable set of beliefs is his religion, my friend cannot understand why the Obama campaign has not raised the oddities of Mormonism as an issue.” I don’t know were TGC stands on Romney, but the majority (or more) of TGC will be Republicans, though I have appreciated their lack of interest in taking sides in politics. Hence, this piece by Joe Carter, which unequivocally states that Mormons are not Christians (and they aren’t), shapes the discussion by theology. Perhaps this can be read as a piece designed to dissuade voters from Romney, but I doubt it (since he will be the GOP candidate and they will have no other real option).

Paul J. Zak on the trust chemicals: “Could a single molecule—one chemical substance—lie at the very center of our moral lives? Research that I have done over the past decade suggests that a chemical messenger called oxytocin accounts for why some people give freely of themselves and others are coldhearted louts, why some people cheat and steal and others you can trust with your life, why some husbands are more faithful than others, and why women tend to be nicer and more generous than men. In our blood and in the brain, oxytocin appears to be the chemical elixir that creates bonds of trust not just in our intimate relationships but also in our business dealings, in politics and in society at large. Known primarily as a female reproductive hormone, oxytocin controls contractions during labor, which is where many women encounter it as Pitocin, the synthetic version that doctors inject in expectant mothers to induce delivery. Oxytocin is also responsible for the calm, focused attention that mothers lavish on their babies while breast-feeding. And it is abundant, too, on wedding nights (we hope) because it helps to create the warm glow that both women and men feel during sex, a massage or even a hug.”

Shark population, acc to Christie Wilcox in Scientific American, is dramatically descending: “Studying shark populations can be tricky. As David Shiffman explains well, while there are a number of methods that can be used to study shark populations, quantifying just how far their numbers have fallen can be difficult. However, recent research out of the University of Hawaii suggests that the presence of humans has a severe and strong negative impact on sharks, driving down numbers by over 90%. Sharks play a vital role in coral reef ecosystems. Yet every year, millions are killed for asian delicacies and disproven cancer cures. There is no question our shark fishing habits have devastated their populations; the only questions that remain are how much of an effect are we having, and can the sharks recover.”

Amazon’s impact on books, by Jason Epstein: “So far discussion of the Justice Department’s suit against Apple and several major book publishers for conspiring to fix retail prices of e-books has omitted the major issue: the impact of digitization on the book industry generally. The immediate symptoms are Amazon’s own pricing strategy—which, unlike Apple’s and the publishers’, is to sell e-books below cost to achieve market share and perhaps a monopoly—and the federal suit challenging Apple’s and the publishers’ counterattack. The revolutionary process by which all books, old and new, in all languages, will soon be available digitally, at practically no cost for storage and delivery, to a radically decentralized world-wide market at the click of a mouse is irreversible. The technologically obsolete system, in which physical inventory is stored in publishers’ warehouses and trucked to fixed retail locations, will sooner or later be replaced by the more efficient digital alternative. The government’s case against book publishers arises from this continuing transformation—Amazon’s pricing model for e-books reflects the digital imperative while Apple’s and the publishers’ response attempts to delay it.”

Are you a lefty? Kathy Benjamin maps seven downsides to being a lefty:  “The world has been out to get lefties for thousands of years. And while we no longer force 10% of the population to learn to write with their right hand or burn them at the stake as witches, the odds still aren’t stacked in their favor.”

The youngsters are moving into the big cities, and finding a place is increasingly difficult, so concludes Robert L. Smith, of the Plain Dealer: “When a new job brought Stacey Brown to Cleveland from San Francisco two months ago, she went looking for an apartment downtown. Her manager told her that’s where young people were flocking. Sure enough, she found a full house. “It was soooo hard finding an apartment,” said Brown, an upbeat and single 26 year old. “I mean I looked for three weeks, all over downtown.” That is, “Thanks largely to young professionals, the inner city is growing faster than the outer city and the county for the first time in modern history, a recent Case Western Reserve University study found.”

Paula J. Caplan does not like the DSM: “The marketing of the DSM has been so effective that few people — even therapists — realize that psychiatrists rarely agree about how to label the same patient. As a clinical and research psychologist who served on (and resigned from) two committees that wrote the current edition of the DSM, I used to believe that the manual was scientific and that it helped patients and therapists. But after seeing its editors using poor-quality studies to support categories they wanted to include and ignoring or distorting high-quality research, I now believe that the DSM should be thrown out. An undeserved aura of scientific precision surrounds the manual: It has “statistical” in its title and includes a precise-seeming three- to five-digit codefor every diagnostic category and subcategory, as well as lists of symptoms a patient must have to receive a diagnosis. But what it does is simply connect certain dots, or symptoms — such as sadness, fear or insomnia — to construct diagnostic categories that lack scientific grounding. Many therapists see patients through the DSM prism, trying to shoehorn a human being into a category. At a convention in Philadelphia starting May 5, the DSM’s publisher, the American Psychiatric Association, is due to vote on whether to send the manual’s next edition, the DSM-5, to press. The APA is a lobbying group for its members, not an organization with patients’ interests as its top priority. It has earned $100 million from sales of the current edition, the DSM-IV.”

Meanderings in Sports

Yes, that man is a coach.

And so is Pat Summitt’s son, Tyler. “With everything going on in his life, Tyler Summitt says he has not had time to think about his graduation next week from the University of Tennessee. But worry not, he says, laughing: “I ordered my cap and gown just in time.” The son and only child of legendary basketball coachPat Summitt is coming to terms with an illness millions of children and loved ones before him have had to face: a brain-wasting disease that robs people of their memory and other cognitive skills. Summitt, 59 — the all-time winningest basketball coach, man or woman — has early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

And Bubba’s a dad and husband.

Shaq’s a doctor. “On Saturday, I will be receiving an education doctorate degree from Barry University, a small Catholic school in Miami Shores. The degree isn’t honorary. I worked for it, and I’m as proud of this as anything I have accomplished in my life. While I did this for two people — my mother and myself — it certainly would be nice if it could have a broader impact.”

Sad story.

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