Century Marks

Century Marks

Independent study

The One Laptop per Child organization dropped off computer tablets in two remote Egyptian villages. The tablets were preloaded with alphabet games, e-books, movies, cartoons, paintings and other programs. The organization wanted to see if children could teach themselves to read without any help from instructors. Within five days the kids were using 47 apps each, after two weeks they were singing ABC songs, and within five months they had figured out how to use the camera (MIT Technology Review, October 29).

Unholy gambling

A hacker group calling itself the “moroccan­ghosts” took over the French website of the Euromillions lottery early this month. The hackers posted verses from the Qur’an and warned that gambling would “turn you away from God and prayer.” France has the largest Muslim population in Europe, many of whom come from Morocco and Algeria (The Week, November 9).

Wake-up call

Last summer scientists documented that the sea level is rising faster in the northeastern United States than in almost any other place on the globe. They spelled out a series of risks, including the flooding of the New York subway system—which happened last month during Hurricane Sandy. It’s unclear whether New York City can build sea walls to protect against future storms and higher seas. New York is 17th on a list of cities worldwide that are subject to calamities from flooding due to global warming. Leading the list are Mumbai and Kolkata, which are less likely than New York to be able to hold back rising seas (Bill McKibben at commondreams.org).

Keep it short

A vicar asked the duke of Wellington what he would like his sermon to be about. “About ten minutes,” the duke replied (Tolstoy on War, edited by Rick McPeak and Donna Tussing Orwin).

Tending to the neighbor

Marilyn McEntyre suggests some very practical ways that American Christians can work against a self-centered consumerism and toward concern for the neighbor and community. Begin every day for a month asking the question, “What can I share today? . . . What do I have that might be given away?” See if a room at church can be found to use as a “sharing station” where tools, utensils, clothing or books could be stored for others’ use. Talk on the phone with someone who may be lonely for 15 minutes two or three times a week. Host dinner-and-documentary nights to discuss public problems with a view to finding and working at solutions. Commit to a steady-state household: if something new comes in, then something else goes out. “Who is my neighbor?” is a question we cannot afford to consign to cliché, McEntyre says (Weavings, November–January).