Be The Rower

Early one morning last week I cycled indoors because Blanca is injured.* Afterwards I plopped into my desk chair to swat back the day’s first wave of emails. All while looking at the Salish Sea.

A rowing scull suddenly materialized. The solo rower probably launched from OAR’s (Olympia Area Rowing) downtown marina dock. With steady strong strokes, they disappeared as quickly as they appeared. Then, five minutes later, after reaching their appointed turn around, they shot by again heading south back to the dock no doubt.

I thought about the probable outline of the rower’s morning—waking early, driving to the marina, lifting the boat from its rack, being on the water at dawn, and rowing a long ways on beautiful glassy water with real purpose. And as required for all Pacific Northwesterners, stopping for the daily latte on the way home.

Then I thought about the rest of the rower’s day and despite everything—the ‘rona, the impending forest fire smoke, the faux electronic schooling, the negative national politics—I bet they had at least a decent, if not good, if not great day. How could they not with that kind of start?

Be the rower. Wake up early. And move. Outside**. Walk, bike, swim, run, paddle, row, skate. With someone or alone. Add some caffeine. Then try to have a bad day. I dare you.

* long sordid story starring a real duffus

**once the fire smoke apocalypse is over

We All Have Fears

The Rev. Melanie Wallschlaeger, Director for Evangelical Mission for the Southwestern Washington Synod.

“We all have fears of some kind. We can also have these fears in our lives as congregations. . . . We can have fears about the future, fear that our congregation will die, or not be relevant. Do we fear what our congregations might look like if they become more welcoming to our neighbors? Do we fear what our congregations will look like after the pandemic? Do we fear what our congregations might look like if others come and join us and help make decisions, and bring their gifts?

When we think about our congregational ministry, when we think about worship, will an openness to gifts of diversity in our congregations change what I feel is most precious? Will it mean we sing songs I don’t know or like? Does it mean I will lose what I know and hold most dear or value? Will I lose my place of privilege if we welcome others? Am I afraid of the future at this moment because it’s largely unknown?”

My sense of our congregation is yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes. Major props to Wallschlaeger for asking the exact right questions.

Related. Last night on NextDoor (please remind me, why am I still a member?) someone reported on a Black Lives Matter protest. Since NextDoor has no journalistic standards, a certain hysteria quickly set in. Some of the numerous commenters said they regularly check the online County police scanner to learn what bad things are happening before leaving their home.

Let that sink in.

One of two things is true. A mostly unfounded epidemic of fear has descended upon the land or I’m dangerously naive of the many risks to life and limb.

John Lewis

Lewis:

“My philosophy is very simple: When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have to stand up and just say something. You have to do something. I got into good trouble, necessary trouble. Even today, I tell people, ‘We need to get in good trouble.’”

Thursday’s Required Reading

1. Back to Church, but Not, Let’s Hope, Back to Normal.

“One way to think about this pause in our lives is as a rare—likely a once-in-a-lifetime—opportunity for a reset. We actually stopped, the one thing our societies have never heretofore done. Things ground to a halt, offering us the chance to examine our lives and our institutions. And now, if we want it, we have a chance to rearrange them.”

2. Stop Building More Roads. Dan, Dan, The Transportation Man has been saying this for years. Who knew he knew what he was talking about? For some reason, the authors fail to mention that the President has sporadically talked about investing in infrastructure, but not followed through at all.

3. Japan auto companies triple Mexican pay rather than move to US. I’ll take “What the President Won’t Talk About” for $500.

“Consumers will ultimately pay the price for inefficient production and increased component flow. U.S. research agency Center for Automotive Research estimates that 13% to 24% of all cars sold in the U.S. will be subject to tariffs. If automakers pass these costs on, prices will rise by $470 to $2,200.

The center also said U.S. car sales will drop by up to 1.3 million units annually due to the Trump administration’s trade policy — including sanctions on China. It estimates that 70,000 to 360,000 jobs will be lost, leading to a $6 billion to $30.4 billion reduction in gross domestic product.”

4. Two Chefs Moved to Rural Minnesota to Expand on Their Mission of Racial Justice. Such a hopeful story about social infrastructure. Great pictures on top.

5. This vertical farm could be the answer to a future without water. New Jersey isn’t the only place where farms of the future are starting to bloom.

 

 

Thursday Assorted Links

1. Young Americans are having less sex than ever.

Jean M. Twenge, professor of psychology at San Diego State University, said . . . ‘First, adolescents and young adults are taking longer to grow to adulthood. This includes the postponement of not just sexual activity but also other activities related to mating and reproduction, including dating, living with a partner, pregnancy and birth.’ These reproductive trends are “part of a broader cultural trend toward delayed development,’ Twenge said, and had not occurred in isolation. ‘It is more difficult to date and engage in sexual activity when not economically independent of one’s parents.”

What about the not young?

“. . . researchers were also quick to point out that the trend of ‘growing up slowly’ did not explain why sexual activity had decreased among older and married adults, noting that ‘the growth of the internet and digital media’ could be affecting sex lives. ‘Put simply, there are now many more choices of things to do in the late evening than there once were and fewer opportunities to initiate sexual activity if both partners are engrossed in social media, electronic gaming or binge-watching,’ Twenge added.”

This sentence is pick up line gold.

“A number of health benefits have been linked to regular sex, including reduced stress, improved heart health and better sleep.”

2. Khruangbin, you had me at Thai funk.

“Khruangbin (pronounced KRUNG-bin)gets its name from a Thai word that means airplane, its members are low-key and shun the spotlight, and its music is an atmospheric collage of global subgenres, including reggae dub, surf-rock, Southeast Asian funk and Middle Eastern soul. In an era of oversized pop gloss, where the music is loud and the characters are even louder, how did a band like Khruangbin break through the din?”

Who knows, just glad they did.

3. What it’s like to be black at (Anti) Liberty University. When are Falwell’s legal beagles going to send me a cease and desist order?

A former employee confided in Ruth Graham:

“‘I suppressed so much of my humanity as a black and queer man in being here.’ He remembered being called an ‘Oreo’ to his face, being introduced as ‘the black friend,’ and being asked during Black History Month why there’s no White History Month. ‘I want to be hopeful, but until the university recognizes their past history with racism, apologizes for it, and enacts significant policy implementation from the board level, I do not foresee any changes for students or staff.'”

4. ‘The Bureau’ Is an International Hit. Why Did Its Creator Hand It Off? Starting the final season. Nervous about life after The Bureau.

Podcasts to Ponder Plus

1. NPR’s Hotel Corona.

“When the Dan Hotel in Jerusalem was leased by the government to house recovering COVID-19 patients, the new guests gave it the nickname, “Hotel Corona.” The nearly 200 patients inside already had the coronavirus; and so, unlike the outside world on strict lockdown, they could give each other high fives and hugs and hang out together.

What was even more surprising than what they could do was what they were doing. Patients from all walks of life – Israelis, Palestinians, religious, secular, groups that don’t normally mix – were getting along and having fun. They were eating together, sharing jokes, even doing Zumba. And because they were documenting themselves on social media, the whole country was tuning in to watch, like a real life reality TV show.”

34 minutes of joy and hope.

2. Malcolm Gladwell, Revisionist History, A Good Walk Spoiled.

“In the middle of Los Angeles — a city with some of the most expensive real estate in the world — there are a half a dozen exclusive golf courses, massive expanses dedicated to the pleasure of a privileged few. How do private country clubs afford the property tax on 300 acres of prime Beverly Hills real estate? Revisionist History brings in tax assessors, economists, and philosophers to probe the question of the weird obsession among the wealthy with the game of golf.”

In my junior and senior year of college I was a teacher’s assistant at the Brentwood Science Magnet School for the best third grade teacher ever, Marilyn Turner. I parked across from the school on the leafy border of the Brentwood Country Club next to the chain-linked fence Gladwell describes with great disgust. This excellent story hit home.

3. What Does Opportunity Look Like Where You Live? An interactive story, made even more interesting by putting in the name of the county you live in (if a U.S. citizen). The New York Times is unrivaled when it comes to interactive, data-rich, compelling story telling.

[Some readers have informed me they can’t access the New York Times articles I link to. You have to register at the New York Times to access them. Registration is free.]

 

Friday Assorted Links

1. At virtual Family Chapel, the ‘spiritual but not religious’ find community during pandemic. Eldest is featured, making me even more famous.

2. Why Trump Was Deaf To All The Warnings He Received. Incuriosity and paranoia.

3. Colleges could lose up to 20 percent of students.

“Ten percent of college-bound seniors who had planned to enroll at a four-year college before the COVID-19 outbreak have already made alternative plans. Fourteen percent of college students said they were unlikely to return to their current college or university in the fall, or it was “too soon to tell.” Exactly three weeks later, in mid-April, that figure had gone up to 26 percent. Gap years may be gaining in popularity. While hard to track, there are estimates that 3 percent of freshmen take a gap year. Since the pandemic, internet searches for gap years have skyrocketed. College students do not like the online education they have been receiving. To finish their degrees, 85 percent want to go back to campus, but 15 percent want to finish online.”

4. The Grumpy Economist on University finances, particularly endowments. Sign of the seriousness of things, belt tightening ahead even for the uber wealthy.

“University endowment practices are quite a puzzle. . . . Why are they invested in obscure, illiquid, hard to value, assets, with at least two layers of high fees (university management + asset managers) rather than, say, have one part-time employee and put the whole business into Vanguard total market for about 10 basis points? Why do they leverage with short-term municipal debt which must be rolled over at the most inconvenient times? Why do university presidents seem to glory in great endowment returns in good times, but these occasional liquidity crunches are seen simply as acts of nature, not preventable with a nice pile of liquid assets? Why do donors put up with this — why do donors give money that will be managed in obscure high fee investments, rather than demand low-fee transparent investment, or even set up separate trusts, transparently managed, to benefit their alma maters?”

A flurry of great questions. The short answer to the first question I suspect is because investment managers’ think they’re smart enough to pick stock winners when history suggests otherwise.

An addendum suggests I’ve nailed it:

“Where are the trustees? Well, I speculated to one correspondent, there is a natural selection bias. How do you get to be a university trustee? 1) Make a ton of money as a (lucky) active asset manager, especially on trades and investments that come from college contacts;  2) Collect a lot of fees;  3) Persuade yourself how smart you are and how easy the alpha game is 4) Desire to socialize with the people who run universities. This is hardly likely to produce contrarians, fans of scientifically validated, quantitative, low-fee investment strategies.”

5. The Real Story Behind That Viral Photo of President Johnson During the Vietnam War. In praise of thoroughness and media literacy.

“. . . President Johnson wasn’t crying over thousands of dead American soldiers in the photo. Johnson is actually listening to an audio tape that was created by Captain Charles “Chuck” Robb, his son-in-law. That detail would allow the casual viewer to assume that LBJ was distressed to hear the recording, but it seems that so many of the documentary filmmakers who use this image haven’t bothered to look at the other photos taken during that same time in the White House.”

 

Jordan Hasay Wins

My pick to win the Olympic Trials Marathon in Atlanta Saturday was Jordan Hasay who is a family acquaintance. On the surface, I was way off, seeing that she crossed the line behind 25 other women.

But like everything in life, our perspective changes, that is we gain perspective, when we begin to understand the larger context.

Jordan’s mom died suddenly a few years ago. More recently, her coach of many years was banned from the sport. She has been battling a bad hamstring (public knowledge) and back (not known until now).

Her dream of making the Olympic team was over by mile 10. Meaning she faced 16 more hilly, windy miles with her back “feeling like it’s bone”. And she gutted it out in what may have been the most impressive performance of her stellar career.

Watch this interview and try thinking about her as anything but a winner. In sport and in life. And I will not be surprised if the spirit she displays in this interview enables her to return to the top of her sport.

Galen Rupp, the men’s winner, and friend, consoling Jordan post-race.

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