Themes on Memes

Without going into too technical of a definition here, a meme is “an idea, behavior, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture.” With the advent of the internet technologies, particularly those that you can hold in your hand, ideas can spread more quickly than at any point in history. The most-recent popular example of a “viral” meme is probably the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. I even saw today that Homer Simpson took it; look for the brief Olaf the Snowman cameo.

This post, however, is not about the Ice Bucket Challenge, so save your love or vitriol for another space.

Another example of an idea or behavior spreading quickly is the Arab Spring. Literally entire sections of the world changed in a matter of days, and while revolutions have always occurred in history, internet-based technologies serve as an accelerant in the spread of ideas.

The meme as a common experience, or the meme as a cultural divider?

“An idea, behavior, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture”…by that definition, it seems that a meme should bring a culture together, simply because it makes connections within a culture that can serve as stronger bonds. However, I don’t always find that true. Here is a frivolous example:

Celebrating Baby saying "Went through airport security with insulin pump...no problems"

http://type1diabetesmemes.tumblr.com/post/94324055585

My wife sent me a link to the “Type I Diabetes Memes” Tumblr page a few months ago, and among the numerous pictures, this particular one slays me, not because it is particularly funny, but because it is so amazingly specific. To really “get it”, you have to have been:

  • An English-speaker.
  • A Type I diabetic.
  • An insulin pump wearer.
  • Stopped repeatedly at security checkpoints in an airport due to said pump.
  • AND a person that has seen and understands this particular internet meme “format”.

That picture doesn’t connect people. Yes, this “spread quickly within a culture”, but it really only was an inside joke that only a limited amount of people can really appreciate. The vast majority of you reading this will NOT say to yourselves, “That is SO TRUE!” (as I did).

The concept of rapidly spreading ideas as a separator scales up to other more-serious situations as well. For example, on Facebook I have some friends that are not just Republican/Conservative; they are SUPER Republican/Conservative. This is also true of friends I have that are MEGA Democrats/Liberals. Often, the posts that those individuals make are extreme in one way or another, and sometimes, they simply do not reflect reality. What the internet has done in these cases is created not a stronger, common culture, but two diametrically opposed cultures that cannot realistically co-exist.

There is no room for discussion.

Ask most people about the situation in Ferguson right now; either “innocent, young, unarmed Mike Brown” was gunned down in cold blood by a vicious killer cop working within a 100% corrupt, whites-only police state, or “thuggish, armed robber Mike Brown” was shot by an innocent police officer that was assaulted while simply investigating a reported crime. (Compare the comments posted to Ferguson-related online stories on CNN.com and FoxNews.com for a further examination of this concept.) I have seen very few public voices considering that maybe, just maybe, there are many other complex issues involved and that both viewpoints probably share some degree of merit. Now again, the purpose of this blog is not to debate that issue, but rather, the purpose is to point out that rapidly spreading ideas do NOT always bring people together.

My question to the reader is, how can we foster middle grounds in thought when so-often viewpoints become deeply entrenched before all factors come to light and are thoughtfully considered? A situation as complex as the Mike Brown case cannot be decided-upon in a few minutes and cannot be adequately discussed in 140 characters.

“With great power…”

We have a responsibility as educators, Christians, and human beings living on the Earth to figure out something else about memes: how can we best-harness the concept of memes and spread ideas quickly in a positive and responsible way? That is something that has been discussed at length in my graduate-level sports leadership courses, and I know my colleague Dr. McRee has discussed this in her Sports Management and Marketing courses as well.

All it takes is the right person in the right situation to cause a “Tipping Point,” and then an idea spreads. The notion of a “Cold Water” challenge has been around for some time, so what changed? (The Wikipedia link in the first paragraph examines this question.) Fine Arts is putting on a musical entitled “Urinetown”  that has a significant message, but one that has never spread to the extent of the Ice Bucket Challenge. I have heard Brother Carlton Burris at Immanuel Baptist Church say that the most successful meme in history was probably the initial spread of Christianity in the couple of years after Jesus’ crucifixion. How do we get POSITIVE thoughts and principles to spread throughout our culture?

How do I make students best-understand the importance of Physical Education to children? How does our department best-express the long-term benefits of a healthy lifestyle to ETBU’s students? How does ETBU best-make a Godly-impact on our community, state, and country? These are important questions to ask, because as surely as technology marches forward and the world shrinks, the cultures of America and the world are going to change rapidly over the remainder of our lifetimes.

It is our shared responsibility to ensure that whatever ideas “go viral” leave this place better than when we arrived. (Click to Tweet)

But how?

WW

Small… Large… MEDIUM! I’m the MEDIUM!

“The medium is the message.”

Marshall Mcluhan

Photo Credit: Abode of Chaos via Compfight cc

This quote is one of the most famous phrases in the discipline of Communication Studies, and was originally voiced by Marshal McLuhan, a media scholar from the Toronto school of Communication Theory.

His point is that how you say something is just as important as what you say. (Click to Tweet)

In many cases, it may end up being even more important.

Studying Communication is so important to me, and what I really love, because it allows me (and every Comm scholar) to understand where other people are coming from, and what they are trying to say through the words they choose to convey their message. I get very excited for each new class – a chance to share my passion with a new group of students, and a chance for us to learn together about what Communication Studies can mean together.

I have loved Communication Studies since my first Communication class at Nebraska Wesleyan University in 2005. It was at this small, private university that I first heard McLuhan’s words. They have been repeated throughout my journey to a PhD, but it is only now that I’ve first made a connection between McLuhan’s message and Jesus’s.

That statement may seem shocking and sad, but ETBU is my first school environment where the integration of faith and learning is placed at such a high priority.

It is refreshing, to be honest.

At so many public schools, and even some religious universities, professors (and professors-in-training) are encouraged, pushed, even threatened to take religion out of the classroom so that we don’t offend anyone.

In my first semester at ETBU, I was struggling to bring my religious views into class because I felt as if it had almost been beaten out of me. But now, with the opportunity to reflect on how my discipline relates to faith and Christianity, I am struck by the complete obviousness of it all!

Allow me to show you what I mean…

Jesus was God’s son, sent to earth to deliver God’s message of salvation – to COMMUNICATE it to us! (Click to Tweet)

He lived a perfect life, and focused on sharing God’s mercy with the world – communicating even still. A connection to my discipline if I’ve ever heard one.

But the connection that really hit me over the head when I started thinking about McLuhan’s emphasis on the medium, is that we are the medium that God has chosen to spread his message today. That was the plan all along…remember… the Great Commission…

Bible Study

Photo Credit: rafa2010 via Compfight cc

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20).

To make this idea even more concrete, let me put it another way. I am the medium that is charged with spreading the message of Jesus. You are the medium. All of God’s followers are His chosen medium.

If we return again to McLuhan’s idea that the chosen medium for communicating a message is extremely meaningful, it must be a big deal that God picked us. We are the medium here, after all.

But why? Why us? Studying communication shows us that people who really believe their message, or have experienced something themselves, are often the most effective at passing their passion along to others.

restaurant

Photo Credit: jesuscm via Compfight cc

My former pastor used to use the analogy of restaurants: If you’ve eaten a great meal, and tell others about it, they will want to try out that restaurant too because you are so excited about it!

So, when I consider the importance of God picking US to be his medium, it makes me feel a lot of pressure to step up and do a better job. Also, I need to remember to trust myself, and God, and know that my excitement and passion will easily flow through trough my words.

After all, that’s how communication works.

AML

Refugee. Flight. Displacement.

Photo Credit: Zoriah via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Zoriah via Compfight cc

Refugee.  Flight.  Displacement.

In The Idea of a Christian College Arthur Holmes reminds us that a Christian college, and by implication those vocationally pursuing the study and application of Christian studies, must rigorously pursue the intersection of their faith within the wholeness of the human experience because “we live in a secular society that compartmentalizes religion and treats it as peripheral or even irrelevant to large areas of life and thought” (Holmes, 9).  The biblical worldview however clearly and consistently admonishes believers to positively contribute to a vision of human flourishing.

People of Christian faith are to live out what the New Testament describes as “good news” in the midst of contexts that are all too often divided, conflicted, and trapped in poverty.  As one example, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in 2014 the number of refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced people worldwide exceeded 50 million people for the first time since World War II.  As the UNHCR rightly notes, “1 family torn apart by war is too many.”  The following facts from the United Nations are indeed sobering:

  • 43.3 million people worldwide forcible displaced due to conflict and persecution
  • 46% of these individuals are children
  • 15 million of these individuals are uprooted from their home country
  • 27 million remain within their country but are internally displaced due to conflict
  • Many lack the essentials of life such as clean water, food and protection from violence and abuse.

These are real people with real needs. (Click to Tweet)

Moreover, the call to stand alongside displaced individuals is central to the biblical narrative.  In fact, there is an entire book within the Old Testament addressing this subject.  The book of Ruth is in part dedicated to establishing an ethic that asks people of faith to contribute to human flourishing by standing alongside those living in the midst of difficult cross-cultural situations.

Ruth is the story of a young woman who found herself in Israel, a country that differed in culture, religion and background from the one in which she was raised.  And what is more, there was a long history of suspicion, hostility and violent armed conflict between the peoples of Moab and Judah.  Imagine yourself as a young, single woman with the responsibility of providing for an older relative, with only limited access to finances, separated from family and friends, and suspiciously viewed with ethnic hostility in all of your daily interactions.

Ruth was forced to glean the leftover grain that was first missed by harvesters and servants, and it is in this context of difficulty and poverty that that the Biblical story introduces Boaz.  Having compassion, Boaz extended an open hand to Ruth and helped her with financial and material goods.  Over the course of the grain and barley harvests this initial relationship grew.

Ruth is usually told as a story of love and marriage or as a foreshadowed celebration of King David or of Christ himself.  These interpretations may be true.  But what is often lost in these themes is the reality that this is also a story about crossing boundaries, of an immigrant who came from a country that was deemed “suspicious,” and about overcoming prejudices by showing compassion and financial generosity specifically to the displaced within our communities.

The book of Ruth is a reminder that people of faith are called to stand in prayer, friendship and practical support with all those within our community who have been displaced, especially those who have experienced the traumas of violence, war and forced flight.  This is where faith, friendship and vocational discipline intersect. (Click to Tweet)

For many in the United States this reality has taken on new meaning as 50,000 unaccompanied minors have sought asylum over the last twelve months.  As the Baptist World Alliance recently noted, many of these individuals are “victimized by separation from their families, economic exploitation, lack of medical care and education [and] discrimination.”  It is our responsibility to “respond to the need for spiritual support and pastoral services for these children” and to “create welcoming communities.”

Behind the overwhelming numerical statistics are individuals who can be influenced by individuals.  This is the power of one connecting with one.  In a way, after all, the believer in Christ is to see themselves in the words of Hebrews 11:13, “[as] foreigners and strangers on earth.”

People of faith let us be among the first who recognize fellow sojourners and to follow the call of the biblical narrative by welcoming the refugees and displaced within our communities.  This week would you commit to doing one of the following:

  • Praying every day for seven days for the refugees and displaced around the world
  • Seeking greater awareness about the reality of the 50,000 unaccompanied minors who have sought asylum along the southern border of the United States
  • Reaching out and befriending an immigrant or refugee in your context and to help build a community of welcome

eb

 

Fall 2014 Intersection Bloggers

The Center for Excellence in Christian Scholarship at East Texas Baptist University is excited to announce our three bloggers for the Fall 2014 semester. Dr. Elijah Brown, Dr. Allyn Lueders, and Dr. Will Walker will be sharing their weekly insights the ways that their teaching, disciplines, and faith intersect. This semester will be The Intersection’s third cohort of ETBU faculty bloggers. The Intersection blog originally began as a part of the CECS Intersection of Faith & Reflection Project in which five ETBU faculty members where invited to use the newly created blog to experience reflective practice during Fall 2013. The project was completed in December 2013 and now the blog continues each semester with three ETBU faculty members chosen each session.

Dr. Elijah Brown, Dr. Allyn Lueders, & Dr. Will Walker (

Dr. Elijah Brown, Dr. Allyn Lueders, & Dr. Will Walker

Meet Our Bloggers…

Dr. Elijah Brown will be posting on Mondays throughout the Fall 2014 semester beginning on August 25th. Dr. Brown is an Associate Professor of Religion in the School of Christian Studies, and also serves as the Director Freedom Center at ETBU, a newly formed center is working to advance international religious freedom and transformative peace. Brown joined the ETBU faculty in 2009, and is an active member of the ETBU community. In addition to his classroom engagement with students, Dr. Brown and his family have lived on campus as Faculty in Residence since 2011. He has an earned Ph.D. from the University of Edinburgh, New College. His dissertation focused on the development of north-south Sudanese peace, highlighting issues related to the maturation of indigenous Christianity, missions, church growth, conflict resolution and reconciliation, and religion and politics. Dr. Brown is also an active participant in the Baptist World Alliance.

Dr. Allyn Lueders will be sharing her reflections on Wednesdays beginning August 27th. Dr. Lueders is an Assistant Professor of Communication Studies in ETBU’s School of Humanities, and just recently joined the ETBU faculty in 2012. Dr. Lueders has an earned Ph.D. from the University of Kansas. Her dissertation focused on an analysis of an online support community for anorexia patients. Her courses taught here at ETBU range from Fundamentals of Speech Communication to Research Methods in Communication Studies. In addition to her new blogging responsibilities this fall, Dr. Lueders and her husband have recently moved on to campus as part of the ETBU Faculty in Residence program.

Dr. Will Walker will be blogging his thoughts on Fridays beginning August 29th. Dr. Walker is an Associate Professor of Kinesiology in the School of Education. Originally from East Texas, Dr. Walker first attended and graduated from ETBU with his B.S.E. in Secondary History and Physical Education before joining the ETBU faculty in 2007. He has an earned Ph.D. from the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville with a dissertation exploring physical self-efficacy in college weight training students. Dr. Walker also serves as the Faculty Athletic Representative. Teaching in one of the institution’s larger majors and his involvement with ETBU Athletics gives Dr. Walker the opportunity to spend a great deal of time with ETBU students with varying backgrounds, experiences, and aspirations.

From Christian Missions, to God’s people as a medium for communication, to the connection between the health of the body and soul, this semester’s bloggers are sure to shed new light on the topics of faith, learning, and disciplines on The Intersection. Subscribe via email or check back online regularly to follow their stories. Engage with our bloggers by commenting on posts that grab your attention, cause you to ask questions, or impact your faith.

Join us as we spend another semester looking for the intersections of our faith & life.

Parable of the Fingernails

fingernails

Photo Credit: adaenn via Compfight cc

How did it get so late so soon?  It’s night before it’s afternoon.  December is here before it’s June. My goodness how the time has flewn.  How did it get so late so soon?
–Dr. Seuss

I was sitting at my desk today trying to prioritize the things that need to be done to finish the semester.  I looked down at my fingers and noticed my fingernails. They were a little too long, so obviously it was time to cut them again.  Not a big deal. But just a minute, didn’t I cut them just last week? That couldn’t be, but I was pretty sure it wasn’t that long ago that I cut them.

Now remember I’m a scientist, I know how fast fingernails grow.

3 millimeters per month, 0.1 millimeter per day, that means they grow 1 nanometer per second.

Now as Americans, we don’t have the concept of millimeters in our heads much less nanometers. A nanometer is about the width of a molecule. Which means a human hair averages about 100,000 nanometers wide…100,000 seconds for my nails to grow the width of a human hair.

Okay, outside of ‘nerdsville’ that means fingernails grow slowly. So, if you are using your fingernails as a timekeeper, you have a very slow clock.

It also means it was about a month ago that I cut my nails.

You’ve heard of these sayings:

  • Time flies when you are having fun.
  • A watched pot never boils.
  • Be there in a second…
  • Just a minute…
  • A minute is not long, unless you’re waiting for the bathroom.

These sayings allude to some interesting facts about our timekeeping. You see, time is not something we sense. There needs to be a receptor to have a sensation. That makes time invisible, but we are able to perceive time or intervals of time.

However, perceiving time involves some psychological and physiological tricks. If you are engaged in an activity, you lose track of time and so it flies by, and if you are bored, time seems to drag along. If you have an urgent need, the seconds seem to last for hours.

Oddly enough, when the brain becomes engaged, it seems to record more memories than normal. This acts more like a slow motion camera, so more details are remembered which acts to slow time down. An example of this is when someone is in a car wreck and the details are remembered in slow motion. Time has not been perceived at a different rate, just more details are recorded during the time interval.

So if the brain filters out details, we perceive time differently than if it records all details available. And if you record more details, then the world around you seems to run in slow motion.

That is one way to explain Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). If ADHD kids record more information with their brains for particular time intervals, then the world runs too slow for their attention system.

Or if you noticed that the years seem to go by quicker as we get older, it might be because we recorded more new information during our adolescence which slowed down the perception of time. Now our brains don’t need to record as much and time passes quicker. In order to recover some of that youthful perception, we need to add novel experiences and information to our lives. Then the years would stop zooming by.

That is what happened with my time perception the past few weeks. With the lack of novel experiences, time was whizzing by and I didn’t notice until I looked at my fingernails. The sight of my talons brought my world back into focus.

Or maybe it was just that I had so much to do trying to finish up the last weeks of the semester that I lost track of time. I probably just need to manage my stress, kick off my shoes and…hey, my toenails seem a little long…

dsb

 

Lightbulbs

In my last week of teaching organizational leadership this semester, my students were asked to make presentations to their classmates surrounding some sort of ethical leadership dilemma. The students were asked to advise the class on what decision should be made by the leaders in the case from an ethical standpoint while paying attention to what made good business, financial, and legal sense. They were then to use the leadership techniques, models, theories, ideas and perspectives from the semester to present a plan of action to address the case.

They did a remarkable job.

In fact, they did such a wonderful job in pulling together all of those pieces, that the presentations gave me new perspectives on a couple of leadership decisions currently facing one of the organizations that I serve as a member of the board of directors. Of course the presentations weren’t perfect. I questioned the accounting on a couple of proposals and some of the ethical justifications were a little weak. Others lacked detail in applying the leadership models we had discussed. All of which gave me one last opportunity to help students make connections to the material as I asked one final set of questions.
And I saw it…

While I was asking those final challenging questions, I saw a couple of final light bulbs come on.

Some were students who had excelled in gathering the information, but had not yet fully put it into practice. Others I had watched struggle to knit the pieces together all semester long. Watching it all begin to click for them is remarkably rewarding. I am so proud in those moments for the students who continue to work until the light finally dawns.

And in those moments, I’m reminded of why I teach leadership. Because they can learn. (Tweet This)

Many of them come with a great deal of leadership potential. Some are naturally influential with their peers. Others are able to speak eloquently and persuasively. Still others think critically and apply ideas readily. But they still need research and theory and practice to really begin to excel in leadership.

Hopefully, my classes give them the opportunity to gain the knowledge they need and to practice in a relatively safe environment.

Though at this point in the semester, I am weary, it is these moments where they succeed in pulling all of the pieces together, that I am inspired anew to

  • Tweak a classroom exercise
  • Find an even better textbook
  • Edit and refine a lecture
  • Try out a new teaching tool or technique

Because I’m not done learning any more than my students. (Tweet This)

So, we’re off to a summer “break” where my reading list is longer than the one I had during the semester.  But maybe I’ll grab a quick nap first.

-ep

Take me out to the ball game…

Ahhh… We’ve made it to that time of year again… Halcyon days, verdant, pristinely-manicured turfs where “the boys of summer” beguile leisurely spectators tucking away peanuts and cracker jack and… beverages. The “Great American Pastime” is in full swing (pun) in renowned parks all over the landscape. Just relax, and take it all in…

Photo Credit: Werner Kunz via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Werner Kunz via Compfight cc

What’s missing?

Umm, let’s see… Got my glove (just in case!), my over-worn and under-washed cap (soap dilutes good luck), flip-up shades (that’s how I roll), smart phone (duh!), XL cup of Dr. P (yeah, I will drink it all!), foot-long carcinogen-filled, cardiac arrest inducer (I mean, hot dog). That should do it. Still, I can’t shake this feeling I’m missing something… Wait, I know what it is! It should be here anytime now! I’ll just sit back and wait for

the melee!

Photo Credit: David Gallagher via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: David Gallagher via Compfight cc

the almost inevitable brawl, the brouhaha,  the fracas, the altercation, the scuffle, the skirmish, the… kurfuffle? Yes, I’m talking about that other Great American Pastime… watching a good fight! (or even a bad one)

Where did the halcyon go? I can’t see the verdant turf for all the… Wow! That shortstop has a mean right jab! I wonder what that guy said about his mother?

Wait, I digress… I was talking about the all-too-common tendency for disagreements among “professional,” “adult” baseball players to be settled like children on the playground, complete with foot stomping, theatrical arm (and hand) gesturing, and tete-a-tete bad mouthing at the top of their lungs. And let’s not forget the wrestling, punching, and rolling on the ground. What recess rumpus would be complete without those?

Sports commentators–and the media in general–generally give a wink and a nod to these demonstrations of poor judgment, and that’s when I come off the bench to critique broadcasters’ apathy and general misunderstanding of the troubling attitudes that major league fights belie.

  1. You’re making 6 and 7 digit salaries, so…. Shut up and play!
    Photo Credit: HikingArtist.com via Compfight cc

    Photo Credit: HikingArtist.com via Compfight cc

    In 2013, the average MLB salary was $3.4 million, while the average U.S. salary in 2012 was $42, 500.  (Why don’t they talk about that on the nightly news?)

  2. You’re role models to thousands of young people! (Do I really have to mention that?) Here’s a list of 10 players who ARE doing it right.
  3. This is not going to last. Enjoy playing baseball while you can! This requires the humility to understand that, even if you’re Babe Ruth, you won’t be forever.
    Leave a positive legacy.
  4. You’ve beaten the odds. Why jeopardize that? (Is anybody still reading this?) A college baseball player has only about a 11% chance of making it in the MLB, and the average career length is about 5 1/2 years. Why are you so angry?

What’s the take away for mass comm students?

While the typical textbook tells budding journalism students that their highest calling is objectivity in reporting, the reality is that hardly anyone ever practices it. At best, some broadcast journalists practice selective objectivity, carving out a niche of issues on which they feel comfortable riding the fence and making a show of detached professionalism on largely irrelevant topics. The vast majority of broadcasters these days likely couldn’t define objectivity. Never mind do they know why it’s important. So yeah, that’s not happening. But we’ll keep teaching it, just in case a few of our students are listening.

Most of our students are at the age where they would find video clips of baseball brawls hilarious, not discerning the implications for the sport, the audience, and society in general. That’s why broadcasters must not simply report about fighting in sports; they must help educate viewers about the negative effects of bad behavior. One small way to begin making a difference would be for sportscasters to resist the urge to editorialize on camera after reporting these stories, especially with the typical tongue-in-cheek approach that conveys lighthearted disdain, but also their enthusiasm for having a sensational “get” story. Tosses between anchors at the news desk are usually brief, but laughing and vocal inflection gives the impression that nothing that happens during a game is to be taken too seriously.
What a shame!

Photo Credit: peasap via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: peasap via Compfight cc

A wonderful benefit of Christian liberal arts education is that it challenges students to apply moral values to practical career situations. In this vein, I would encourage my students to temper their enthusiasm for all things raffish with reading from Scripture, such as the following:

Do not associate with a man given to anger;
Or go with a hot-tempered man,
Or you will learn his ways
And find a snare for yourself
(Proverbs 22:24-25, NASB)

 

 

Darrell Roe (Ph.D., UGA, 1998) is an Assoc. Prof. of Mass Communication at ETBU. His specialty is analyzing the content of visual media and its effects on audiences.

 

Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star

‘I was gazing at a shooting star, wondering why it was getting bigger and bigger…then it hit me.’

This week contained the peak viewing for the Lyrid meteor showers. Meteor showers occur when the earth’s orbit takes us through the remnants of a comet tail. Comets are covered in ice or other frozen substances that flow off the comet as it orbits the sun. The dust from the tail makes up our meteor showers. The particles are usually smaller than a grain of sand and burn up completely in the atmosphere. The meteor is that flash of light as the dust vaporizes. If a particle makes it through the atmosphere then it’s called a meteorite (or maybe a meteoroid until it hits the earth).

While looking up some information on meteor showers for this year, I found a very unusual video of a skydiver’s near miss (really a near-hit…) with a meteorite. Well, if it was really a meteorite, that is absolutely amazing. There is still some doubt, but that would be scary. Could we get hit from above?

The answer of course is no… I mean the chance is so small that one astronomer stated “You have a better chance of getting hit by a tornado and a bolt of lightning and a hurricane all at the same time.”

Yet there have been people hit right? Well, just one documented case. An Alabama woman in 1954 was sleeping on her couch when a meteorite crashed through her roof and hit her in the hip (see account of incident here).

peekskill meteorite car

Photo Credit: Warmest Regards via Compfight cc

But there was a dog killed in Egypt in 1911 by a meteorite. And one hit a woman in the UK in 2004, that boy in Florida in 2007…wait there have been more than 30 people and homes hit in the last 200+ years along with 6 animals and 7 cars…

That sounds like a lot of tornado/lightning/hurricanes happening…I’m getting scared.

These are reports from around the world, and that means several billion people involved…so maybe it’s not something to worry about.

Then last week a group took data from  the nuclear test ban monitoring station network that shows 26 asteroids impacting the earth for the past 13 years. The impacts ranged from 1 to 600 kilotons in power (Hiroshima was 15 kilotons) and were primarily in the upper atmosphere so no real damage occurred at ground level, but like little earthquakes precede the big one, that killer asteroid maybe out there.

A low atmosphere explosion over Chelyabinsk in 2013 was 500 Kilotons and caused building damage that injured over 1000 people. In 1908 a low atmosphere explosion estimated at 1.5 Megatons destroyed 850 square miles of forest and 1000 reindeer in Siberia. Another near miss…

The asteroid that finished off the dinosaurs was 10 Megatons and it impacted the surface of the earth. Life is changed when a killer asteroid hits. There is evidence of many killer asteroids hitting the earth in the past. And life goes on…

Killer asteroid

Photo Credit: @Doug88888 via Compfight cc

What should I do about the killer asteroids?

There is nothing that can be done. Worrying or losing sleep over it is just wasting energy. The biggest ones can be tracked, but not diverted. The smaller ones are not able to be detected before impact. The earth is 70% oceans, so that is where most impacts occur. Again, worrying about nothing.

boy looking at stars

Photo Credit: Tasayu Tasnaphun via Compfight cc

I suggest instead, that we focus on those beautiful meteor showers. Take time to enjoy the magnificence of space. Focus on some quality time with your family and friends. In fact,the next major meteor event will happen next week, around May 5. This shower is associated with the tail of the famous Halley’s comet. Take time to teach your kids about the meteors and comets. And maybe explain about the asteroids also, but don’t make them too paranoid to enjoy the night sky.

dsb

 

A Pound of Flesh

Well, here it is the middle of April and my New Year’s resolutions have been crushed, twisted and destroyed. I have actually gained 8 pounds rather than lose any…

resolution

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lose weight

Photo Credit: One Way Stock via Compfight cc

Come on… this is simple, isn’t it?

It’s not rocket science and I do have a Ph.D.

Just use more calories than you take in.

That means eat less calories and/or do more activities. Eat Less and Exercise More, Got It!

Wait, what about nutrition? You know, the vitamins,minerals, fiber and stuff.

bacon burger

Photo Credit: Pamela Graham via Compfight cc

OK. It’s not just calories, but some of what you eat. I remember there are bad foods out there, but they keep changing as new studies emerge (see blog last month) .

Maybe closer to rocket science that I first believed.

food pyramid

Photo Credit: jchwhite via Compfight cc

So, maybe I need to utilize a plan, but which plan? The food pyramid……no that was done away with for the choosemyplate system.

myplate_yellow_livetype copy

Photo Credit: USDAgov via Compfight cc

ChooseMyPlate is  a good plan. It has the 5 food groups in the best proportions to provide the proper nutrition. Yet it doesn’t give the actual foods to eat. I need something more. Like a real diet plan.

Where do you find a good diet?

Dr. Oz, Oprah, The Doctors, Morning News shows…they all tell you about different miracle diets. And most of them are bogus… without scientific validation.

Yet people use the diets and lose weight. Pick any diet and someone has lost weight on it. And someone else didn’t lose anything.

Low-fat, Low-carbohydrate, Balanced fat-carbs-protein. Pick the type and you can lose weight. It goes back to the statement: Eat Less and Exercise More.

As long as the diet you pick is not too extreme and lowers calories…it will work,

for some people.

A pound of fat equals about 3,500 calories. In order to lose the fat, your diet must create a calorie deficit and your weight will go down. Maybe not one pound for every 3,500 calories, physiology bodies just don’t work that way, but less calories will mean weight loss.

Along with calorie deficit, you need exercise. Exercise will burn more calories and build muscle which burns more calories.

A good place to look for diets is in U.S. News Best Diets report. You can find it HERE.

Look at the different diets and try some. Stick with the one that works for you. I personally like the protein diets (low-carbohydrate). I enjoy the meals and don’t feel hungry on this type of diet. You have to like eggs on this type of diet.

The studies seem to show that low-carbohydrate diets are easier to stick to for the long haul, but the evidence is not overwhelming. The is a lot of back and forth with the studies. So the best thing is to find a diet that you can stick with. It means changing your life habits.

The DASH diet ranks high on several websites. It is a balanced diet that  was designed to lower high blood pressure (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), so it is not intended for weight loss per se. It does lower blood pressure and usually weight if you lower calories.

Evaluate the different diet types and find one with some favorite foods. As long as you stick to the diet and it has adequate nutritional value, you will benefit compared to the average American.

It may not be rocket science, but it is also not as easy as falling off a log or picking up burger and fries on the way home…

dsb

 

Wabi Sabi

Photo Credit: Ⅿeagan via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Ⅿeagan via Compfight cc

It’s nearing the end of the semester.  The air has grown warm, students are reading out of doors and hanging from the trees in hammocks.  In a little more than a week, black caps and gowns will dot the scene as we celebrate a new chapter in students’ colleagues’ lives. A long-anticipated summer break is only a few days away. There’s so much warmth and joy in the air.  Still, there’s just a hint of sadness lingering about the edges of all this excitement.

And I’m feeling a bit wabi sabi today.

Yes, I know that I misuse this term. From my admittedly flawed recollection, wabi sabi is a Japanese aesthetic that sees beauty even (or perhaps especially) when it is mixed with imperfection. I first ran across this proposed use of wabi sabi in Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life by Amy Krouse Rosenthal. She was looking for a word to express that feeling of being both happy and sad at the same time and wabi sabi seemed to fit the bill.

Her use of the term really resonated at the time and so wabi sabi comes to mind occasionally when I encounter imperfect beauty in my own life experience or more often when I feel a great deal of joy mixed with just a tinge of sadness.  As the semester draws to a close, this phrase floated into my mind once again.

There’s plenty of beauty to be seen at the end of the semester:

  •     in the once quiet, insecure, uncertain student who stands to give a strong, thoughtful, and thorough end-of-semester presentation.
  •     in the smile of a senior with only a couple of final exams standing between her and graduation.
  •     in the freshman who says, “I’ve learned how much I really do have to study to be successful.”
  •     and in the student who sits across from my desk with a giant grin on his face and a biology exam marked “A” in his hand, the same student who sank into that chair 13 weeks ago close to tears and wondering how to move forward.

Still, there’s just a hint of imperfection mixed with the beauty.  This time of year calls so many of my students to introspection and reflection on the semester past and it becomes more difficult to gloss over those flaws:

  •     Just a hint of anxiety in the student who is still unsure what direction he’s headed.
  •     A whiff of sadness in the student who is sitting out for a semester because of health struggles back home.
  •     The grief I feel as I read an email from a student who tells me he regrets the level of effort he’s shown and is afraid he might have disappointed the people who care about him.

Yet, even here there is room for hopeThere’s beauty mingled with the imperfection. (Tweet This)

I have hope to share with the student who can’t see his own potential.

I have hope to share with the student who feels that life is on-hold.

I have hope to share with the student who faces regret.

And I feel anew a sense of gratefulness that I teach at a school where we embrace faith as we learn. I don’t have to bite back these words of hope when yet another student drops into my office to share a bit of life’s imperfection.  So, I take a deep breath and plunge ahead, sharing just a hint of this great hope.

-ep