One of my favorite summer smells and colors: the greens of grasses.

Church envy:

Hint: It’s not because of the worship music.

With all the hand-wringing going on about how bad the church is (and that’s just from Christians), it’s time to remind ourselves that so much of what church is, is so good that people envy it.

Yes that’s right, “envy”.

Here we are in a cottage industry of anger over church – and that’s just from within the church – and yet so many people are looking on wistfully – enviously – and wishing they had some of that.

In fact the “envy” word – a terrible deadly sin in so many other contexts, came up not once, not twice, but three times last week in conversations around church, and all from the mouths of non-church people. I;m not putting that word in other peoples’ mouths.

Two of those conversations were relayed to me from Christian friends, and one of those conversations was directly with me. And that word “envy” came up each time.

Now you might think that perhaps, in my instance at least, the word was on the lips of a God-fearer who had slipped off the church radar.

Wrong. It was from an Irish friend of mine, brought up anti-church by her lasped Catholic parents in the Republic of Ireland. Dunno about you, but there are few people more hostile towards the church, indeed the very idea of it, than lapsed Irish Catholics. Go test that theory out, you won’t have to probe too far.

But my friend, struggling as she is being in away from “home”, overseas from her struggling mum, and with a hubby and young child here in Perth, told me she envied the church communities to which people such as I, and other mutual friends of ours belong.

Why I read?

Last week I wrote about reading and religion, which I could also have titled “reading as religion,” which I believe it to be for some people. Some may think that is so for me. While I would maintain that is not so, I’ll leave that judgment up to God and others. I’m too close to the subject. Quite simply, I do love reading.

In searching through the nearly eight years of posts on this blog, I’ve never directly talked about why I read. I’ve certainly touched on it or talked around it, but never directly spoken of why I read. Maybe it is like trying to answer why we love a person. We can give reasons, but then we realize we love someone apart from all those reasons. At our best, we love just because….

If you pressed me though, I could express some of the reasons why I read. I suspect there is more to it than what I write, as other bibliophiles will probably agree.

I love stories. I suspect for most of us, reading started with a love for stories, and that reading was a way to take in a story when there was no one to whom we could say, “tell me a story.” As we grow older, we think of our lives as a story, and perhaps a part of a larger story. Sometimes, reading serves to help me understand the story within which I live, and maybe how I might live within that story. I find that when I read the Bible, but also when I read fiction like Lord of the Rings or All the Light We Cannot See.

I read to understand the world. I love science writing that helps me understand the wonderful world I live in. Even gardening or home repair books can be interesting when I am trying to figure out how best to grow something or fix something. History helps me understand how we got here. Sometimes it is more indirect. It could be the history that led to a particular part of the world being the way it is today. History helps me understand the news–to set it in a bigger context. PLUS MORE at the link

Is paying more the solution?

As big businesses like Chipotle and Target offer higher starting wages to attract workers, small employers are following suit.

Jacob Hanchar, co-owner of Klavon's Ice Cream Parlor in Pittsburgh, spoke with MSNBC's Stephanie Ruhle about how he thought there was a labor shortage until he more than doubled his shop's hourly wage from the federal minimum of $7.25 to $15.

"We received well over 1,000 applications" in one week for 16 positions, Hanchar said. "We stopped counting once we reached a thousand."

He explained that the decision has been a net positive for the business, especially in the food-service industry where high turnover and burnout are major workplace challenges.

"A lot of people work two or three jobs and now they are just working one job, so people are showing up on time now, they're reporting to work in a better mood, customer service has improved, things like that that you don't always account for," he told Ruhle.

Financially, Hanchar said the move to double employee pay has led to increased sales from customers who want to support businesses that support employees, and that the quality of service has gone up.

"At the end of the day, I have not noticed a difference on our bottom line," he said.

The decision was neither easy nor automatic, he added, but competition from other employers was causing him to lose his best workers, and that was causing issues in other areas of the shop's operations.

And what would one call such a home?

(NEXSTAR) — In Port Ewen, New York, you can live inside a functional U.S. Post Office, near the main shopping district, for $180,000.

The post office was built in 1975. It was fully operational until about two years ago, according listing agent Peter Cantine.

“It has a checkered past,” he joked.

The building is now for sale as a residence, as the property must revert to residential zoning laws for the area.

Gaza truce holds as Israel admits Jewish visitors to flashpoint site

The post office currently consists of one large, gutted room and two half-bathrooms. New owners would need to build out a kitchen, as well as a full bathroom, to make the space inhabitable.

But, Cantine said the space has “got possibilities — and it really has captured people’s imaginations.”

Bees and Covid:

Start-up InsectSense and Wageningen Bioveterinary Research have trained bees to extend their tongues when they smell the coronavirus. The coronavirus, like other diseases, causes metabolic changes in the body that causes a smell. Bees can be trained within minutes to recognize the scent of samples infected with SARS-CoV-2.

Bees can detect volatiles with a sensitivity of parts per trillion. For example, they find a flower a few kilometres away. Bees, like dogs, can learn to detect volatiles and odors, but with just a few minutes of training.

Sugar water reward

The bees were trained to detect SARS-CoV-2 infected samples in a Pavlovian conditioning method. Each time the bees were exposed to the scent from an infected sample, they received a sugar water solution reward. The bees extended their tongues to collect the sugar water solution. By repeating this action several times, the bees associated the sugar reward with the scent as the stimulus. With this repeated conditioning, soon enough bees started extending their tongues out for the scent alone, with no reward offered as a follow-up. A trained bee can detect an infected sample within a few seconds.

This research was conducted with more than 150 bees at the Biosafety laboratory of Wageningen Bioveterinary Research with different training setups to determine the most optimum training protocol. The samples used in the first experiments were collected from healthy and SARS-CoV-2 infected minks. In the experiments with the mink-samples, several bees indicated very good results and were able to distinguish the infected samples and those from healthy animals with very low numbers of false positives and false negatives. Similar great results were also achieved in later experiments with human samples as well.

Pollen sponges:

SINGAPORE — A team of scientists led by Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) has created a reusable, biodegradable sponge that can readily soak up oil and other organic solvents from contaminated water sources, making it a promising alternative for tackling marine oil spills.

Made of sunflower pollen, the sponge is hydrophobic—it repels water—thanks to a coat of natural fatty acid on the sponge. In lab experiments, the scientists showed the sponge’s ability to absorb oil contaminants of various densities, such as gasoline and motor oil, at a rate comparable to that of commercial oil absorbents.

Oil spills are difficult to clean up, and result in severe long-lasting damage to the marine ecosystem. Conventional clean-up methods, including using chemical dispersants to break oil down into very small droplets, or absorbing it with expensive, unrecyclable materials, may worsen the damage.

So far, the researchers have engineered sponges that measure 5 cm in diameter. The research team, made up of scientists from NTU Singapore and Sungkyunkwan University in South Korea, believes that these sponges, when scaled up, could be an eco-friendly alternative to tackle marine oil spills.

Professor Cho Nam-Joon from the NTU School of Materials Science and Engineering, who led the study, said: “By finetuning the material properties of pollen, our team successfully developed a sponge that can selectively target oil in contaminated water sources and absorb it. Using a material that is found abundantly in nature also makes the sponge affordable, biodegradable, and eco-friendly.”

This study builds on NTU’s body of work on finding new uses for pollen, known as the diamond of the plant kingdom for its hard exterior, by transforming its tough shell into microgel particles. This soft, gel-like material is then used as a building block for a new category of environmentally sustainable materials.

Saving turtles:

FRANKLIN GROVE, Ill. (AP) — A team of Illinois researchers is using dogs to track down a threatened species of turtle.

Researchers believe ornate box turtles, once living in half of Illinois’ 102 counties, are found in less than 10.

One known home for the species is in Lee County, and a team from the Chicago Zoological Society and the University of Illinois spent Friday surveying the 3,800-acre (1,500-hectare) Nachusa Grasslands.

A team paced through the grasses trying to spot the small turtles, aided by a group of Boykin spaniels that can sniff out the turtles’ trail. When a human or a dog located a turtle, researchers made notes about the reptile’s eyes, ears, nose and took physical measurements along with a blood sample.