Weekly Meanderings, 8 September 2018

Weekly Meanderings, 8 September 2018 September 8, 2018

With Faculty Retreat this week I missed a couple days so I have my standard recommenders to thank yet again: Kris and JS.

Good story of the week:

PLAINFIELD, Ind.- A 17-year-old finally got the chance to say thank you to the delivery driver who saved his life.

Last week, 17-year-old Cody Kennedy had close call when started choking on a piece of candy while on his drive home. He couldn’t breathe and was forced to pull over along Ronald Reagan Parkway. Within seconds, a UPS driver was there to rescue him.

“I knew there was definitely something wrong,” UPS driver Darren Collins told WTTV.

Collins saw a car pull over and the driver fall out. He stopped his UPS truck and started running towards the teenager.

“I saw him with his hands around his throat and that’s when I realized it was something that needed to be done immediate,” said Collins.

Kennedy was choking on a SweeTart and Collins knew what to do.

“I decided to get behind him and put my arms behind his sternum and perform the Heimlich maneuver,” said Collins.

A couple tries is all it took. Cody was breathing again. Moments later, first responders showed up and Collins took off. The two didn’t even get a chance to get each other’s names.

“So it was one of those that I took off I was glad I was able to help, shook his hand and kind of disappeared as that mystery UPS man,” said Collins.

Tuesday afternoon, the mystery was solved when the two finally met face to face, again.

“I still can’t thank you enough. I don’t know what I would’ve done,” said Kennedy.

Collins understands the gratefulness. When he was younger, a stranger saved him, too.

Bad story of the week, Ruth Tucker’s update on Calvin Seminary:

Why bring this awful 3-year ordeal up after a dozen years? As is reported in so many #MeToo stories, my distress hasn’t simply gone away. There has never been an apology from those administrators or from the current administration. Yes, colleagues felt very bad and told me so, but they insisted they had done everything they could. They hadn’t. They just wanted it “over with.”

This ordeal was very different from that which transpired at the end of my 19-year marriage that I tell about in Black and White Bible, Black and Blue Wife. In that case a judge listened to my testimony and that of my son and granted me full custody, a legal separation from my husband, and placed a restraining order on him. I was free from his physical assaults. He was not free. He moved out of state and essentially went undercover and abandoned our son. Though a one-time minister, Bible professor, and editor, he’d been fired from his various positions and he would have no further Christian ministry.

In the case of Calvin Seminary, the three administrators continue to carry on today as though this excruciating ordeal I endured had never happened. These fabricated notes are just one example of how deplorably Neal Plantinga and the other two administrators treated me. None of my colleagues have defended me publicly. It’s time they do so.

Most amazing story of the week:

[KC Chiefs Deland] McCullough was overjoyed to find his birth mother, though a mother had never been what he was missing.

“Within probably the first five or six minutes, he says, ‘Who is my father?'” Briggs says.

She took a breath. She had probably told only three people the man’s name. After making the decision to not tell the father all those years ago, she had been determined to never let him learn of the baby years later because of careless gossip.

She hesitated but decided McCullough had a right to know.

“Your father’s name is Sherman Smith,” Briggs told him.

McCullough, leaning against a wall in the hallway, felt as though he might pass out.

He started flashing back to all of his memories with Smith and all the times people had joked about him being a carbon copy of his coach. Throughout college, when he returned to coach at Miami University, during his internship with the Seahawks.

“‘Man, you and Coach Smith look alike.’ ‘Man, you all walk alike.’ ‘Y’all this, y’all this,'” McCullough says. “There’s no reason to connect those dots because you weren’t even thinking about them. A sense of pride that went through me, like, ‘Wow, that explains these things.’ And then I also start thinking about all the similarities of our path. That just blew me away.”

Not only had he known his father for 28 years, but Smith was also his mentor, the man he had looked up to since he was 16 years old. McCullough thought of a photo of him and Smith at Campbell Memorial High, both beaming as he signed his letter of intent to play at Miami University. The same photo he had pinned to the corkboard that hung in his college dorm room. The same photo that was at that moment sitting in a Ziploc bag in the drawer of his nightside table, a bag that had traveled with him through every job and every move.

“If you would have told me to pick who my father was, there’s no way I would have picked him because I might have thought I wasn’t worthy for him to be my father,” McCullough says. “I felt like my blessings came full circle because I’d always wanted to be somebody like him.”

“I could hear him take a big breath,” Briggs says. “And I could kind of hear him choke up a little. And finally he says, ‘Well, I’ve known Sherman my whole life.'”

THE NEXT MORNING, McCullough texted Smith asking if they could talk about something important. It was November, and Smith assumed that McCullough had gotten a coaching opportunity he wanted to discuss. Instead, McCullough began by talking about his search for his birth parents, how he had found his biological mother, and she was from Youngstown, just like them.

“Praise the Lord!” Smith recalls saying. “What a blessing!”

“And then he said, ‘I asked her who my biological father was, and she said you.'”

Smith was quiet. Sixty-three years old, he had been married to his college sweetheart for 42 years and had reared a grown son and a daughter. He hadn’t heard the name Carol Briggs in more than four decades. He never knew she was pregnant, never knew there was a baby. He knew he couldn’t deny the possibility that he was McCullough’s father, but he wanted proof. Even more, he wanted time to think. He asked McCullough if he could call him back later. Stunned and a little hurt, McCullough agreed.

Smith sat in his office. Guilt washed over him. Even though he hadn’t been told about the baby, he couldn’t shake the feeling that he had let Briggs and McCullough down. He felt awful that he had left Briggs in such a difficult position and regretted all the years he had missed out on being a father to McCullough. He had built a life making a difference in young men’s lives. He had spoken to his athletes and his kids about being responsible, being accountable.

“Being irresponsible is not neutral,” Smith says. “When you’re irresponsible, someone becomes responsible for what you’ve been irresponsible for.”

Briggs cried her way through work the day she was set to talk to Smith. “I hadn’t talked to Sherman in 45 years. And after 45 years, this is probably not the icebreaker conversation that you want to have with the guy that you used to fool around with. ‘Hey, we’ve got a 45-year-old son. And how are you?’ So, no, I wasn’t looking forward to that at all. Not at all.”

There was no need to worry. Smith was calm and kind, and the two settled into a nice conversation, catching up for a long time before they even got to talking about McCullough. Smith apologized to her for her having to make such a difficult decision at such a young age, and Briggs explained why she had felt it was best to not tell Smith about the baby. She said that over the years, she just wanted to know that McCullough was OK, and Smith reassured her that her son was a good man.

Briggs hung up full of emotion but relieved that Smith wasn’t angry with her. Smith hung up feeling much more certain that McCullough was his son.

Smith talked to his wife, Sharon, and his brother, Vincent. He talked to his children, Sherman and Shavonne. He thought about McCullough’s coaching internship a few years earlier, how Seahawks assistant offensive line coach Pat Ruel hadn’t stopped cracking jokes about Smith and his protege acting like a father-son duo.

McCullough sent Smith an old article from his days in the CFL, and Smith couldn’t believe his eyes. “I’m looking at this thing and thinking, ‘I don’t remember taking this picture. I don’t remember doing this article,'” Smith says. “I’m looking at Deland, and I’m thinking it’s me. That got me.

“I called my aunt in Youngstown, and I told her about it. And she’d went on YouTube and pulled up some pictures of Deland, and she called me back. She said, ‘Nephew, I can save you the money on the DNA tests.'”


The water bottle could be from Los Angeles, the food container from Manila, and the plastic bag from Shanghai.

But whatever its specific source, almost all of the trash in the infamous Great Pacific Garbage Patchcomes from countries around the Pacific Rim.

Concerned about the millions of tons of garbage in the patch – a floating blob of trash halfway between California and Hawaii that’s twice the size of Texas – the Ocean Cleanup project is sending out a giant floating trash collector to try to scoop it up. The first of its cleanup systems launches Saturday near San Francisco.

It’s a daunting task: The patch includes about 1.8 trillion pieces of trash and weighs 88,000 tons – the equivalent of 500 jumbo jets.

And while many scientists say it’s great that people are trying to clean up the patch, others say most of our efforts should instead go towards stopping the out-of-control flow of plastic garbage into the ocean.

How much more? Try putting 95 percent of our efforts on stopping plastic from entering the ocean, and only 5 percent on cleanup, says Richard Thompson, head of the International Marine Litter Research Unit at the University of Plymouth in the United Kingdom.

Thompson said a massive, global-scale effort is needed to combat the problem, one that includes contributions from individuals, policymakers and industry. “The way we use plastics – from design, to use to disposal – must be done more efficiently and in a more environmentally friendly manner.”

Another good story:

Last summer, Griffin Amdur was visiting his grandpa in a Chicago suburb when they started talking about his grandfather’s antique china.

That led to a discussion of the monetary value of furniture, which led them to the conclusion that furniture that was originally valuable quickly becomes worthless.

In that moment, the idea for an enterprise was born.

Soon afterward, Amdur returned to the University of Pennsylvania for his senior year. He mentioned his idea to two friends. Together they worked up a proposal and in May their idea won one of the school’s $100,000 President’s Engagement Prizes, given for projects that help improve the world.

And that’s how three young guys wound up in a warehouse on Chicago’s West Side on Friday, giving away furniture to people who have none.

Their nonprofit enterprise is called the Chicago Furniture Bank and Amdur was manning the space when I arrived. His partners were out making a delivery to a family that had come by the day before.

“A family of five,” Amdur said. “The mother is disabled. They were living with no furniture.”

In the vast warehouse, in the company of a worker from the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, the family had picked out what they wanted, which included two couches, an armchair, kitchenware, two dressers, a kitchen table, lamps and a mirror.

Total charge: $50.

“Yesterday was the best day,” Amdur said. “The kids were so excited to get a bed.”

Amdur, who grew up in Chicago, and his partners, James McPhail and Andrew Witherspoon, became friends as college freshmen. McPhail was from New York, and by his own account, grew up “fortunate.” Witherspoon grew up in St. Louis, the son of two public defenders who instilled in him the notion of social service.

On Kaepernick by George Yancey:

If we can agree on this basic set of facts, then I would like to focus on one particularly interesting angle to this situation. The original intention of the protest was to bring attention to racial injustice in the United States. The hope would be that this attention would make it easier to make the social alterations so that those injustices can be addressed. With that in mind I find myself asking a basic question. Is there anyone in society who will become more predisposed to fight racial injustice due to the Kaepernick controversy?

Of course no one can answer this question with certainty. It is possible, and perhaps even likely, that there is someone somewhere who has become more “woke” due to the activism of Kaepernick and his defenders. But I seriously doubt that there are very many such individuals. In fact, I suspect that this entire controversy has generally made majority group individuals less likely to confront racial injustice rather than more likely to do so. …

I suspect that if you carefully think about it that you will come to the same conclusion that I have, which is that the NFL controversy has made whites less, not more, likely to deal with racial injustice. Yet activists have rallied around the NFL players and are determined to fight heartily for their right to engage in this type of protest. In a strictly pragmatic manner this is a bad allocation of limited resources. Time and energy that could be used in more productive ways are being wasted fighting for a type of protest that will not generate any movement towards meaningful change. The natural question is why such activists are so invested in the protest of Kaepernick and the other NFL players. I have two possible answers to that question.

First, and I think the most likely answer, is that such activists are clueless about the effects of these protests. Somehow in their minds they believe that these protests will set off a wave of social energy that will result in the type of social reforms they want. The protests do excite those already committed to such reforms, and so these individuals cannot see that these protests are making it harder, and not easier, for moderate and conservative whites to support them. …

There is a second possible reason why such activists persist in a strategy that will not advance the social changes they desire. Perhaps supporting these protests is not about producing social change, but about creating social power for selected social groups. If the protesters can force the powerful NFL to back down, then it indicates that they have a great deal of social power. Demonstrating power may be about ego or may be so that they hope to defend marginalized groups in the future. However, it is not about using these protests to create current social reforms. While we have little reason to believe that such displays of protest will lead to those reforms, they may help to underscore the social power of these activists.

News on sheets:

If changing your bed sheets is at the bottom of your household chore list (you know, right along with matching socks and scrubbing the shower’s grout), consider this: The skin cells that you shed in a day can feed 1 million dust mites.

Let’s repeat that. One million dust mites can feast on the dead skin cells you produce in a mere day. Disgusted yet?

The average person sheds a gram and a half of these keratinocytes (largely made up of the protein keratin) daily, says Cleveland Clinic dermatologist Alok Vij, MD. Visually speaking, that’s roughly 3/8ths of a teaspoon.

“A lot of that happens when you’re making that contact with your sheets in your bed at night,” Dr. Vij says. “Any kind of friction will abrade, or chafe, off the outer layer of your skin cells.”

Mix in hot temperatures and you’ve got an even bigger problem. Dr. Vij says you should typically wash your sheets at least twice a month as a good rule of thumb. “But as the weather gets warmer — especially if you sweat more at night — you have to really ramp up to at least once a week,” he says.

So what, after all, is education?

Gwynn Guilford on posca:

We all know it’s good to hydrate. Water can be so blah, though. So when I’m trying to rehydrate after a long run in the summer heat, I tend to reach for an old-timey solution: The energy drink of ancient Rome.

The Romans were famed for their innovations in military logistics, which allowed them to extend their territory from Rome and its immediate surrounds to the whole Mediterranean and ultimately, with the establishment of the Roman Empire, virtually all of western Eurasia. But an army can’t win if it’s thirsty. Enter posca. This blend of vinegar and water—though sometimes salt, herbs, and other stuff—holds a special place in beverage history thanks to its role as the Gatorade of the Roman army.

It’s possible posca was Greek in origin. Its name may have derived from the Greek word epoxos, which means “very sharp,” according to The Logistics of the Roman Army at Warby Jonathan Roth, historian at San Jose State University. But the beverage owes its fame to the small, but essential, part it played in the Roman army’s legendary efficiency. As early as the middle of the Roman Republic era (509-27 BCE), the military rationed posca to troops along with grains and, very occasionally, meat and cheese. That policy continued for centuries, well into the Roman Empire.

Roman soldiers did, of course, drink water. But historical records suggest that it wasn’t their beverage of choice. Consider what Plutarch wrote about how Cato the Elder, an officer during the Second Punic War (218-202 BCE), dealt with his deep thirst, according to Roth:

Water was what he drank on his campaigns, except that once in a while, in a raging thirst, he would call for vinegar, or when his strength was failing, would add a little wine.

Like Cato, Romans prized wine for its supposed health benefits, as Rod Phillips, a historian at Carleton University in Ottawa, writes in his book Wine: A Social and Cultural History of the Drink That Changed Our LivesThat made posca—which contained vinegar made from wine gone bad—vastly preferable to plain old H20. And wine, at the time, was plentiful. Rich Romans put back titanic volumes of it. As the reach of Roman imperialism spread throughout Europe, viticulture followed, which “gave their armies ready access to wine depots almost everywhere,” writes Phillips.

Richard Luscombe:

From carnivorous giant lizards to toxic climbing tree frogs, the FloridaEverglades have become a haven to invasive species steadily destroying and devouring the flora and fauna of the state’s famed River of Grass.

Now comes news of a hybrid super-predator slithering its way through the waterways of the 1.5m-acre wilderness: a genetically blended python that researchers believe might be able to better embrace the subtropical environment and expand its range more rapidly than any species before it.

The discovery was made during a study to improve knowledge of non-native species. US Geological Survey (USGS) scientists analysed 400 snakes captured in the Everglades over a 10-year period from 2001.

The researchers expected to find only the pure genetic makeup of the Burmese python, the deadly constrictor that has exploded in numbers to supplant the American alligator as the region’s apex predator since a small number of unwanted pets were released in the 1980s.

Instead, they were surprised to uncover “a tangled family tree”, the genetic signature of the Indian rock python present in at least 13 snakes. That species is smaller, faster and arguably more aggressive than its big cousin, and thrives on higher and drier ground. Burmese pythons are more at home in the water.

“When two species come together they each have a unique set of genetic traits and characteristics they use to increase their survival and their unique habitats and environments,” said Margaret Hunter, a USGS research geneticist and the lead author of the report.

“You bring these different traits together and sometimes the best of those traits will be selected in the offspring. That allows for the best of both worlds in the Everglades, it helps them to adapt to this new ecosystem potentially more rapidly.”

Hunter stressed that the genetic markers – found only in the snakes’ mitochondrial DNA passed down through the maternal line – do not mean a new species of super-snake has suddenly been unleashed on the Everglades. The researchers believe cross-breeding occurred before the pythons secured their foothold in Florida.

“The ones that have this signature would have to be female and breeding to pass it on to their offspring,” she said.

Mennonites concerned with limits for Mennonites:

In response to concerns from Mennonite Brethren constituents, Fresno (Calif.) Pacific University has removed its seminary’s president and severed ties with three high-profile pastors.

FPU announced Aug. 15 that Terry Bren­singer, president of Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary since 2013, will leave his administrative role and become professor of pastoral education in January after a semester-long sabbatical.

The university also announced that Greg Boyd, Bruxy Cavey and Brian Zahnd — Anabaptist-oriented pastors who served as visiting lecturers — are no longer connected with the seminary’s Master of Arts in Ministry, Leadership and Culture program.

Formerly known as Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary, FPBS changed its name when it merged with FPU in 2010.

In an interview, Brensinger said his removal and the release of Boyd, Cavey and Zahnd were changes involving the university president and denominational leaders.

“These weren’t my choices or decisions,” he said. “The seminary president reports to the university president since the merger.”

A university press release attributed the changes to concerns by “a growing number of pastors and congregations” about the direction of the seminary and “some teaching positions of visiting lecturers.”

Other FPU representatives declined to elaborate. But Bren­sing­er said constituents’ concerns centered on Boyd’s theology.

Boyd, who describes himself as an Anabaptist, is senior pastor of Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul, Minn. He is author of the best-selling book, The Myth of a Christian Nation, and God of the Possible: A Biblical Introduction to the Open View of God. The latter questions God’s total knowledge of the future by advocating “open theism.”

Brensinger said the book hit a sore spot with some people, and threats were made to withhold funding.

“It wasn’t a disagreement so much about theological perspectives, but of the right and ability of a graduate school to talk about certain things,” he said. “. . . I think it was primarily associated with Greg. If this would have happened before social media, this probably wouldn’t have happened at all, but people check Greg Boyd and see he wrote this and this.”

Tim Sullivan, who chairs the U.S. Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches Board of Faith and Life, confirmed Boyd’s open theism advocacy started raising concerns from pastors about two years ago, roughly when the program began.

Statements about the atonement were also a factor with Zahnd, lead pastor of Word of Life Church in St. Joseph, Mo., and Cavey, teaching pastor of The Meeting House, a Be in Christ congregation in the Toronto area with weekly attendance of about 5,000.

“One of the biggest concerns was it felt as though the seminary was beginning to lose touch with where the bulk of the denomination is, in terms of what was being promoted and the visibility of those three visiting professors,” Sullivan said.

Richard Friedman:

We hear a lot these days that modern digital technology is rewiring the brains of our teenagers, making them anxious, worried and unable to focus.

Don’t panic; things are really not this dire.

Despite news reports to the contrary, there is little evidence of an epidemic of anxiety disorders in teenagers. This is for the simple reason that the last comprehensive and representative survey of psychiatric disorders among American youth was conducted more than a decade ago, according to Kathleen Ries Merikangas, chief of the Genetic Epidemiology Research Branch at the National Institute of Mental Health.

There are a few surveys reporting increased anxiety in adolescents, but these are based on self-reported measures — from kids or their parents — which tend to overestimate the rates of disorders because they detect mild symptoms, not clinically significant syndromes.

So what’s behind the idea that teenagers are increasingly worried and nervous? One possibility is that these stories are the leading edge of a wave of anxiety disorders that has yet to be captured in epidemiological surveys. Or maybe anxiety rates have risen, but only in the select demographic groups — the privileged ones — that receive a lot of media attention.

But it’s more likely that the epidemic is simply a myth. The more interesting question is why it has been so widely accepted as fact.

One reason, I believe, is that parents have bought into the idea that digital technology — smartphones, video games and the like — are neurobiologically and psychologically toxic. If you believe this, it seems intuitive that the generations growing up with these ubiquitous technologies are destined to suffer from psychological problems. But this dubious notion comes from a handful of studies with serious limitations.

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