Weekend Required Reading

1. Running a two-hour marathon. Strong opening:

“Here’s a quick and convenient way of finding out whether you’re ready to run a two-hour marathon. Head to the track and run six laps (roughly 1.5 miles) at two-hour pace (4:34.6 per mile), then run one more lap as fast as you can. Have a nearby exercise physiologist fit you with a portable oxygen-measuring mask, to measure your energy consumption at that pace. Then crunch the data to see whether your metabolism is settling into a sustainable pattern, or whether it’s spiraling out of control toward a fiery explosion.”

2. A female high schooler ran a 2:31:49 marathon. Leaving my brother disgusted with her parents.

3. Florida man becomes first person with Down syndrome to finish Ironman triathlon. Incredibly impressive, especially at 21 years young.

“Inclusion for all of us with all of you.”

4. The heartbreaking reality — and staggering numbers — of NCAA teams cut during the pandemic. Damn invisible enemy. Meanwhile, this week I was very pleasantly surprised to see an Olympia High School senior sign to play Beach Volleyball at Stanford. Take that SoCal!

5. And because we can’t live on swimming, cycling, and running alone, Mark Bittman’s Master List of Interchangeable Ingredients.

Today’s Lecture Notes

In her last paper, a classmate of yours wrote, “From being isolated, I have transitioned from thinking ‘is my work good enough’ to ‘am I good enough’.”

  • Everyone honest sometimes question whether they’re good enough. You are good enough whether you’re capable of doing your best work right now or not. The importance of your life dwarfs the importance of your academic performance this semester.
  • Things are going to get better, and regardless of your grade point average, you’re going to make a positive difference in people’s lives.
  • We can’t improve our mental health without other’s help. The hardest thing to do is the most important. Asking for help.

How Long Will We Slight The Social-Emotional Costs Of On-Line Learning?

Thursday, First Year Writing, The Morken Building 131, the first in-person class of the academic year. Students take turns summarizing their first papers about whether one needs, as a Stoic philosopher we read argues, a coherent philosophy of life and a “grand goal of living” to avoid squandering one’s life. They’re smart, so they push back at the suggestion one can neatly plan their life. They talk about some things being outside of our control, like viruses.

If not a coherent philosophy of life, what about guiding principles I wonder. And if so, which ones? They’re not quite ready for subtly, nuance, ambiguity, complexity. That’s why college is four years long. For now at least, I keep those thoughts to myself and just listen.

One student says her mother died in February. Not expecting that, I loose track of what follows, wondering how she died and what would it be like to lose your mom at 17 or 18. She says doing well in school doesn’t matter as much as it did previously.

The students, many who say they struggle with anxiety, have never enjoyed going to class more. Not because of the doofus facilitating things, because they’re famished for friendship. Flat out famished. They linger afterwards, partly to disinfect the tables, but mostly to extend our shared sense of normalcy as long as possible.

The student whose mother died walks up to the front to talk to me. Through my mask I thank her for having the courage to share that news and gently inquire about her mother’s passing. She tells me her mother chose “Death With Dignity” after a lifetime of being severely disabled. And she wanted me to know the paper was really challenging to write, but my sense was, not in a bad way, in an important way. I think it caused her to grieve her mother in a way she hadn’t. She ended up writing her mother a letter and using parts of it to begin her paper.

For those few moments, as her classmates slowly filed out of the room in small groups, she and I shared a human connection that superseded our teacher-student identities. I saw her and heard her in a way that’s utterly impossible on-line.

I am all in on the scientific consensus regarding masks, social distancing, maximizing time outdoors, and washing hands. I am comfortable enough returning to the classroom because my university has done an excellent job preparing for as safe as possible a return to in-person classes. I will not help politicize this public health crisis.

What follows is a non-partisan question, my reference point is the social-emotional health of young people.

If we don’t begin implementing “blended” or “hybrid” teaching methods soon, with at least some in-person instruction, what are the social and emotional costs to friendless students who are not being seen or heard in any kind of meaningful way?

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.]