Having discovered FEEDJIT on Stephanie's blog, I had to try it myself. (That's the "Recent Visitors" map in the panel to the right.) It's a graphical (and geographical) peek at who my faithful readers are, and who has wandered in via a random search.  Don't worry, I don't really know who you are, just where you're coming from (which allows me to guess who you might be).  Even that isn't always accurate; I'm certain that all those Portsmouth, Rhode Island hits are actually from Hartford, Connecticut.  And my Swiss fan has only once showed up as from Basel—the rest are all over the map, and I'm certain I don't have a following at the Château de Chillon, despite the hits from Montreux. The greatest problem is that I won't see you if you hide behind a feedreader; until Heather posted a comment, one would have thought I had no readers in Pittsburgh at all.

Still, it's been both entertaining and enlightening.  I'm certain of the identity of those who show up on the map as Oswego and Schenectady, and am delighted to know you read much more than you comment.  :)  I can identify most of my known readers, but am totally mystified by someone in Tempe, Arizona, who read some 20 posts.  Most who find me via a search read the one post and then leave. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, February 29, 2008 at 10:30 am | Edit
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Category Computing: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]

I am on an Andrew Pudewa kick.  I first discovered his Institute for Excellence in Writing through an online forum for early childhood education, and—as usual—once I'd heard of him, his name started coming to my attention in other ways.  A friend of ours is the principal of a private Christian school which emphasizes academic excellence as well as a solid Christian worldview, and she and her teachers waxed so enthusiastic about his program for teaching writing that she even sent me a sample videotape of one of his lectures.  It didn't take me long to get hooked.  For the first three minutes, I found Pudewa's voice to be annoying; after that I was so intrigued by what he was saying and how he was presenting it that it didn't matter.

Now I'm not averse to spending money on educational materials for our grandkids, but they're not yet old enough for the writing materials, which are a bit pricey to buy on speculation, especially since there might well be a subsequent edition or two by the time they would be used.  Fortunately for my curiosity, one of our favorite homeschooling families was impressed enough to try it out, and I'm looking forward to hearing about their experiences. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, February 27, 2008 at 3:05 pm | Edit
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Category Reviews: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Education: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Children & Family Issues: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Everyday Life: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]

In case any of you are more aware of the news than I am (I suspect that includes most of you), we have not been affected by the Florida Power and Light blackout.  (We have a different power company.)  I understand that parts of our county have been, so I might notice if I were out driving around, but I'm not, and aside from a brief Internet glitch (which is not all that uncommon) everything seems normal.  A beautiful sunny day, with a lovely more-than-normal breeze, though I did wish I'd changed into shorts before going for my walk this morning.

My good friend PG has often been my source of breaking news, and she was again, IM-ing me from Rochester, NY to ask if we were okay.  :) 
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, February 26, 2008 at 3:13 pm | Edit
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Category Hurricanes and Such: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]

Has anyone here seen the movie, The English Patient?  If so, did you like it?  If you did, why?

It was the latest in our Academy Award Best Picture quest, and I had been looking forward to it, largely because I had remembered positive reviews of it.  I obviously had not paid enough attention to the reviews.  It wasn't the worst movie—I knew enough not to join Porter in watching The Silence of the Lambs—but afterwards I felt I had been walking about in slime to no purpose. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, February 24, 2008 at 7:05 pm | Edit
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Category Reviews: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]

I mentioned the advantages of my customized Google News page yesterday, and here today is another example of its serendipity. One of my categories is "Basel Switzerland," which I'll admit is not usually very interesting as it usually contains only stories about banks, drug companies, and the occasional Paris Hilton slip-up.  This morning, however, I was greeted by the headline, More Dairies Go Raw.  That sounded interesting, given my interest in foods natural and unpasteurized, and my observation that, while Switzerland does cheese very, very well, the milk—at least that available in the grocery stores—is less than stellar.  Just like here, everything is pasteurized and homogenized, and if you want skim milk (as I do), you are reduced to buying that which has been so denatured as to be able to sit, unrefrigerated, on the shelf for an indeterminant time.  No thanks; I got my dairy from yoghurt and cheese while we were there.

So what was a story from the Boston Globe doing in my Basel news feed? Because of these sentences:

Researchers at the Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine at the University of Basel in Switzerland followed nearly 15,000 children ages 5 to 15 in Austria, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden, and Germany from 2001 to 2004. The study, sponsored by the European Union and published in 2007, found that children who drank raw milk had a lower incidence of asthma and allergies.

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, February 23, 2008 at 8:51 am | Edit
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Category Health: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]

I love the season of Lent.  Not only because of all the great hymns associated with it, but because of the new possibilities it opens up.  At face value, idea of giving something up for Lent is a negative one, and a rather poor picture of the one at whose "right hand are pleasures forevermore."  Whether we observe Lent by abstention from something pleasurable, or by some positive action, I believe God's purpose in the exercise is to unshackle us from old habits and open our hearts to something new and better.

Thus I have at different times celebrated Lent in various ways, from a more traditional fasting from sweets to "fasting" from making negative comments (harder than you think!) to making myself listen daily to a genre of music I dislike ("praise and worship songs") to listing, at the close of every day, five things for which I was thankful (a lovely exercise).  Lenten disciplines are much more fun than New Year's resolutions, because you only commit yourself from Ash Wednesday till Easter.  Thus it's easier to experiment, to be more daring, to test new ideas and practices.  (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, February 22, 2008 at 1:16 pm | Edit
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Category Everyday Life: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]

Those of you who begin each day with my Morning Coffee page are already familiar with the Geography Zone challenge.  Thanks to DSTB you will now see a new geography quiz in the list, National Geographic's GeoBee.  This is a tough one, not only because it covers more than locations (natural resources, culture, and religion for example), but because the questions are not always multiple choice.  Not only is it necessary to come up with the answer on one's own, which is much more difficult than merely choosing, but spelling counts.  I mis-spelled "Montpelier."  :(

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, February 22, 2008 at 9:37 am | Edit
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Category Education: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]

It's been a while since we paid college tuition (though the loans linger on), and even longer since we paid for private schooling pre-college (Heather's kindergarten and first grade years), but the desire to compare the cost of a trip to Antarctica to other forms of education led me to some shocking discoveries.

The educational system in America, like the health care system, is in terrible shape.  Don't get me wrong.  I have yet to be convinced that the situation is better in any other country, and the number of people who flock here from overseas, both to our doctors and to our schools, is ample evidence that I'm not the only one.

What's more, anyone who knows me knows my strong belief that the solution to neither problem lies in more governmental funding and/or control (it's always "and," anyway), but rather in more freedom of choice.  Despite my passionate thoughts on the value of home education, the three-fold cord of public, private, and home education is much stronger than any one of them separately.  Equally important is always to be thinking outside the box, and that (at long last) brings me to the heart of this post:  the cost of education. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, February 22, 2008 at 8:08 am | Edit
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Category Education: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]

I like my customized Google News page, the keyhole through which I see not only major world and U.S. stories, but also the latest news on specific topics of particular interest to me, such as home birth, home education, and Basel, Switzerland.  That's how I occasionally come upon little gems I'd never find otherwise, such as Homeschooling Grows Up, an article from today's Catoosa County News.  Have you ever  heard of the Catoosa County News?  How about Catoosa County itself?  Me, neither.  (It's in Georgia.)

Not that the article says anything spectacular or new to those already in the home education field, but it caught my eye because of a conversation I had recently with Janet, in which she noted that in her lifetime home education has gone from being considered extremely counter-cultural to being so common some people homeschool simply because that's what's expected of them, at least in their own circle of friends.  It's hard for me to imagine the latter, but apparently in places it's true.  I can't get too upset by that—I don't see it as being any worse than sending your kids to public school because "that's what's done"—but admit it does pose some risks as the pool expands.

Be that as it may, Homeschooling Grows Up struck me as a nice summary of the diversity of homeschooling experiences available today.
Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, February 21, 2008 at 2:40 pm | Edit
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Category Education: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]

We've heard the story for years, how Grandma's cousin was captain of an icebreaker and had a place in Antarctica named for him.  But is it Truth or Tapioca?  Thanks to the Australian Antarctic Data Center and the U.S.G.S. Geographic Names Information System, we now have Evidence! (Click here for an interactive map.)

Feature Name: Porters Pinnacles
Class: Island
Latitude: 713300S
Longitude: 0990900W
Description: A group of low ice-covered rocks forming a menace to navigation along the N coast of Thurston Island, located about 4 mi N of the E extremity of Glacier Bight. Discovered by the USN Bellingshausen Sea Expedition in February 1960, and named for Cdr. Philip W. Porter, Jr., USN, commander of the icebreaker USS Glacier which made this discovery.
Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, February 20, 2008 at 9:54 am | Edit
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Category Everyday Life: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]

I know you're all waiting to hear of our most recent adventures in Switzerland, but I've been catching up on blog reading (over 100), which resulted in yesterday's post, and e-mail (also over 100), which inspired this one.

Most of my readers, I suspect, are familiar with Randy Pausch, the CMU professor whose inspirational "final lecture" has been making the Internet rounds for months.  If you're not, I recommend listening to the entire recording, but some may prefer the much shorter "reprise" featured on Oprah.  (The latter is also grandchild-safe, as far as I recall—not that they would sit still long enough to catch the few mildly offensive words in the CMU version.)  Thanks are due to my friend LJ, whose e-mail to me of the Oprah version brought this all back to mind, and incidentally led me to one more Randy Pausch lecture, this one on time management.  (If you listen to that one first, you will probably opt for the Oprah version of the other lecture.  Smile)  Most of what Pausch has to say is not new, but the purpose of such talks is more inspiration than information, and at that Pausch is a master.  If you're as frustrated as I was at not being able to see the PowerPoint slides he refers to, you'll be happy to know they're available here.

Unrelated side note:  For those of you who know BF, our friend from choir—note the many similarities in looks, voice, speaking style, and gestures!
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, February 19, 2008 at 9:00 am | Edit
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Category Random Musings: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]

Humor is a funny thing.  Laughter may be the best medicine, but it can also wound deeply.  John Stackhouse addresses this issue thoughtfully in his post, Why No One Here Is Laughing at My Jokes.  While lecturing in India, he discovered that all his standard jokes fell flat with his Indian audience, except amongst those who had been educated in the West.  Only when he switched to more obvious, I Love Lucy-style joking did the others respond.

Their humour, it seems, is straight on the nose, big smiles telegraphing the punch line, with no ambiguity: That’s a joke. Ours, instead, comes at you sideways, no smile, with a dash of bitters. Oh, yeah: I get it.

The experience caused him to reconsider his own joking. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, February 18, 2008 at 7:09 am | Edit
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Category Random Musings: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]
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