Eloquent Roundup, Week 3
This week, I posted a look at City Flag Design with a view from a personal level, discussing the different cities of which I have been a citizen. In addition, I got around to sharing and writing up the two articles that I mentioned last week. And I link to a couple great (and surprisingly recent) articles from around the web.
- Flag Design - Madison’s city flag design is among the better ones, the embedded video will tell you why.
- I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
- Armageddon by Leon Uris
Articles and Commentary
I loved the July 2014 issue of Wired (originally read in print), which had two fascinating feature articles discussed below.
Hard Target: One Doctor’s Quest to Save People by Injecting Them With Scorpion Venom is a twofold discussion of the science surrounding using chlorotoxins found in scorpion venom and the process of crowdfunding scientific research. From the article:
Though accepting money from patient families may make ethicists squeamish, traditional methods of funding have their own problems—a fact well illustrated by the challenges faced by TransMolecular, the company developing chlorotoxin as a treatment for gliomas. Despite all the initial fanfare, TransMolecular couldn’t publish the results of its Phase II trials when they were finally ready. Sontheimer blames this failure on the 2008 economic crisis, which caused venture capitalists to grow leery of backing biotech companies with idiosyncratic products. TransMolecular’s CEO died unexpectedly the following year, and his successor decided that the best course of action was to liquidate. Sontheimer still holds out hope that the company that purchased TransMolecular’s assets will eventually continue his work.
The takeaway from the majority of the article is that science and nature are awesome and when they work together, some amazing things can happen. However, humans (and more specifically pharmaceutical companies) are not great at allowing good ideas to come to the forefront if they aren’t popular or politically useful.
The Wild Bunch: How We Can Tame Overlooked Wild Plants to Feed the World is an article that was basically written for me. I think of myself as an experimental cook; Lexi and I have invested in CSAs with unique harvest elements and I am willing to try combining any ingredients if they sounds good to me. Back to the article, it discusses lesser known plants that may help the human race to survive the weather patterns that are coming with global climate change. In addition, it discusses the current state of genetic modifications that are being researched to bring these plants to larger groups of people. Similar to the previous article, my takeaways here are that nature and science can do amazing things and that the human race is not all that creative, but we have to be if we are to survive. From the article:
Perennial grasses dominated the famed prairie ecosystem that once spread across Kansas. The plants, deep-rooted and tall, resisted disease and grew in thick mats that left no room for weeds. They lock carbon in the soil and are better at coping with erratic rainfall (again: climate change). Yet today, acre upon acre of former grassland in North America is planted instead with namby-pamby, needy annuals: wheat, corn, soybeans. The same goes for China, Brazil, and Russia.
The New York Times had an article a couple weeks ago about nature: When Birds Squawk, Other Species Seem to Listen. As a kid, I always wondered about animal languages; perhaps all kids have similar thoughts. I would hear the chittering of squirrels, the barking of dogs, the songs of birds and wonder if the lion and the lamb could understand and respond to each other in some way. Well, science has yet again found clues that may have answered just that. From the article:
Studies in recent years by many researchers, including Dr. Greene, have shown that animals such as birds, mammals and even fish recognize the alarm signals of other species. Some can even eavesdrop on one another across classes. Red-breasted nuthatches listen to chickadees. Dozens of birds listen to tufted titmice, who act like the forest’s crossing guards. Squirrels and chipmunks eavesdrop on birds, sometimes adding their own thoughts. In Africa, vervet monkeys recognize predator alarm calls by superb starlings.
Talk about multilingualism!
Finally, the New York Times posted an op-ed that stirred up the higher education community. Thankfully, the discussion has come with some entertainment. If you’re interested, read the following links in the order listed below.
“The Real Reason College Tuition Costs So Much” - New York Times
In fact, public investment in higher education in America is vastly larger today, in inflation-adjusted dollars, than it was during the supposed golden age of public funding in the 1960s. Such spending has increased at a much faster rate than government spending in general. For example, the military’s budget is about 1.8 times higher today than it was in 1960, while legislative appropriations to higher education are more than 10 times higher.
“Dear New York Times,” - InsideHigherEd
[The article is] a mess, to the extent that it refers “public higher education,” “public universities,” and “colleges and universities” interchangeably. They are not the same thing. “Public higher education,” for example, includes community colleges, which go entirely unmentioned in the piece. That’s not a small oversight, given that nearly half of the undergraduate students in America attend one. Community colleges don’t “cost so much,” nor have they evidenced “administrative bloat,” nor do they have “seven-figure salaries for high-ranking administrators,” unless you count cents.
“Higher-Ed Wonks Are Going Ballistic Over an Op-Ed in ‘The New York Times’” - The Chronicle of Higher Education
Sandy Baum, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute who is quoted in the op-ed, begs to differ. In a blog post Sunday, she writes that, adjusted for inflation, state appropriations per student have declined by 18 percent in the past 30 years, and are 29 percent lower than their 1988-89 peak. Mr. Campos’s only reference to the latter statistic is to acknowledge that appropriations per student have dropped “somewhat” from their peak. But total appropriations, he writes, reached a peak in 2009.
Read, Think, Share, Repeat
The Challenges of 2020
TL;DR: Follow this link.
One of the craziest things about Christianity during the protests of the last few weeks is the fact that there are churches out there not discussing the issues honestly, not taking the time to have the hard conversations, not devoting their Sunday services to betterment of the world and people around them. If you’re church isn’t talking about racism right now, if they don’t mention that black lives matter, instead focusing on platitudes that equate to the “all lives matter” sentiment, it is time to start looking for a new church.
My wife and I meet with my “home” church virtually via Zoom since the pandemic is still a thing. Kimball Avenue United Church of Christ & La Iglesia Episcopal de Nuestra Señora de las Américas (KANSA, together) combined in a collaborative way to create a single denomination focused on the needs of their community. They follow Christ together toward the vision of love, reconciliation, peace and justice. The justice looks like the demolition and rehabilitation of an old church building and its grounds into a community garden and labyrinth open to all who seek peace through contemplation.
I give this elevator speech to mention that COVID has not been kind to faith communities in general. Budgets have been slashed, funding and grants have been cut, and congregations in need are also working to serve those in need, who are less likely to be able to financially support their church in these times. KANSA in one of the good ones. They speak truth, they have the difficult conversations, they preach in a loud voice every Sunday that black lives matter, that racism has no place in the church, that the LGBTQ community deserves respect and support, and that Jesus was a social justice warrior, who fought for the least of these no matter who they were, where they were from, what they looked like.
In fact, Jesus was most harsh to those who had the means to help and decided not to answer the call.
These systems of oppression we are protesting have been around a long time; they have screwed up a lot of lives, they have been the reason for revolution and the downfall of entire civilizations, they don’t work. We need to find a better way to live by supporting each other. And support has to come in systemic, social, financial, and political ways, both national and local.
I am not local to KANSA anymore, but I support their mission, the way that mission manifests in the world, and the simple fact that they follow Jesus no matter how ostracizing that position can be at times. Which brings me to the point:
Thanks to a $10,000 ‘matching gift’ from an anonymous donor, the challenge has become an opportunity. Over the next two months, we plan to raise at least $10,000 to meet the challenge. Through August 31, 2020, every donation we receive toward our “2020 Challenge” no matter how small or how large will be doubled by the matching gift.
KANSA is hurting financially and needs support, they do good work and are unabashedly progressive in their approach to our world. Donate now and see your contribution matched to keep one of the good ones fighting the good fight.
Thank you for your consideration.