From ancient byways to modern highways, glimpses of faith are everywhere...

Sunday, May 31, 2015

'Onward, Christian Soldiers': To what avail?

(Public Domain)
The use of military imagery in Scripture and song is nothing new.  Nevertheless, it must be asked:  Does violence, even in the name of self-defense, have any rightful place within Christianity?

Spurred on by recent headlines regarding the beheading of an ISIS jihadist by a Christian, Inquisitr wrestles with this very question.  In an article which asks whether Jesus’ teachings allow for this, no definitive answer is offered.

This conclusion is instead given:  It is difficult to say whether the beheading was an act of justice or an act of spite against an enemy who shows little mercy.

Affording this Christian soldier the benefit of the doubt, let’s say that the beheading was “an act of justice.”  Since many a Christian has been beheaded by ISIS, justice might call for such retaliation.

However, is justice (which is often interpreted as “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth”) truly compatible with Jesus’ teachings?  Although Martin Luther claimed that soldiering is a “legitimate and godly calling and occupation,” could there have been a more merciful way of soldiering on in this particular instance?

Is mimicking an enemy’s brutality considered rightful?  Would more restorative means of justice have been both possible and preferable?


Copyright May 31, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Introvert No-Nos

'I'm Nobody!  Who are you?'  (Public Domain)
Those who are not the life of the party are often tempted to skip it altogether.

That’s because they might be accosted with comments such as these:

Cat got your tongue?
Why so glum, chum?
You anti-social or something?
It doesn’t cost anything to smile.
Is something the matter?

Amy Odell of Cosmopolitan describes what goes through the minds of many when they hear comments like this:

I wasn’t feeling glum until you flung these assumptions at me.  It’s not that I don’t like people, it merely takes me some time to cozy up with folks.  ‘I just like to take in what’s going on around me before I react to it.’

These introvert thoughts sound perfectly reasonable when viewed objectively.  However, we live in a society that is dominated by extraversion.  Introverts, therefore, tend to be misunderstood and often shunned. 


Copyright May 30, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Friday, May 29, 2015

St. Frances Xavier Cabrini: Whose church is it?

Vatican City   (Photo by Diliff) 
According to the Boston Archdiocese of the Roman Catholic Church, St. Frances Xavier Cabrini closed 11 years ago.

However, its congregants see things quite differently.  For these past 11 years, they have been holding “vigils in shifts, 24 hours a day, seven days a week – sleeping on the floor and in pews and holding Sunday service…”

Jon Rogers, founder of The Friends of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, explained to Fox News that this church was “thriving” when the decision was made to close it.

Some congregants are therefore claiming that the archdiocese is eyeing the prime real estate that the church sits upon in order to “pay off clergy sex abuse cases.”

Rogers stated:  You don’t get to hurt children and then steal our church to pay off your crimes.  He feels that St. Frances Xavier Cabrini belongs to the parishioners who have “maintained the 55-year-old building over the years, spending thousands of dollars on repairs and renovations…”   

Archdiocese spokesman Terry Donilon emphatically denies the accusations about paying off sex-abuse cases.  He claims that St Frances Xavier Cabrini had experienced “a decline in Mass attendance.”

The archdiocese is meanwhile still paying “for the electricity and heat, as well as the occasional landscaping and snow plowing.”

So whose church is it?  Does it belong to those “rebel occupants” who are willing to be “arrested as trespassers, if necessary,” or is it instead the Vatican’s?

Perhaps the One to whom the Church actually belongs will help them all to settle this dispute peacefully…


Copyright May 29, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Thursday, May 28, 2015

News from Afar: Loving 'Lucy' not enough

Valley of Dry Bones  (Gustave Dore)
It seems as though Australopithecus afarensis (friends call her “Lucy”) may have hogged the evolutionary spotlight long enough.

These days, another hominid has joined the party of alleged human ancestors.  This latest “find” (consisting of “fossilized remains” with “bones that are clearly different from Lucy’s”) has been named Australopithecus deyiremeda (“deyiremeda” meaning “close relative” in the Afar language).

Zacharias Abubeker of the AFP explains that both these hominid remains have been found in the Afar region of Ethiopia, within a mere 35 km of one another.  “Fierce squabbles” have already been developing as to where each should be placed “in the [human] family tree.”

Whether this “family tree” is rooted in the Afar, rather than in the Garden of Eden, is by far the bigger and fiercer “squabble.”

Yohannes Haile-Selassie of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History has confessed:  Some of our colleagues are going to be skeptical about this new species, which is not unusual.

Perhaps such essential research should extend beyond the Valley of Dry Bones and into the realm of Living Waters.


Copyright May 28, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Mars: Arrival versus survival

Curiosity rover  (NASA/JPL)
Although it is laudable that scientists are developing the means to transport humans to Mars, the venture may be tragic if we don’t yet have to means to ensure survival on that planet.

Once folks have actually landed (and that in itself is a challenge, due to the very thin atmosphere surrounding Mars), they will then be exposed to extremely fluctuating temperatures.

Loren Grush of Popular Science explains that the average there is “around -81 degrees Fahrenheit,” but that Mars temperatures can “swing wildly… from 86 degrees Fahrenheit near the equator to -284 degrees Fahrenheit near the poles.”

Because Mars has some atmosphere, as opposed to the vacuum conditions within the International Space Station, scientists will have to come up with new methods of protecting people from such temperature changes.

Although food and supply issues are somewhat similar to those facing Antarctica crews, Mars is a lot further “from mainstream civilization than Antarctica is.”  Self-sustainable farming skills that work well in an alien environment would therefore be essential to long-term colonization.

Grush points out the dilemma of providing enough CO2 for crops to survive.  The COproduced by people within the Mars colony would only be enough to meet “half the crew’s dietary requirements.”  Adding more people would not solve the problem since the need for food would then also increase.     

Copyright May 27, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Turban or tourniquet? Love wins

Sikh Man at Agra    (Photo by Yann)
Sikhs are often publicly identified by the wearing of turbans. 

Sikh Net explains that the turban signifies “you are committed and have dedicated yourself to the Guru and shall serve ALL…”

So what happens when removing the turban in public is the very thing that will serve someone who is urgently in need?

What hopefully happens is that love trumps protocol, for love seems to be the essence of all true religions.

And love did, indeed, prevail when a Sikh man recently used his turban as a first-aid measure for a boy who was struck by a car.

Ariel Bogle of Mashable explains that this man, Harman Singh, rushed to the boy after witnessing the accident.  Singh
then quickly “took off his turban in order to help staunch the flow of blood.”

It is equally commendable that Singh's action has “been credited by fellow Sikhs, as well as by the public at large.”  Perhaps the world is finally beginning to realize that love is not only the goal, but also the path.


Copyright May 26, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Monday, May 25, 2015

One 'Adam' plus One 'Eve' equals How Many?

Adam and Eve    (Public Domain)
If there were just one man and one woman left on earth, would they be able to repopulate the human race?

Assuming that this “Adam” and “Eve” each had reproductive capabilities, the answer may still be what Morgan Kinney of Popular Science calls “a resounding… maybe.”

Known as a genetic "bottleneck situation," this kind of a limited “founder population” can easily lead to lethal gene combinations.

The mathematical odds for this restricted a genetic “lottery are not good.”  For example, if a congenital heart condition were to be passed on to the next generation, chances are that these children would not survive for long.

Ditto on a multitude of other congenital diseases that could be fostered by such a small gene pool.  Kinney points out that “other heritable diseases such as sickle cell anemia could potentially ravage the new population.”

Divine intervention, however, is always the “wild card” that can change everything.  The field of epigenetics is discovering that aspects of DNA can be turned on or off, according to lifestyle influences. 

Therefore, if God’s people choose to live within God’s will, who really knows the extent to which this could strengthen the biochemistry of future generations?


Copyright May 25, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Immigrants Bless America

Irving Berlin, Age 18  (Public Domain)
Particularly around the time of Memorial Day, you can hear the strains of “God Bless America” from many a house of worship.

This song was written by one of America’s most famous immigrants:  Irving Berlin.  He was born a Jew in Czarist Russia at a time when entire Jewish villages were deliberately
being destroyed there.

Berlin managed to escape.  The gratitude that this young lad felt for his “Promised Land” of America never faded.  It was beautifully expressed within the opus “God Bless America.”

Recently, a local church posted this message:  “America Bless God.”  It serves as a vivid reminder that blessings often work in covenantal fashion.  If God is to bless America, then it is incumbent upon Americans to also bless God. 

In a way, this is a spiritualized version of John F. Kennedy’s “Ask not what your [blessed] country can do for you, but what you can do for your [blessed] country…”

The Huffington Post reports that immigrants Peter and Joan Petrasek took this covenantal philosophy to heart.  He a survivor of Nazi persecution, and she originally from Ireland, agreed to bless their adopted land America by leaving their entire estate of $847,215 to the United States Government.


Copyright May 24, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Chipotle: Wisdom to go

Brandon, Florida Chipotle  (Photo by proshob)
During a recent layover at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, I needed to grab some lunch.

Let’s just say that in the long line of fast-food places, there didn’t seem to be too many healthful options.

When I saw the Chipotle sign, I was therefore relieved.  Here was an opportunity to choose such items as brown rice and tofu. 

As I sat down with my plateful of of steaming vittles, I noticed something even more nourishing.  It was a   “Two-Minute Alchemy” tale by Paulo Coelho, printed right on the brown bag that Chipotle had placed the food in.

This Coelho tale told the story of a pitcher with cracks that yielded blessings.  If that weren’t enlightening enough, the “flip-side” of the bag featured this Coelho quote:  “We all, at some point, grow old and acquire other qualities, and these can always be turned to good advantage.”

While cleaning up after all that salsa-laden food, I noticed these printed words:  “This napkin is made from 90% post-consumer recycled unbleached paper.  It could have been an electricity bill or a parking ticket in its past life.  Forgive and forget.”

Satiated in body, mind and spirit, I ran to catch my next plane.  Who knew that a hurried lunch could be that fulfilling?


Copyright May 23, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Friday, May 22, 2015

Letterman set dumped: So much for fame

Ramsesses II (The British Museum)
The applause from David Letterman’s final show had not even grown cold before workmen began hauling off pieces of his iconic stage set.

Most of these remnants were being sent to the nearest dumpster, rather than to the Smithsonian.

Letterman, who during his last hurrah joked about saving some accolades for the funeral, knows all too well the fickle fingers of fame. 

One of his farewell jokes went something like this:  I’m beginning to think that I won’t be getting the Tonight Show.’

Fox News reports that onlookers gawked as “blocks of blue stage and hacked up pieces of the iconic New York City bridges that made up the set of the ‘Late Show’” were tossed to the street.

If there were a poet in the crowd, he would have uttered:  Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair! A philosopher might have echoed:  This too shall pass… 


Copyright May 22, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Aliens: On knowing we know not

'Grey Alien'  (Image by LeCire)
To know that we know not could be a step in the right direction. 

Natalie Wolchover of Live Science takes this step when analyzing the many theories concerning extraterrestrials.

Wolchover states that we really have no clue as to whether aliens actually exist, let alone how they might look if they do.

They won't necessarily be "soft, squishy and big on mucus.”  Nor will they make it their immediate priority to gobble us up.  Who’s to say they could even digest us?

Most likely “immune to Earth’s bacteria,” they won’t succumb to the first microbe that comes their way. 

Contrary to popular theories, aliens are probably not our long-lost ancestors.  According to Stephen Hawking, they are more likely our future enemies. 

If so, they may attack us with AI technology, rather than with self-revealing methods.  Such invaders might never set “foot” on Earth.  After all; a civilization advanced enough to target us would probably instead send robots.


Copyright May 21, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Together forever? Shared mind

(Public Domain)
When brains (along with hearts, hands, bathrooms, bank accounts, etc.) mingle long enough, a phenomenon known as
“shared mind” develops.

Rin Brodwin of Business Insider reports that a new language might even emerge.  This can include “everything from   inside jokes to nicknames,” the more the merrier.

Self-editing tends to diminish, and stream of consciousness thrives.  In other words, long-term intimates are far more likely to “talk fluidly and naturally” with one another than with others they encounter.

Such partners begin to sound alike over time.  This “emotional contagion” includes accents, speech rhythms and text structures.

They even start to look alike.  This occurs via mirroring one another’s “gaze, body sway” and other “little mannerisms…”


Copyright May 20, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Braggarts: Empathetically challenged

Step right up...   (Brooklyn Museum photo)
Have you ever been in the company of those who go on and on about their (real and imagined) accomplishments? 

Have you ever noticed how quickly they lose interest when the spotlight shifts to other topics?

Tia Ghose of Live Science reports that braggarts have “trouble imagining how they would feel if the situations were reversed.”  In other words, they have difficulty empathizing with listeners who grow “annoyed, upset or angry” from an overabundance of self-promotion.

Michael Norton of the Harvard Business School explains, “I think we tend to be pretty self-focused; we tend to not understand that other people think differently about the world.”

In other words, we (all) tend to be empathetically challenged.  We find it difficult to walk a mile in another’s moccasins. Nevertheless, the world could be a lot more peaceful if we took a few such steps each day.


Copyright May 19, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Monday, May 18, 2015

Average attention span: Goldfish wins

Huh?      (Public Domain)
People have often attributed the lack of privacy in today’s world to a “fishbowl” sort of lifestyle.

It turns out that life in a fishbowl is not only transparent, but also scattered.  In other words, many modern-day people have less of an attention span than even a goldfish.

Kevin McSpadden of TIME reports that the attention span of a goldfish averages nine seconds.  A new study from Microsoft reveals that “people now generally lose concentration after eight seconds.”

And Microsoft should know, since it is often “the affects of an increasingly digitalized lifestyle on the brain” that causes the mind to hop around like a bunny on steroids…


Copyright May 18, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved


Sunday, May 17, 2015

NASA's Webb

Infrared Telescope Image  (NASA photo)
Whereas Charlotte’s Web loomed large in its own little corner of the universe, NASA’s Webb will cover a lot more territory.  A whole lot more…

As the Hubble Space Telescope nears the end of its uber-impressive life cycle, NASA has been priming the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) to take its place.

NASA representative Amber Straughn recently explained to Mashable that the even more powerful Webb “will once again revolutionize the way we understand the universe.”

Because of Webb's ability “to see the universe in infrared wavelengths of light,” humans will soon be peering through cosmic dust “in order to see the star formations beneath.” 

This infrared vision will allow for an even better understanding of “the first galaxies that popped into existence in the early days of the universe.”  A sort of cosmic archaeology, if you will…

Webb’s infrared capabilities will also assist scientists in studying exoplanetary atmospheres.  Such life-indicating molecules as water vapor and methane can best be detected within those longer


Copyright May 17, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Saturday, May 16, 2015

'Hand of God' revives brain-dead teenager

(Chart by Delldot)
Despite her youth, 15-year-old Taylor Hale had been given up for dead.

Woman’s Day reports that Hale “suffered a severe brain injury” after taking a fall.  This was complicated by a subsequent “brain hemorrhage,” making Hale’s overall prognosis quite dismal.

A portion of Hale’s brain had even “dipped into her spinal canal.”  Doctors then made the pronouncement that she “would never wake up again.”

It seems, however, that God had other plans.  Shortly after this “death sentence,” Dr. Jeff Stickel stopped by.  Stickel was not only a friend of Hale’s family, but also a chiropractor.

He had felt prompted by God to somehow “treat” Hale.  Since standard chiropractic techniques did not seem applicable at that point, Stickel simply placed his hand on Hale’s neck and “prayed to God that Taylor would recover.”

Stickel explained, “I could feel [her] life force in my fingers.”  He then went on to pray while feeling Hale’s skull.

That same day, doctors had been scheduled to remove Hale from life support, which they did. Amazingly, Hale “started to try to breathe on her own for the first time.”

Later that day, Hale “mumbled words and moved her eyes.”  These incredible responses defied all medical odds.

After intensive rehabilitation, Hale is currently “walking, talking and even driving on her own.”  Although she is very grateful for the medical help she’s received, Hale emphatically states:  God can save people…  God did most of the saving.


Copyright May 16, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke    All Rights Reserved

Friday, May 15, 2015

B. B. King: His faith shone through

(Photo by Ronzoni)
Although some have said that B. B. King was not a particularly religious man, his faith nevertheless shone through.

Carey Lodge of Christian Today explains that King’s quotes throughout the years contained gems of faith.  In fact, his love of music began within a Baptist Church setting.

King had stated, “Church was a wonderful meeting place…  in church you could extend your hand and enjoy a fellowship of the spirit.”

What was it about this fellowship that so appealed to King?  He had explained, “When I was going to church with my mother, the pastor made me feel a different way than anybody else.  He made me feel that I could get a message to God.”

King did not experience this type of feeling again for a very long time.  It wasn’t until he met with Pope John Paul decades later that King once again felt such a strong connection.

Regarding this Vatican meeting, King had said:  I felt that I could talk to God and tell him something... 

Perhaps King’s messages to and from God were musical in nature.  Their roots seemed to clearly lie in those early gospel experiences.


Copyright May 15, 2105 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Dognition Assessment: Is Fido a Renaissance Dog?

Multiple dogs, multiple intelligences...  (Uploaded by Poke2001)
Much good work has been done to assess the multiple intelligences of humans.  However, these same humans often downplay the skills and talents of their alleged “best friends.”

It will now be harder to ignore Fido’s vast capabilities, thanks to a team of canine lovers from the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience at Duke University in North Carolina.

The Los Angeles Associated Press reports that this team developed a $19 series of games to play with dogs.  The results can be sent to, and Duke will then put "together your pet’s profile.”

This profile includes such canine categories as “Ace, Charmer, Socialite, Expert, Renaissance Dog, Protodog, Einstein, Maverick or Stargazer.”

It comes as no surprise that “Einstein” denotes a brainiac dog, although perhaps a socially awkward one. “Aces,” on the other paw, are “good at almost everything” (including mischief).


Copyright May 14, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Americanitis: Has it ever really gone away?

Elbert Hubbard    (Public Domain)
Some things never change. 

Back in the late 1800s/early 1900s, a diagnosis of “Americanitis” meant that you were stressed out to the max.  A term that was coined in 1880, “Americanitis” was reflective of “the hurry, bustle, and incessant drive of the American temperament.

Those who were said to have suffered from this condition included Theodore Roosevelt and social activist Jane Addams.  By 1925, Time reported that 240,000 per year had succumbed to Americanitis.

Handy-dandy cures at the time included a concoction called Dr. Mile's Nervine.  Yes, Nervine did tend to slow people down; after all, its active ingredient was cannabis.

Mental Floss explains that a more holistic approach involved this wise advice from self-help author Elbert Hubbard:  “cut down your calling list, play tag with the
children, and let the world slide.”

Hubbard’s seasoned advice seems even more pertinent for today’s technological world, a world in which people seem constantly tethered to their deadlines and responsibilities.


Copyright May 13, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Time: Frittering the fleeting

(Photo by S Sepp)
Assuming that the average human life span is 75 years (which is far more than many actually get), that would equal                     approximately 2,366,769,450 seconds or 657,450 hours.

If seconds were quarters, or hours were dollars, we might try to spend them more judiciously.  Since time (which is arguably our most   precious asset here on earth) is quite intangible, we tend to take it for granted.

MSN Lifestyle reports that many spend 26 years of their lives sleeping (after 7 years of lying awake), “and another 11 watching TV.”  Men tend to spend 11 months of their lives oogling women, most commonly in supermarkets.

Hate doing the laundry?  Three years of life is often preoccupied with this pursuit.  Compare this with only 115 days spent laughing.

But doesn’t sex make it all worthwhile (especially after all that oogling)?  If you consider 9 hours of male orgasms a fair trade for countless hours of strategizing, then maybe it does.

And what about females?  Their lifetime ration is allegedly a mere “90 minutes of [orgasmic] pleasure.”   But hey!  There’s also that 27 days of romance to forever cherish.

Other startling statistics include the following:  “2 years in meetings… 5 years surfing the Internet [as compared to a mere 4.4 years eating]…  and 8.5 years shopping."

Kind of makes you wonder whether humans ought to be rethinking their priorities…


Copyright May 12, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Monday, May 11, 2015

Jefferson Davis: Kneeling in prayer

(Postwar Portrait by Daniel Huntington)
Although as much of a work in progress as any other human being, Jefferson Davis had also been widely known for his piety.

Michael T. Griffith tells us that Davis was “deeply religious,” and was seen “kneeling in prayer in the presidential mansion” more than once.

He not only read the Bible in English, but also in Greek.  He took Scripture to heart, and quoted it liberally.  When two of his own children had died, Davis was able to summon up the faith to say:  Not my will, but thy will be done.

Yet how could such religious fervor be reconciled with the slavery of the day?  Griffith reports that Davis “believed it was his Christian duty to treat blacks with respect.”

Davis therefore made it a point to develop friendly relationships with slaves.  During the war, he personally cared for an orphaned mulatto.  Former slaves of Davis fiercely defended him from detractors years after the war was over.

There was so much trust between Davis and his slaves that when the plantation had been threatened by white outlaws, Davis “armed his slaves” to help drive the ruffians away.

Davis also recognized the “evils and abuses” of slavery.  Toward the war’s end, he “led the fight to grant slaves their freedom in exchange for military service.”

Copyright May 11, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Fungi fuel factories are taking off

Aspergillis on Tomato  (Photo by Multimotyl) 
Fungi has often been the butt of some pretty bad jokes.  However, having “a fungus among us” might finally morph from a sore- to a soaring-subject.

Danny Gallagher of CNET reports that scientists are turning to the common soil fungus, Aspergillis, in the hopes of  “making a new jet biofuel.”  Aspergillis is that yucky looking mold that grows on decaying fruit.

Researchers suspect that Aspergillis naturally produces hydrocarbons in order to defend itself against invading bacteria.  Genetically-modified aspergillis can be made to produce even “larger quantities of hydrocarbons.”

With Aspergillis doing “the work of a biofuel refinery,” jet fuel might become easier and cheaper to obtain.  Hopefully, these savings (rather than the Aspergillis itself) will then be passed on to airline passengers.


Copyright May 10, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Bill Nye: Doing the ET math

Bill Nye  (Photo by BDEngler)
When Bill Nye has difficulty falling asleep (what with all of those counter-evolutionists to contend with), he no longer counts sheep.

Nye instead counts planets.  Not just the ones in our solar system, mind you (although these days that’s challenging enough)…

Nye has broadened this mathematical quest to include all planets within God’s Creation (aka “Nye’s Universe”).

His bedtime ritual (as recently "revealed" on HuffPost Live) might therefore sound something like this:  I mean there’s 200 billion stars in this galaxy alone.  Then you start talking about the hundreds of
billions of galaxies…

If still awake after that first astronomical round, Nye might then (hopefully sleepily) continue:  Hundreds of billions of galaxies, which in turn have hundreds of billions of stars, which in turn have tens of hundreds of billions – trillions – of planets.

His final conclusion (before desperately reaching for some Nyquil) sounds definitive:  It’s [extra-terrestrial life’s] gotta exist outside the solar system.   


Copyright May 9, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Friday, May 8, 2015

Home-free: Not talking baseball

Where the heart is...  (Leonardo da Vinci)
Is home where the house is, or where the heart is?  Terry K. of Salon definitely prefers the latter definition.

Terry points out that the Oxford dictionary has many ways to define “home.”  He then presents this choice as his favorite one:  A place where something flourishes…

Well, then, that could be just about anywhere…  Even within one’s office?  In Terry’s case, that would have been a resounding yes!

He not only worked in a “10-square-feet” cubicle all day, but also secretly slept there all night.  Rents in the Los Angeles area had become so high that Terry had relinquished his “250 square feet of glorified tenement housing.”

After chucking the apartment (along with many possessions), Terry camped out each night behind his work desk.  A duffel bag filled with clothing and a few remaining personal items was tucked away in a hidden corner.

Each morning, well before the work day began, Terry would head out to a local fitness club.  He would exercise, shower, then head back to the office.  No one suspected a thing.

This “home-free” (more positive-sounding than “homeless”) period lasted for 500 days.  During that time, Terry became more relaxed, more productive, more creative, and definitely more fulfilled.


Copyright May 8, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Cellphones even annoy fetuses

(Public Domain)
It seems as though you can’t go anywhere anymore without experiencing the jarring sounds of cellphones.

When you’re a fully-formed human, this is bad enough.  But when you haven’t even come to full term within your mother’s uterus, it is particularly disturbing.

Julie Sabino of HNGN reports that “fetuses spend up to 95 percent of their time sleeping, either in deep sleep or light sleep.”  When the mother with whom they’re sharing a “bed” (so to speak) is constantly on the phone, this vital sleep can be greatly disturbed.

A study at Wyckoff Heights Medical Center in New York City “involved 28 pregnant women who were all in their third trimester.”  Ultrasound revealed that when cell phones rang, the fetuses were “turning their heads, opening their mouths, and blinking.”  

These precious little ones seemed “definitely disturbed or interrupted…”


Copyright May 7, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

War: Up close and real personal

Bush after Hurricane Katrina   (PD)
As Commander in Chief of the military, the United States president is often faced with making far-reaching, life-and-death decisions.

Although this might sometimes seem to the public like a cold and calculating game of chess, it may feel far different to the
human heart that beats within such an overburdened leader.

The Huffington Post recently reported that when “the mother of a dying soldier” gave then-President George W. Bush an angry piece of her mind, Bush “just stood and took it.”

As this soldier lay suffering in a hospital bed, his mother “yelled at the president” and specifically asked “why it was her child and not his…”

Bush did not try to hurry away from the soldier’s bedside.  It was as though he were trying “to soak up” some of this mother’s profound sorrow.

Dana Perino, who was right there with Bush during this hospital visit, later wrote that the president became teary-eyed during the trip home.  He then told Perino:  That mama sure was mad at me.  And I don’t blame her a bit.


Copyright May 6, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Heavenly Chimes or 'Hell's Bells'?

Swedish Church Bell,  c. 1228    (PD)
For some, the sound of church bells chiming throughout the neighborhood is a welcome tradition.  For others, it’s an intrusion akin to "Hell’s Bells."

In stereotypically peaceful New England, a controversy is now raging regarding this very issue.  Christ the King Church of Burlington, Vermont has been broadcasting recorded bells and hymns three times a day, plus “after funerals and weddings.”

These broadcasts, which have been called “an unholy racket,” can be heard behind closed doors and windows of neighboring homes.  Many consider the recordings to be crass-sounding, overly loud, and way too frequent.

Some have complained that the city’s noise ordinances are being violated.  Others feel that they are being infiltrated with religious programming that they have not freely chosen.

City officials prefer that the matter be settled via mediation. Some neighbors believe that the church has been “stonewalling” such efforts, and are urging that this mediation begin as soon as possible.


Copyright May 5, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Monday, May 4, 2015

Alien life: Pattern recognition

Secret's in the soil?   (Public Domain)
Popular culture has portrayed “life in space" as little green men with big dark eyes.

However, alien life might be a lot more subtle than that.  It might be so different from our preconceived notions that we wouldn’t even recognize it while face-to-whatever.

Jessica Orwig of Business Insider reports that scientists are searching for signs of life that go beyond surface appearances.  Just because life on Earth is carbon-based doesn’t necessarily mean that methane- (or other-) based life forms aren’t thriving in other worlds.

The usual chemical analyses might therefore be quite limited when determining whether life exists elsewhere.  Researchers are instead searching for “a trait that all life forms across the universe would possess…”

This trait might very well involve informational patterns.  On earth, this entails genetic       sequencing.  Living things here “generate specific patterns as they self-replicate and reproduce,” whereas “things that are not living will have only random bits of information that never repeat at regular frequencies.”

Scientists can therefore begin analyzing the soil composition of other planets and moons in order to specifically determine whether there are “repeated sequences” of information to be found.  If such patterns are discovered, then life might very well exist there in one strange form or another.


Copyright May 4, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Germline modification: A slippery slope?

Adam & Eve   (Photo by Selbymay)
With at least four groups of Chinese scientists (and perhaps others around the world) actively “gene editing” human embryos, the ethical debate regarding such experimentation has reignited.

Researchers in the know have warned that such editing not only affects embryos at hand, but also “could have an unpredictable effect on future generations.”

Proponents of this work point out that these effects might be beneficial.  For example, human-based gene editing (aka “germline modification”) could potentially eradicate some deadly genetic diseases.

On the other hand, it could also potentially eradicate genetic traits that future leaders deem unacceptable.  Are humans morally capable of making such profound decisions, or is this a case of biting that apple all over again?  


Copyright May 3, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Saturday, May 2, 2015

DALYs: It's not just the years in your life

Like terminal cancer...      (Public Domain)
If a person dies 12 years before the life-expectancy average, and the final four years before death were spent wracked with pain, then how long did that person actually live?

This is not just an idle koan for those who deal daily in DALYs.

Dylan Matthews of Vox explains that DALYs  (aka “disability-adjusted life years”) measure how much disease- or situation-induced disabilities affect both the length and quality of lives.

For example, “a year in prison is half as good as one on the outside.”  It therefore carries approximately “the same disability weight as having terminal cancer.”

Another way of looking at DALYs is this:  “A disease that cuts 10 years off your lifespan and causes 10 years of partial paralysis before that has a higher DALY toll than one that just cuts off 10 years…”

DALYs are currently being utilized to determine where and to what extent altruistic funding should occur.  This sounds terrific, but there is a flip side:  How is it that a broad-brush formula can determine overall quality of life? 

Could a reliance upon DALYs lead to an overly analytical approach concerning such issues?  Are not “heart-based” and/or intuitive decisions also quite valid? 


Copyright May 2, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Friday, May 1, 2015

'Widow's mite' a mighty offering

Bronze Mite, c. 90 B.C.  (Public Domain)
What amounts to a modern-day widow’s mite was recently found within the collection plate at the First United Methodist Church (FUMC) of Charlotte, North Carolina.

Just as the widow’s mite (a “mite” being the “penny” of its day) in Mark 12 and Luke 21 symbolizes the giving of one’s all, so does the $ .18 that was found tucked within an envelope in that FUMC plate.

The envelope read:  Please don’t be mad.  I don’t have much.  I’m homeless.  God Bless.

Rev. Patrick S. Hamrick of FUMC publicized the details of this mighty contribution because he wanted its anonymous donor to know that the church team was greatly “moved by the spirit in which the gift was made.”

Church officials are theorizing that the gift was made by someone who had personally benefited from FUMC’s “long-term commitment to social justice, especially ministries with homeless neighbors.”

Part of this commitment involves a "Muffin Ministry" breakfast each Sunday morning, which serves “an average of 150 chronically and intermittently homeless people.”.


Copyright May 1, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved