The IM Saturday Monks Brunch: October 13, 2018
Today’s Brunch is sprinkled with Peanuts. Just thought you ought to know.
Nostalgic autumn photos from Vermont in the 1970s (by yours truly)…
Best quote I read this week…
Doubt is only a problem if certainty is the expectation.
• Austin Fischer
If you haven’t had a chance yet to see Ken Burns’s film, The Mayo Clinic: Faith-Hope-Science, I recommend that you make some time to do so soon.
As one who works in healthcare, and who has faith-based, idealistic, communitarian, and public service reasons for doing so, I found this documentary instructive and refreshing when one considers the complex, profit-oriented, inefficient, and ineffective system of healthcare in the U.S. today. The Mayo Clinic has a history, from its founding, of being just the opposite of that — patient-centered, collaborative, and uncompromisingly, even sacrificially, devoted to the common good. This ethic grows out of its Franciscan roots and its midwestern (Minnesotan) neighborly traditional common sense ethics. In watching this inspirational film, I learned a great deal that I didn’t know before about how faith and religious values have played such a strong role in the Mayo way from the beginning.
Kudos to Ken Burns for bringing this to our attention. In my opinion, this is a must-see documentary.
Images of unimaginable destruction…
With events like this, it might be a good time to review our piece, Surd Evil, Serpents, and the Cosmic Battle, which includes this quote from OT scholar Bruce Waltke:
The precreated state of the earth with darkness and chaos suggests that everything hostile to life is not a result of sin. This is Job’s discovery (Job 38-41). Job is mystified by his whole experience of suffering. God’s response is to make clear that everything negative in creation from the human perspective is not a result of human sin. The chaotic forces — sea, darkness, and the like — are a mystery to human beings. Although these forces seem, for the moment, hostile to life, human beings can still trust the benevolence of the Creator because the malevolent forces of creation operate only within his constraints.
Numbers or Narrative? The evolution of pitching in baseball:
As we move into the championship series of Major League Baseball, it is clear to me that, in many ways, it is a much different game than the one I played in my youth — especially when it comes to pitching. An article at The Ringer explores this thoroughly, explaining how various forms of “bullpenning” are fast becoming the approach teams are using with their pitching staffs. This is in contrast to one of the long dominant narratives of the game: the prominence of the starting pitcher.
These days, the game is increasingly run by those who follow a science of baseball statistical analysis called sabermetrics. When applied to pitching, statistics show that batters trend better against a pitcher the longer he is in the game, with a significant improvement in the batter’s success the third time he faces a pitcher. Therefore, as I saw time and time again throughout the season, most starting pitchers are now taken out in the 5th or 6th inning, no matter how they are doing, so that batters will not face them that third time around. The rest of the game is pitched by various specialist relief pitchers from the bullpen. Some teams have gone as far as to use different pitchers every one or two innings, ditching the idea of a “starter” altogether.
There are exceptional pitchers, of course, who occasionally pitch longer and may even throw a complete 9-inning game (a rare feat these days). But the new approach is now winning the day. As a former starting pitcher and as one who has attributed heroic status to the great starting pitchers with the courage, creativity, grit, and endurance to find ways of overcoming the batters they’ve faced inning after inning, I find this new trend hard to swallow.
In the article by Ben Lindbergh, he points out that this is the biggest conundrum this new approach raises. It sets up a battle between numbers that make sense and one of the traditional narratives that has made baseball such a compelling game.
However inefficient the stats said it was, a head-to-head battle between aces who went deep into games was—and occasionally still is—a source of excitement that transcends the competition between teams. It’s the closest baseball comes to a heavyweight title bout. We still get marquee matchups, but they don’t define the game as often; in the playoffs, even a Justin Verlander–Corey Kluber confrontation like last Friday’s is liable to be limited to not much more than 10 innings combined. We’re less likely to see a signature start that lives on as legend, and more likely to see a solid six innings followed by a couple clean outings from generic right-handed relievers who don’t amass enough innings a year to have high profiles and whose names we’ll forget in a few years.
…[B]aseball is, for most spectators, a TV show. And although it’s not scripted, it does depend on a cast of compelling, recurring characters with whom we have histories. “Something we learned from Wings, that we employed when we were creating Frasier, is keep your cast small,” Cheers writer and Wings and Frasier cocreator Peter Casey once told me. “Don’t have a big cast, because in real life, they’re all actors, they all want their lines. And if you have 11 characters in a show that’s only 22 minutes long, everybody’s gotta get fed.” A big cast, Casey said, can become unwieldy. One might say the same about a big bullpen.
Call me old-fashioned, but I’ll take narrative over numbers any day.
Where searching for extraterrestrial life is going next:
A few decades ago, finding life beyond Earth was an idle dream — but today, astrobiology is a thriving field, fed by incredible discoveries across different realms of science and the possibility of still more to come.
And to shape where astrobiology goes next, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine gathered a panel of expert scientists to reflect on what has happened in the field since 2015 and what consensus suggests should be priorities going forward. The result is a paper published today (Oct. 10) highlighting a suite of recommendations for NASA.
Among the recommendations:
- Investing in technological advances in more powerful telescopes and starlight-blocking instruments.
- A continuing emphasis on interdisciplinary cooperation that promotes system-level thinking “looking at habitability as a spectrum, rather than as a simple yes-or-no question.”
- Thinking more creatively about where to look for life in our own solar system. In particular, exploring the possibilities of subsurface life.
- “The report also emphasizes a key challenge to identifying life: accurately finding and interpreting what scientists call biosignatures, the chemical changes characteristic of life. “
- Reintroducing the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, or SETI, into mainstream research and reviving funding for it.
Most of all, the report emphasizes the tantalizing promise of astrobiology itself and its potential impact on our lives and worldviews. “Taking a look at what we find out from these other planetary systems can shine a light back on Earth,” Sherwood Lollar said. “It really is a comparative approach where by taking a look at all of these complex systems, we can learn more about each and every one of them.”
The emotional support squirrel:
Jokes aside about flying squirrels, nuts served on planes and bushy-tailed passengers, squirrels and planes do not actually mix. At least not on Tuesday at Orlando International Airport, where an unidentified passenger hadn’t gotten the memo.
She boarded her Cleveland-bound Frontier Airlines flight toting a cage containing the furry occupant. She did her due diligence by noting on her reservation that she would be bringing an emotional support animal, Frontier said in a statement. She even had the animal cleared by TSA’s X-ray machine. She just failed to notify the airline that her companion was a squirrel.
Once onboard, the woman was told that squirrels are rodents — and rodents are not welcome. (So don’t get any ideas, proud hamster, rat and mouse owners).
The woman refused to get off the flight, Frontier said, and Orlando police stepped in.
“Everyone was deplaned so police could deal with the passenger,” Frontier said.
An Orlando Police Department spokesman said the woman got off the plane once officers arrived, so no further action was taken.
Questions of the Week:
What does autumn look like in the UK? — Here are some samples:
Mark Knopfler performs the title song from my favorite autumn album…