Weekly Meanderings, 18 November 2017

Weekly Meanderings, 18 November 2017 November 18, 2017

ben-white-148430Kris, who found most of this week’s links, and I are in Boston at the Society of Biblical Literature annual meeting. We look forward to coffee today with our friend Lucy Peppiatt.

Christian Wiman, on joy, a good sample of why Wiman deserves to be read:

“Joy is the present tense, with the whole emphasis on the present,” writes
Kierkegaard. This is accurate insofar as it accords with the feeling of joy, which can banish all the retrospective and anticipatory mental noise we move through most of the time. But to define joy as present tense is to keep it fastened to time, and that doesn’t feel completely right. It might be truer to say that joy is a flash of eternity that illuminates time, but the word eternity does sit a bit lumpishly there on the page. Let’s try this from the American poet Sarah Lindsay:

Small Moth

She’s slicing ripe white peaches
into the Tony the Tiger bowl
and dropping slivers for the dog
poised vibrating by her foot to stop their fall
when she spots it, camouflaged,
a glimmer and then full on—
happiness, plashing blunt soft wings
inside her as if it wants
to escape again.

Here is another poem in which joy is not mentioned, but I would argue that it is a moment of joy that has enabled Lindsay to see her happiness. What is the difference? Let the poem be the guide. Something intimately related to time but ultimately beyond it, something as remote and inconceivable as a comprehensive awareness of one’s entire life, and yet as near and ordinary as a small moth, has broken into and illuminated—and perhaps even suggested the final fruition of?—time. Note just how much work that one word “plashing” is doing in this scrupulously plain-spoken poem. It is as if the moth has entered from another element, or has momentarily transformed the element into which it has come, where everything is so slow and singularly itself that it seems to be suspended in water.

Italy misses out on the World Cup. We baseball folks have the “World” Series rigged. It’s always the USA vs. the USA. It’s always been that way. It always will be that way. A World Cup without Italy … well, you tell me, what will that be like?

Speaking of Italy,

SARDINIA, Italy — Zelinda Paglieno, who turned 102 in October, offers sobering advice when asked what’s the secret to her long and healthy life: “Two fingers width of red wine, and no more, at lunchtime every day.”

“I’ve never smoked, but a little wine is good for you — and that’s something I still do now. We have very good grapes here,” she explained.

Paglieno’s age is no anomaly here in picturesque Sardinia, an Italian island in the Mediterranean that is home to the oldest people in the world, according to researchers on aging.

Sardinia is one of only five “Blue Zones” in the world identified as having residents who often reach age 90 or older. The other four are Okinawa (Japan), Nicoya (Costa Rica), Icaria (Greece) and the Seventh-day Adventist community in Loma Linda, Calif.

Paglieno, in her hometown of Esterzili, population 600, has three neighbors who are 100 or older.

Scott McFetridge:

DES MOINES, Iowa — As he tows a 96-square-foot house around Des Moines, Joe Stevens is overwhelmed by the intense, sometimes tearful support he receives from churches, schools and service groups for his plan to use the trendy little structures to help homeless people.

But when Stevens actually tried to create a village of the homes in Iowa’s largest city, the response was far different.

“We got shot down,” said Stevens, who leads a group that proposed erecting 50 tiny homes on a 5-acre industrial site north of downtown Des Moines. “It was a sense of fear, uncertainty and doubt, a knee-jerk situation.”

Tiny homes have been promoted as the solution to all kinds of housing needs — shelter for the homeless, an affordable option for expensive big cities and simplicity for people who want to declutter their lives. But the same popularity that inspired at least six national TV shows about the homes often fails to translate into acceptance when developers try to build them next door.

In at least a dozen cases across the nation, neighbors organized to stop tiny house projects, including in Charlotte, N.C.; Nashville, Tenn.; San Jose, Calif.; Tulsa, Okla.; Tallahassee, Fla.; and Bend, Ore. Sometimes the efforts moved ahead despite objections, but in many cases, the communities were blocked.

The president of the American Tiny House Association said opposition arises even among people who feel an affinity for the homes.

“People say, ‘Tiny home are great and cool, and you can put that village anywhere but right across the street from my subdivision,'” said Chris Galusha, who is also a Fort Worth, Texas, area builder.

Amazing Facebook mis-sensitivities:

LONDON — The quintessentially British holiday scene of a Christmas card featuring a robin redbreast in the snow was blocked from sale by Facebook after it was deemed too risqué.

Jackie Charley, the artist behind the picture, posted the image — as well as others of a squirrel and a stag — on her Facebook page late last month along with the description “making history.”

“Hilariously, Facebook has blocked my Christmas cards from becoming a product in my shop due to their shameful, sexual nature!

“It looks like we didn’t approve your item because we don’t allow the sale of adult items or services (e.g. sexual enhancement items or adult videos).

“Please judge for yourself!

Will the Weinstein revelations break patriarchy?

Okay, that’s a little strong. Patriarchy is still present in our society and makes itself explicitly and implicitly known on a regular basis. It shows up in every sphere of modern society.

And yet it feels like something fundamental has shifted in our sociological structures and processes in the five weeks since the first Weinstein story broke in The New York Times. Sociological time moves faster than geologic time but five weeks is but a moment in most understandings of social change.

Maybe it’s better to to think of Weinstein putting a fracture in Patriarchy and that the raft of follow-on revelations — Bill O’Reilly’s remarkable settlement,  Kevin Spacey’s exploitations, the NPR’s news editor’s ouster, Louis C.K.’s exposures, and Judge Roy Moore’s bizarre past (he admits to dating teenagers even if he disputes the molestation) — have splintered that fracture with each additional revelation.

For all those who like the “what about-ism” game, the issue isn’t why past actors, politicians, presidents, and businessmen got away with such oppressive behavior. Such games of looking for hypocrisy and trying to divine moral equivalence only leads to a race to the bottom where folks are motivated to find the worst excesses of the group they dislike, while trying to protect their own from “events of long ago”.

What’s different in the wake of Weinstein is that these oppressive and reprehensible behaviors are being met with broadly shared outrage and institutional consequences. Removing Weinstein from the Academy is largely a symbolic step, but is still important. Having Spacey replaced with Christopher Plummer in a movie that had already wrapped is remarkable. Seeing Louis C.K. go from media darling to pariah overnight is new.

So what’s different? Why did Weinstein’s story become an institution-shaping story rather than a Charlie Sheen meltdown? I suspect there are many factors at play but I’ll try to isolate a few. [HT: JS]


CLACKAMAS, Ore. (AP) — A deliveryman in Oregon who heard a woman’s screams for help had his wife call 911, but when a deputy showed up it turned out the screamer was a parrot, not a woman.

The Oregonian/OregonLive reported Tuesday that when Clackamas County Sheriff’s Deputy Hayden Sanders showed up, all he found was Diego the Parrot.

The green-and-yellow bird was in good health and no humans were involved.

Pray, she says:

How does someone move forward after three miscarriages and postpartum depression? Faith in God, a southern Maryland mom said.

Desair Brown, who struggled conceiving, said unless she talks to God every day, she’s not herself. Now that she’s a mom of two, she faces daily challenges many parents do: her son Josh’s crying fits and daughter Zoey’s seemly endless energy. She also has another full-time job: Reader Advocacy Editor at USA TODAY.

Here’s how she stays centered:

1. Pray. Every morning, Brown prays with her children in the car on the way to a babysitter’s house. Sometimes, she calls her husband, too, so they all can pray as a family. That way, even in the midst of a busy day, she stays focused on what’s most important to her — God. “Why wait until something bad happens to pray,” Brown said. Not comfortable praying? Brown said think of positive thoughts and fond memories to lift your spirits.

More: Parenting is freaking hard and we should be honest about it

More: Mom of twin boys says this keeps her stress, anxiety under control

2. Dance. “Sometimes you just have to leap for your joy,” Brown said. Dance is one of Brown’s favorite ways to praise God. She dances at home and at church. She dances with her kids. She dances when she isn’t sure what to do next. It lifts her spirits even on the darkest days.

What will happen the computers disappear?

What happens when the computers around you all but disappear?

Tiny sensors built into walls, household products, what you’re wearing, and perhaps your own body will make computers invisible to the eye, but responsive to a gesture, voice, and perhaps your movement as you walk into a room.

It is still very early, but the era of ambient computing is slowly taking shape, whether in the form of the voice-driven smart speaker on your kitchen countertop, or via the IoT (Internet of Things) devices and appliances that are designed to blend into the background. It’s a vision fused by advances in artificial intelligence, speech recognition, natural language processing, machine learning and cloud computing.

More: The real cost of setting up a smart home

Stakeholders include the giants of tech: Amazon, Apple, Google, IBM, Microsoft, and Samsung, among them. But disruption may also come from companies not yet on the public’s radar.

“The interesting ones will be… the Ubers of the IoT and the ambient world,” says Daryl Cromer, vice president of subsystem research at Lenovo Research. “And that’s what we’re still looking for.”

No one is suggesting that screens and keyboards are going to go away entirely, or that you’ll stop reaching for the smartphone.

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