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What I’ve Been Reading - Mid August

I regularly find articles online that have been recommended by friends, open them up, quickly scan them, and if they are interesting, I leave the window open, figuring I’ll come back to them when I have more time. Then, every so often, I go and see which one remain open and still seem interesting. I sometimes group them together.

Here are some of the links from mid August.

Facebook Public/Private

A Facebook friend asked if people considered posts on Facebook to be public or private. Much of the discussions centered around privacy settings and individual ways of approaching Facebook. Much of my online activity, however, has been focused on advocacy, and I my immediate that was of Facebook, and other social media as a Public Sphere, al a, Habermas. Here are a couple links I came across, worth further reflection:

To What Extent Does Facebook Function as a Public Sphere?

Students’ Facebook ‘friends’: public and private spheres (2009)

Mental Health

A few articles related to mental health caught my attention. It seems as if we don’t think often enough about mental health as it relates to disasters, both natural and man-made, and if we do, we don’t have sufficient resources.

The Latest: Mental trauma apparent on flood’s young victims

Connecticut’s Mental-Health System Is Being Strained by Shortage of State Psychiatric Beds

A different article was looking for health research on Pokemon Go. The article is primarily focused on physical health, but I’m particularly interested in the mental health aspects.
Pokémon Go, go, go, gone?

Social Constructs

I’m particularly interested in the social constructs that shape our lives, and these two articles particularly caught my attention.

The Rise and Fall of an All-American Catchphrase: 'Free, White, and 21'


Giving up alcohol opened my eyes to the infuriating truth about why women drink

Standing Rock and Dakota Access

The politics of climate change meets social constructs. I’ve been thinking about this a lot in terms of Native Americas and history; Wounded Knee Massacre, Little Big Horn, Standing Rock.

Photos Show Why The North Dakota Pipeline Is Problematic

A Tale of Two Standoffs

Tribal Activists Defy Lawsuit, Vow Continued Resistance Against Dakota Pipeline

The North Dakota Oil Pipeline: Derogation Of Native American Tribal Land Rights

The Journey – Politics

This fits into a bigger area of thought for me, the intersection of politics and religion.

Evangelicals for Trump: In Power or Persecuted?

Ignatian Examen: Invite your community to pray, reflect, and discern as Election 2016 approaches.

Breach Repairers
They have an event planned for 9/12, that I’m trying to decide how involved I’ll be with it.

At the other end of the spectrum is
Decision America
They have an event coming up in Hartford on September 1st.

Hartford event

The Journey – Other

Other articles related to faith, religion, and my own spiritual journey include:

The exodus of Fleet Street

This led me to thoughts about the “Estates of the realm”, and especially the relationship between the fourth estate and the first estate. How does this relate to my own journey?

As traditional believers turn away, is this a new crisis of faith?

General – Other

Other stuff that has caught my attention includes
The CLMooc Community

EpiPen’s 500 Percent Price Hike Leaves Patients Scrambling
I’ve already touched on this in some other posts and I expect this will keep popping up for a while.

National park signs in Michigan now sport poetry
A pretty cool idea.

That’s some of what I’ve been reading online this August.

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Facebook Ads and Robert Burns

O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!

Robert Burns, “To A Louse”

I’ve always loved this quote and it came to mind this week a couple different times. One was when a person wrote what they perceived as some of my strengths in a way different from how I tend to think of myself. It has given me a lot to think about which I expect I’ll write more about later.

The other time was when I read articles about how Facebook perceives us, particularly our political leanings, as part of its advertising. If you are on Facebook, you can see some of this by going to In particularly, look at “Livestyle and culture”. This is where your political interests are reflected. It is also where your religious interests are reflected. It is not always particularly accurate.

Many of my friends reported that Facebook lists them as “Very Liberal”. Yeah. I’m listed the same way too. However, that is towards the very bottom. For politics, Facebook lists me as being interested in Florida Democratic Party, Massachusetts Democratic Party, Conservative Party of Canada, Working Family Party, Liberal Party of Newfoundland and Labrador, Liberal Party of Canada, Ontario New Democratic Party, Liberal Party of Australia, Australian Labor Party, and Labor Party (Ireland), among others. It also lists Socialism and nonpartisanism. It isn’t a bad representation of my interests. I would like to see more on politics from non-English countries, but since I don’t read other languages very well, it isn’t too surprising they don’t show up on my interests list.

For religion, I find it very interesting what Facebook lists. I strongly identify as Episcopalian, yet when I look at what Facebook thinks I’m interested in, I get Jewish Federation, Jewish Federation of North America, and American Jewish culture before I get any Christian beliefs. The first Christian belief I get is United Church of Christ, or Congregationalists, which is how I grew up, and I find that many Congregationalists reflect my political views. This is followed Christianity, and then About General Convention of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America. This isn’t an area of Episcopalianism that does not seem to me to be as high on my interests as Facebook thinks, but perhaps all of this is helpful in thinking about ecumenical and inter-faith issues, as well as my relationship to Religious organizations.

Continuing on, I get African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, Religion, Calvinism, Churches of Christ, Celtic Christianity, and Norse mythology.

Then, there are the other topics that get mixed in. It is an odd mix of cremation, books, singing, community issues, web conferencing, Scratch (Programming Language), culture, cemetery, arts and music, happiness, and road.

There are other tabs as well, and they have similar interesting suggestions. At the top of the travel section is Fleadh Cheoil. Clark Art Institute, Provincetown, MA, Amtrak, and Falcon Ridge Folk Music Festival. Interestingly, these showed up under travel, and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival showed up under news and entertainment.

For people, I get Nicholas Kristof, Barbara Brown Taylor, Bob Menendez, Sherrod Brown, and Cory Booker.

There are other tabs, like Education, which include Elgin Community College, Stanford University School of Medicine, UC Davis, Barry University, Sweet Briar College, College of Wooster, and Wesleyan University.

I am wondering how much I can change this (without clicking on the “I’m not interested” buttons). For example, poetry and various poets doesn’t seem to come up.

Back to School PR

I’ve had this blog for over twelve years. I’ve been credentialed to cover many events as a blogger. As a result, I’ve ended up on many marketing and public relations mailing lists. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been getting pitched a lot of different things.

Mannatech sent me their pitch, How Essential Oils Ease the Stress and Strain of College Life. I like essential oils, and the idea of using them to relive stress and strain of college life makes a lot of sense. I use various essential oils and they outlined some of the uses. I’d also recommend Rosemary essential oils. They have a bit of a musty sort of smell and are supposed to help with concentration. I can’t vouch for Mannatech, their products or their prices, but their pitch makes a lot of sense. They also sent me a pitch for one of their supplements to boost immune systems. Again, makes sense as a pitch, but I’m not really much of a supplements sort of guy, so I’ll leave it there.

I got a press release from Thomas Bus about a kid’s safety video they produced. I don’t think I’ll bother sharing the video, however. Their Green buses are much more interesting.

I also received a pitch for Plan and Finance Your Family's College Dreams: A Parent's Step-By-Step Guide from Pre-K to Senior Year. It looks like a useful resource, but I didn’t find anything particularly compelling about it.

Probably the most interesting press release I received was from University of Missouri: Negative Attention from Teachers Can Lead to More Negative Student Behaviors

Their research

found that students who receive more negative attention from teachers experience increases in problems with emotional regulation, concentration and disruptive behaviors. The researchers also found teachers gave African-American students, boys, and students who received free or reduced lunch more negative attention than other students.

The research report can be found at The Brief Student–Teacher Classroom Interaction Observation

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#MakeItHappen #WhatIMake and Why: A Post Modern Secular Online Video Gospel

This summer, students and teachers at Amity High School in Woodbridge, CT read the book The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope. The Facebook Cliff Notes version of this says:

A Malawian teenage, William Kamkwamba, taught himself how to build a windmill out of junk and bring power to his village. He then went on to build a second, larger windmill to power irrigation pumps. He did this all from books he read in the library.

A slightly longer version can be found in this Ted Talk.

This could be a great starting point for a discussion of colonial and post-colonial literature, perhaps starting with Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, followed by Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart”. This could then be followed by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “Half of a Yellow Sun”. Those looking for other forms of accessing some of this might want to watch the movie, “Half of a Yellow Sun”, or Adichie’s TED talk, The danger of a single story . Yes, I realize that Conrad’s Congo, Achebe and Adichie’s Nigeria and Kamkwamba’s Malawi are very different places, but I’m guessing some important things could be discovered.

Perhaps part of that lesson is that what we make matters, and how we make it happens matters. The bigger question is why. Perhaps it could lead to discussions of business ethics, or even deeper into existential questions.

I might start with Matthew 22:37-40

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

To me, this is what it all boils down to. The problem is, that in our post-modern secular world, if you start talking about the Bible, God, Prophets, and commandments, you are likely to lose a lot of people. What might this be like in today’s post-modern secular world?

If you were to choose a few videos that grappled with these bigger questions, that go to the core of your existence, what would they be? What would you want people to watch? Would it be some of these TED talks? Talks about creativity?

There are a couple that I would suggest. I might start off with the abridged version of David Foster Wallace’s commencement speech, This is Water. This challenges us to think about who are neighbor really is. Yes, it starts off with the privileged white college graduate as a neighbor and doesn’t get to issues of racism and post colonialism, but it is an important start.

Once you have started thinking about having a little more empathy for those around you, the next video I would watch might be Validation. We need to find out how the people around us need validation and start there.

With these as a solid base, then we can start looking at things like education with Sir Ken Robinson’s Changing Education Paradigms and Taylor Mali on "What Teachers Make"

We can move on to talk about the role of gaming, with Jane McGonigal’s Gaming can make a better world and The game that can give you 10 extra years of life.

We can learn from Brene Brown’s The Power of Vulnerability and Listening to shame.

Without really thinking about those around us, about loving God and neighbor, we may end up just building bankrupt casinos ruining the lives of customers and vendors as we try to make American great again.

What videos would you recommend? What do you make? How do you make it happen? Why?

Express Scripts, Mylan, and the EpiPen

According to CNBC’s article, Mylan can lower EpiPen price today, Express Scripts says, Express Scripts’ Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Steve Miller told CNBC, “"If she [Mylan CEO Heather Bresch] wants to lower the price [of the EpiPen] she can lower the price today…We'd pass the savings that we take from the marketplace back to our plans." That is fine, as far as it goes, however, if Express Scripts really wants to help reign in pharmaceutical prices, they could give consumers more say in their medications.

As an example, I take valsartan to control my hypertension. Every three months, I receive a new supply from Express Scripts. Express Scripts puts on the label who manufactures it. In my case, the aalsartan comes from Mylan. Given the behavior of the current CEO of Mylan, I would prefer that none of my medications come from Mylan. lists a dozen generic manufacturers of V]valsartan.

Likewise, I take fenofibrate for high cholesterol. Like with the valsartan, Express Scripts has sent me fenofibrate manufactured by Mylan. I can’t find the list of other manufactures of fenofibrate, but I’m guessing there are choices there as well.

If Express Scripts would start shipping me medications not manufactured by Mylan, it would be a great start. If lots of patients started requesting the medication not be provided by Mylan, if at all possible, it would help return Adam Smith’s invisible hand to the pharmaceutical marketplace and prevent predatory pricing from companies like Mylan.