Weekly Meanderings, 10 October 2015

Weekly Meanderings, 10 October 2015 October 10, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-10-06 at 7.10.12 AMGood news story:

Thank God for those teachers:

A photo of a teacher going above and beyond the call of duty is making a splash on social media.

On Sept. 28, Memphis resident Tabitha Tudy Jones posted a Facebook photo of Whitney Achievement Elementary School teacher Carl Schneider walking students home after school.

“Coming from the Post Office on Whitney & Baskin I saw this teacher walking his students home… (more students lagging behind),” she wrote. “Wooooow! Big UPS to this teacher!”

I didn’t think this was part of the job description,” Jones added in the comments section. “But it’s so sweet that he goes above & beyond for the children… This made my heart GLAD to witness his compassion toward the children … it takes a village.

Sean Barnhill:

You could say it was a cream-of-the-crop yield for a farmer and his family in rural Illinois.

Carl Bates, a farmer in the close-knit community of Galva, was unable to reap his own harvest because of a battle with terminal cancer. Concerned about losing his crops, Carl and his family were in a bind — that is, until his family sought help from a couple of farmers in the town, which then turned into quite a force.

“With this being a small town, [all of the farmers] talk and word spread,” Jason Bates, cousin of Carl, told TODAY.com.

On Sept. 25, an army of farmers showed up on Carl’s land. “We had 10 combines, 16 semis and around 40 people,” Bates said. “We ended up with all these people showing up and had to organize.” Each and every one of them volunteered their time and effort, fuel or machinery.

A few businesses even lent a helping hand by donating equipment and food to keep the industrious volunteers fueled themselves.

Joel Sandberg:

I am an ophthalmologist, not a professional sleep expert, but sleep has always been very important to me and I’ve thought about it a great deal.

Sleep is the wonder drug for the feeling of well-being. The CDC reports that insufficient sleep has been linked to the development of chronic diseases including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity and depression. Fatigue from lack of sleep has been compared to being drunk.

It is well accepted that parents sleep-train children. But it is equally important and possible to sleep-train oneself. Actually, almost all the eye surgeons I know are very focused (almost obsessed) about sleeping well the night before surgery. They are compulsive about getting a good night sleep without distraction.

My background: I grew up sharing a bedroom with my brother who was four years older. Sharing a room with an older brother helped me become a very good sleeper. I went to bed early; he came home late. I slept; he turned on the lights and did homework at his desk. Learning to sleep among distractions helped me develop strong sleep habits. In college I lived in a rowdy frat house with two roommates. During the summers I worked as a hotel resort waiter and slept in a noisy staff barracks with 11 other waiters.

My goal has always been the same: eight hours of sleep every night. As a pre-med student in college, while classmates pulled all-nighters, I always went to sleep eight hours before I had to get up, especially before exams. I did the same in medical school.

Good job George Will:

[The Hubble telescope:] … has seen interesting things, including HD 189733b, a planet about 63 light-years (370 trillion miles) away, where winds exceed 4,000 mph and it rains molten glass. As Hubble nears the end of its life, its much more capable successor, the James Webb Space Telescope, named for a former NASA administrator, is being developed at Johns Hopkins University….

It has seen interesting things, including HD 189733b, a planet about 63 light-years (370 trillion miles) away, where winds exceed 4,000 mph and it rains molten glass. As Hubble nears the end of its life, its much more capable successor, the James Webb Space Telescope, named for a former NASA administrator, is being developed at Johns Hopkins University.

The campus has several history departments. Some study humanity’s achievements during its existence, which has been barely a blink in cosmic time. Other historians — the scientists and engineers of the Space Telescope Science Institute — study the origins of everything in order to understand humanity’s origins. In 2018, Webb will be situated 940,000 miles from Earth, orbiting the sun in tandem with Earth, to continue investigating our place in the universe.

Our wee solar system is an infinitesimally small smudge among uncountable billions of galaxies, each with uncountable billions of stars. Our Milky Way galaxy, where we live, probably has 40 billion planets approximately Earth’s size. Looking at the sky through a drinking straw, the spot you see contains10,000 galaxies. Yet the cosmos is not crowded: If there were just three bees in America, the air would be more congested with bees than space is with stars. Matter, however, is not all that matters.

The United States’ manned moon expeditions ended in 1972, but modern cosmology began with the 1965 discovery that the universe is permeated with background radiation. This, like everything else, is a residue of the Big Bang, which, in a hundredth of a billionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a second,set stuff — some of it now congealed into galaxies — flying apart. The recipe for our biophilic (friendly to life) planet was cooked in the universe’s first one-hundredth of a second, at a temperature of a hundred thousand million degrees Celcius.

Speaking of which, try this one from Steve Cuss:

A few years ago, after I preached a sermon from Genesis 1, a man confronted me about the content.  He argued that I hadn’t effectively defended young earth creationism in my message.  With a red face he then proceeded to draw a straight line between my ‘problematic’ sermon and today’s many grave social ills. Of course, the line he drew was a slippery slope.  He closed with, “I just wish you would take the Bible more literally.”

Allow me to pause for a necessary diversion… [go to the link to read his response, well done.]

Matt Corotenuto:

We know there is a gender gap favoring women in college today — and that gap widens when one looks at students going abroad to study. But the huge disparities in parts of the developing world offer important clues about how American men and women perceive the world in higher education today.

As the coordinator of St. Lawrence University’s Kenya Semester Program, I frequently hear this rhetorical question, “Why would I want to go to Africa?” Even as a professor of African history, I have to admit it is a fair question for a parent or student to ask about studying abroad in general. But in over a decade of these discussions, skeptical questions about the benefits of study abroad most often come from male students and their families.

National data suggests that gendered discussions like these are happening all over the country. Nearly 300,000 U.S. college students will study abroad this year. The programs, length and destinations vary widely but the historic data from the International Institute of Education suggests that 65 percent of students leaving the United States will be women.

While national statistics reveal that the majority of study abroad participants are female and overwhelming white, the gendered perception of particular places and programs are hidden in the data. The demographics of study abroad geography and the way we mentor students to see opportunity beyond geographic stereotypes offers important insight for educators looking to bridge the gender gap.

Michael Balsamo:

Not many people will say that eating bacon every day is the key to a long life, but the world’s oldest woman swears by it.

Susannah Mushatt Jones, 116, keeps a steady diet of bacon, eggs and grits for breakfast. A sign in her kitchen reads: “Bacon makes everything better.”

Named the world’s oldest woman by Guinness World Records in July, Jones credits her longevity to “lots of sleep,” Guinness said. But her family members say she has lived a long life due to her love of family and generosity to others.

Jones was born in a small farm town near Montgomery, Ala., on July 6, 1899. She was one of 11 siblings and attended a special school for young black girls. When she graduated from high school in 1922, Jones worked full time helping family members pick crops. She left after a year to begin working as a nanny, heading north to New Jersey and eventually making her way to New York.

Ariana Eunjung Cha:

When it comes to studies on birth order, first-borns tend to make out pretty well. Research says they tend to be smarter, more outgoing, and exhibit more leadership qualities.

Unfortunately, it’s not all good news. A new paper published in JAMA Ophthalmology shows that first-borns also tend to be 10 percent more likely to be near-sighted and 20 percent more likely to have severe myopia than their siblings. In fact, the risk for myopia appeared to be progressively lower the later you were born in terms of your birth order.

The researchers from Cardiff University suggested that the cause was “parental investment in education” because parents may have a tendency to put more pressure on first-borns. They theorized that parents may be more demanding that first-borns do more “near” activities, such as reading, which may impact their eyesight. Previous studies have shown a strong link between time spent outdoors and a diminished risk of myopia, and it may stand to reason that children who spend more time on studies may be spending less time outdoors.

Nutrition science takes yet another knock:

U.S. dietary guidelines have long recommended that people steer clear of whole milk, and for decades, Americans have obeyed. Whole milk sales shrunk. It was banned from school lunch programs. Purchases of low-fat dairy climbed.

“Replace whole milk and full-fat milk products with fat-free or low-fat choices,” says the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the federal government’s influential advice book, citing the role of dairy fat in heart disease.

Whether this massive shift in eating habits has made anyone healthier is an open question among scientists, however. In fact, research published in recent years indicates that the opposite might be true: millions might have been better off had they stuck with whole milk.

Scientists who tallied diet and health records for several thousand patients over ten years found, for example, that contrary to the government advice, people who consumed more milk fat had lower incidence of heart disease.

By warning people against full-fat dairy foods, the United States is “losing a huge opportunity for the prevention of disease,” said Marcia Otto, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Texas and the lead author of large studies published in 2012 and 2013, which were funded by government and academic institutions, not the industry. “What we have learned over the last decade is that certain foods that are high in fat seem to be beneficial.”

Leslie Brody:

NAPANOCH, N.Y.—On one side of the stage at a maximum-security prison here sat three men incarcerated for violent crimes.

On the other were three undergraduates from Harvard College.

After an hour of fast-moving debate Friday, the judges rendered their verdict.

The inmates won.

The audience burst into applause. That included about 75 of the prisoners’ fellow students at the Bard Prison Initiative, which offers a rigorous college experience to men at Eastern New York Correctional Facility, in the Catskills.

The debaters on both sides aimed to highlight the academic power of a program, part of Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y., that seeks to give a second chance to inmates hoping to build a better life.

Ironically, the inmates had to promote an argument with which they fiercely disagreed. Resolved: “Public schools in the United States should have the ability to deny enrollment to undocumented students.”

Carlos Polanco, a 31-year-old from Queens in prison for manslaughter, said after the debate that he would never want to bar a child from school and he felt forever grateful he could pursue a Bard diploma. “We have been graced with opportunity,” he said. “They make us believe in ourselves.”

POTUS taking a stand:

The White House is tak­ing a stand.

Ac­cord­ing to a re­cent pub­lic so­li­cit­a­tion, the Ex­ec­ut­ive Of­fice of the Pres­id­ent is seek­ing up to $700,000 worth of stand­ing desks. The cost is the gov­ern­ment’s best es­tim­ate over a five-year peri­od, al­though the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion will end in Janu­ary 2017, and the lat­ter four years of the con­tract are op­tion­al.

The fed­er­al gov­ern­ment post­ing was quite spe­cif­ic in that the desks had to be “Var­idesk brand name or equal” and provide the con­tract­or’s pri­cing for vari­ous mod­els with up to three com­puter mon­it­ors. The lar­ger Var­idesks cost between $400 and $500 per unit.

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