In 1971 I worked with researchers at the University of Rochester who were studying the algae blooms that were making a mess of Rochester, New York's Irondequoit Bay. At the time, the limiting factor for algae growth in the lake was phosphorous, and household use of detergents containing phosphates had fueled an algal population boom. Thanks to such research, low-phosphate detergents soon became. I presume the effect on the Bay was salutory, though I graduated and lost track of the researchers.

That was 35 years ago, but apparently we are still learning the same lessons. Please take time to read the long, but worthwhile, article from the Los Angeles Times on the frightening overrowth of toxic algae and other primitive organisms in our oceans.
Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, July 31, 2006 at 7:36 am | Edit
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While doing a Google search for a friend's blog, I came upon this exchange on someone else's blog. To be fair, I know nothing about the blogger, and haven't yet taken the time to read her other posts. My reaction is based solely on her post and the subsequent comments. But it shocked me so (and the comments even more than the original post) that I'm inviting comment here—by anyone at all, but especially by those who think they know what to expect from someone calling herself, "Little Miss Reformed." (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, July 15, 2006 at 11:45 am | Edit
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When Larry Summers, then President of Harvard, dared suggest that genetic differences between men and women might, in general, predispose them to greater abilities in different fields, I had no problem with that. When he was pilloried and forced to resign, I was appalled (though not surprised) at the continuing evidence that liberals aren't necessarily liberal, those who call loudest for tolerance aren't tolerant, and "academic freedom" is an oxymoron. If the presence of a Y chromosome instead of an X can make differences that are visible and obvious, to insist that it can't possibly make more subtle differences, and to forbid inquiry into the matter, is as bad as the Catholic Church in Medieval times. Worse, because I don't think the Church ever claimed to be open-minded.

Yet as fast as Harvard tried to distance itself from Summers' heresy, there are more serious worms in its own apple. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, July 15, 2006 at 7:05 am | Edit
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The sad thing is, I'm not surprised.

During the 18 months we lived near Boston we heard a lot about the Big Dig, experienced plenty of inconvenience thanks to the Big Dig, and heard much political grumbling about cost overruns, delays, and incompetence. We didn't actually see much work being done on the project, however, and it was hard not to wonder if there was some politcal/union stranglehold on the project. Accustomed as we were to Florida roads projects, in which a "crew working" sign is usually followed by a crew working—day, night, weekends, holidays, whatever it takes to get the job done—it was shocking to see the massive construction project lying fallow so much of the time. But apparently such lack of haste did not reflect a commitment to doing the job right.

Will yesterday's partial collapse, in which a concrete slab fell from a tunnel roof onto a hapless motorist, finally cause someone to examine the entire political system that bred such tragedy? It's only the latest in a decades-long series of problems, so I doubt it.

Which is too bad. I fell in love with Boston, and Massachusetts in general, during our stay. There is much about that part of the country that I miss terribly. But the Big Debacle seems only to be a sign, not an abberation. The rest of the country—Massachusetts included—mocks Florida's politics and its voting problems, but as one who has lived and voted in both places, I can say without a doubt that democracy is alive and well in Florida, while the political process in Massachusetts sometimes felt like a tunnel with a crumbling roof.
Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, July 12, 2006 at 5:57 am | Edit
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A 62-year-old British woman is being called selfish, ridiculous, irresponsible, and unnatural because of the recent birth of her son, who was conceived through in vitro fertilization with a her husband's sperm and a donated egg. I have serious problems with the extremes to which many people are resorting to combat infertility, but age has nothing to do with it. A post-menopausal woman who uses unnatural means to conceive a child is no more absurd than an older man with a Viagra prescription.
Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, July 8, 2006 at 8:07 pm | Edit
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This Memorial Day I honor my grandfathers, who served our country in World War I.

Howard Harlan Langdon, WWI Howard Harland Langdon, 219th Aero Squadron

George Cunningham Smith, Sr., WWI George Cunningham Smith, Sr., 5th Engineers, Co. B

Click here for a previous tribute. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, May 28, 2006 at 7:16 pm | Edit
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I like to check out Google News every morning, and I'm especially interested in their Health section. Today there were two headlines that caught my attention, and each turned out to be totally misleading.

Flying does not cause blood clots, say experts

Do you feel safer now, as you prepare for your long flight? Do you think you can relax, forget about periodically wiggling your toes, stretching your feet, and disturbing your seatmates so you can get up and walk around? Not so fast! What the article says is that low cabin pressure and reduced oxygen do not increase the risk of blood clots. The damage is done by reduced circulation caused by long periods of inactivity, whether on plane, train, bus, or car. Although the article does not address this issue, I'm guessing sitting at a desk all day isn't a good situation, either.

Considering the relative leg room offered by the other modes of transportation, it's not surprising that the problem appears more often among those who fly. To give the casual reader the impression that he's safe from bloodclots on a long flight is misleading and dangerous.

Nonsmoking Men, Women Face Same Lung Cancer Death Risk

Same as whom? The point of the article is that among nonsmokers, women face no greater risk of lung cancer than men. But the impression I received from the headline itself was that nonsmokers face the same lung cancer risk as smokers, a truly startling (and untrue) finding.
Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, May 17, 2006 at 6:52 am | Edit
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Thomas Edison said that genius is 5% inspiration and 95% perspiration. Anders Ericsson, a psychology professor at Florida State University, would agree. His studies of what makes someone really good at something are discussed in the May 7, 2006 New York Times column, A Star Is Made, by Freakonomics authors Stephen J. Dubner and Steven D. Levitt. (The New York Times requires registration before you can read their content, but it's free and worth the effort.) (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, May 16, 2006 at 1:21 pm | Edit
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When I was in high school, a semester course in economics was required for graduation. I managed to convince the school to accept an advanced physics course instead, so I can't claim to know much economics. Yet being married to a guy who majored in that field in college helps, and in any case the following scenario not only makes no economic sense, it makes no sense at all. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, May 12, 2006 at 1:05 pm | Edit
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Category Random Musings: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Everyday Life: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]

I hear it's officially TV-Turnoff Week. Those who know me know I'm more likely to respond negatively to social pressure like that. Still, I'm not about to turn on the television just to be different.

But if TV is a regular part of your life, do yourself a huge favor and turn it off. Start with a week, but don't stop there. What would you give for an extra four hours in your day? More than 20 more hours in your week? Even if you are one of the very rare folks who watches only half an hour a day, think about what you could do in that time. With just half an hour each day you could learn to play a musical instrument, learn a foreign language, read many books, keep in touch with far away friends and family, create your own weblog, spend time in serious, concentrated prayer, get some much-needed sleep, learn to juggle, create a garden, get in shape...and accomplish at least one if not many of those things you say you'd love to do, "but I don't have time." Go for it! You have nothing to lose but your chains.

Here are some more interesting links:

The TV-Turnoff Network

Excerpts from Marie Winn's The Plug-In Drug

Ruben Bolling's fabulous comic, Flowers for Trinitron.
Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, April 24, 2006 at 7:28 am | Edit
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Our local newspaper includes Parade Magazine in its Sunday edition. I find it generally to be a waste of paper. (A judgment almost equally true of the whole paper, now that it has gone to a format that emphasizes pictures over words, but that's another blog post.) However, I ususally find Marilyn vos Savant's column interesting, and this week it was especially so. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, March 9, 2006 at 5:36 pm | Edit
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This Orlando Sentinel column by Leonore Waldrip needs a wider audience. So for the dozen or so of my non-robotic readers, here it is.
Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, January 21, 2006 at 10:59 am | Edit
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While browsing the USPS website for international postage rates, I found it amusing to note some of the items one cannot mail to certain places. Most countries prohibit money and weapons; some countries also have more interesting restrictions: (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, December 12, 2005 at 9:54 am | Edit
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Thank you, veterans.
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, November 11, 2005 at 9:05 am | Edit
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I'm reading an extraordinarily important and fascinating book: What's Going on in There: How the Brain and Mind Develop in the First Five Years of Life (Lise Eliot, 1999, Bantam Books). I'll probably end up making several blog posts out of quotations from this book, so here's a start. I always wondered why deliberate smiles, such as those manufactured for photographs or in an attempt to look more cheerful than one actually is, usually look so false:

[S]miling is not voluntary. Although you can willfully concoct your face into a smile, this kind of “polite” smile uses only the muscles of your mouth. Genuine smiles, by contrast, also involve a specific muscle that surrounds the eye, the orbicularis oculi, and movement of this muscle is entirely involuntary.
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, August 12, 2005 at 8:00 am | Edit
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