Cast your vote, then "cast your cares on the Lord, and he will sustain you" (Psalm 55:22). As close as this election is, we can be sure that half of the people in this country will be disappointed with the results. Nonetheless, for the health of our country, we all need to look toward the future with hope and enthusiasm.

For our country—and for ourselves, also. It is appropriate that today's news includes a Dutch study confirming the positive health benefits of optimism. The nine-year study of nearly a thousand men and women between the ages of 65 and 85 found that an optimistic personality contributed significantly to reduced mortality. The effect was most dramatic when cardiovasculary mortality alone was considered. (The above link takes you directly to the Archives of General Psychiatry where the research was published. As might be expected, unfortunately, the news stories circulating differ vastly in accuracy, with some reporting the opposite of the true cardiovascular results.) (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, November 2, 2004 at 9:44 am | Edit
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Get your news first, from Crickler! Their nifty little puzzles often alert me to interesting news stories, which I follow up with my favorite overall news source, Google News. Today's intriguing tidbit has been a little hard to pin down, as the full story at Salon.com requires a subscription. Supposedly you can get a "one day pass" to read it if you watch an advertisment, but I sat through the thing twice and still was asked to register, so I gave up and will wait till a free news source covers the story. However, since I was asked my opinion, I'll quote the beginning (free) part of the story:

George W. Bush tried to laugh off the bulge. "I don't know what that is," he said on "Good Morning America" on Wednesday, referring to the infamous protrusion beneath his jacket during the presidential debates. "I'm embarrassed to say it's a poorly tailored shirt."

Dr. Robert M. Nelson, however, was not laughing. He knew the president was not telling the truth. And Nelson is neither conspiracy theorist nor midnight blogger. He's a senior research scientist for NASA and for Caltech's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and an international authority on image analysis. Currently he's engrossed in analyzing digital photos of Saturn's moon Titan, determining its shape, whether it contains craters or canyons.

One theory is that the President was receiving some sort of assistance during the debate, which would make Bush the immoral, irresponsible idiot of his opponents' visions. I have a few thoughts of my own, and have gathered more from other folks:
 (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, October 29, 2004 at 3:09 pm | Edit
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Researchers in England have determined that tea inhibits the activity of brain enzymes linked to Alzheimer's disease. They don't know yet if the effect works in vivo, but the report nontheless puts an extra feeling of satisfaction into my morning "cuppa." Both green and black tea have this salubrious effect, although green tea's benefits are more enduring.
Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, October 27, 2004 at 9:21 am | Edit
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Did you know that? Do you care? Probably not, unless you live in Boston.

A senator from Boston, with a name like Kerry? Of course he's Irish! At least that's what everyone thought, and—Boston politics being what they are—Kerry did not dispel the illusion. It was only when the Boston Globe hired a genealogist to look into Kerry's ancestry that it was revealed that he is not Irish at all, and that the Kerry name is only as old as his grandfather, who changed it from Kohn. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, October 26, 2004 at 4:42 pm | Edit
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Are you as annoyed as I am by the omnipresence of blaring television sets? It's bad enough to spend time waiting in a doctor's office or mechanic's lounge without the incessant television noise that splinters your concentration, so that you read the same passage in your book four times. (Maybe that's why those places are stocked with fluff-filled magazines.) How many times have you sat down to a nice restaurant meal with friends, expecting pleasant conversation, only to have everyone's eyes automatically swivel to the large-screen TV? The Orlando International Airport plays peaceful classical music throughout its terminals, surely designed to calm the nerves of frantic and impatient travellers. Too bad you can't hear it without the risk of missing your flight, because at the gates it's drowned out by clamoring television sets. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, October 22, 2004 at 4:01 pm | Edit
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A study of German babies showed a higher risk of food allergies and diarrhea for those born by Caesarean section. The healthy, full-term babies were all exclusively breastfed for the first four months, during which time no such effect was seen. However, blood samples taken at 12 months showed that C-section babies were twice as likely as vaginally-delivered babies to have allergies to five common food allergens, including eggs, cow's milk, and soy protein. They were also 46% more likely to suffer from diarrhea during the first year.

These findings are consistent with previous research which demonstrated the importance of intestinal bacteria in the development of a healthy immune system. Babies who experience a normal delivery pick up vaginal, intestinal, and perianal microbes from their mothers. The risk to babies born by C-section includes not only deprivation of normal microbes, but also exposure to the unnatural microbial ecosystem peculiar to a hospital environment.
Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, October 21, 2004 at 10:33 am | Edit
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...to make a man. Or at least it improves the odds significantly, according to a study by Dr. Karen Norberg, a clinical associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts. "When parents were living together before the birth of one child, that child was 14% more likely to be male than when the parents were not living together before the birth," she reported, according to an article in today's Guardian.

Charles Darwin noted similar findings in 1874, giving some credence to the article's statement that this "is certainly not an effect of any bias from parents against daughters." Otherwise one could easily imagine single mothers preferring to raise daughters; not everyone, but enough to skew the statistics. Sex-selective abortion is frowned upon, but that doesn't prevent it. And it can have a huge impact.

Just ask the Chinese.
Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, October 20, 2004 at 7:25 am | Edit
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A study of premature infants suggests that delaying the clamping of the umbilical cord can reduce the need for blood transfusion in babies who are born too soon. A delay of only 30 seconds to two minutes was sufficient to provide significant benefit.

This news led me to search out a much more exhaustive discussion of umbilical cord issues, covering everything from conditions where immediate separation is necessary, to cord blood collection, to the "lotus birth," in which the placenta stays attached until the cord falls off the baby. Parents, midwives, and a few doctors speak out on issues that I had no idea were issues when I gave birth a quarter of a century ago. The concensus of this group is that delayed cord cutting is beneficial for full term babies (and their mothers) as well. Most of the debate seems to be between cutting the cord after the placenta stops pulsating, and waiting until the placenta is delivered.
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, October 19, 2004 at 7:35 pm | Edit
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No Christian can rule out the possibility that he may be called upon to be a martyr. Be that as it may, I don't believe any of us is called to be a masochist.

In today's sermon we learned that God intends worship to be—among other things—fun. I'm not quarrelling with that, only mentioning it to make the point that I do not, in general, consider pain to be fun. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, October 10, 2004 at 1:56 pm | Edit
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When they put the sugar back into baby food, I should have known it was a bad sign.

Progress is often a tidal creek, not a river. Advancement is not inevitable. We gain in one era, or in one area, and lose in another.

The late 1970’s and early 80’s were good years for having babies in America. Women had rediscovered that childbirth is a good thing, a normal function, and were dragging their doctors along with them. Hospitals scrambled to keep up.

We were the rebels, the revolutionaries. The children of the 60’s grown up. Our parents had been cheated by medical and cultural “advancement,” giving birth under anesthesia, flat on their backs on a delivery table, their legs unnaturally elevated. Labor was often artificially induced, and the cesarean section rate was high. Once born, the babies were whisked away to nurseries, tended by professional nurses and fed commercial formula. As soon as possible their diets included solid food—commercial baby food, loaded with sugar and salt to suit the mother’s taste. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, September 19, 2003 at 9:03 am | Edit
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The proper place and best place for children to learn whatever they need or want to know is the place where until very recently almost all children learned it—in the world itself, in the mainstream of adult life. If we put in every community…resource and activity centers, citizens’ clubs, full of spaces for many kinds of things to happen—libraries, music rooms, theaters, sports facilities, workshops, meeting rooms—these should be open to and used by young and old together. We made a terrible mistake when (with the best of intentions) we separated children from adults and learning from the rest of life, and one of our most urgent tasks is to take down the barriers we have put between them and let them come back together.

John Holt, How Children Fail

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, January 30, 2000 at 5:31 pm | Edit
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When adults want children to do something—put on coats, take a nap, etc.—they often say, “Let’s put on our coats, okay?” or “It’s time to take our naps now, okay?” That “Okay?” is a bad thing to say. Our lives with children would go better if we could learn to give up this way of talking.

The trouble with this “Okay?” is that it suggests to the children that we are giving them a choice when we really are not. Whatever people may think about how many choices we should give children, children should at least be able to know at any moment whether they have a choice or not. If we too often seem to be offering choices when we really aren’t, children may soon feel that they never have any. They will resent this, and resent even more our not saying clearly what we mean. By giving what we intend as a command and then saying “Okay?” we invite resistance and rebellion. In fact, the only way children can find out whether or not we are offering a real choice is to refuse to do what we ask. It is their way of saying, “Do you really mean it?”

Many adults feel that in saying “Okay?” they are only being courteous. But this is a misunderstanding of courtesy. It is perfectly possible to be firm and courteous while making clear to someone that you are not offering a choice but telling them what you want to happen or is going to happen. When I visit friends, I expect to fit myself into their life and routines, and count on them to tell me what they are. So they say, “We get up at seven o’clock,” or “We are going to have dinner at six-thirty,” or “This afternoon we’re going to this place to do such and such.” They are not asking me whether I approve of these plans, just letting me know that they are the plans. But they are perfectly polite about this.

John Holt, Teach Your Own

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, January 25, 2000 at 5:49 pm | Edit
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We adults destroy most of the intellectual and creative capacity of children by the things we do to them or make them do. We destroy this capacity above all by making them afraid, afraid of not doing what other people want, of not pleasing, of making mistakes, of failing, of being wrong. Thus we make them afraid to gamble, afraid to experiment, afraid to try the difficult and the unknown…. We destroy the disinterested (I do not mean uninterested) love of learning in children, which is so strong when they are small, by encouraging and compelling them to work for petty and contemptible rewards—gold stars, or papers marked 100 and tacked to the wall, or A’s on report cards, or honor rolls, or dean’s lists, or Phi Beta Kappa keys—in short, for the ignoble satisfaction of feeling that they are better than someone else…. We kill, not only their curiosity, but their feeling that it is a good and admirable thing to be curious, so that by the age of ten most of them will not ask questions, and will show a good deal of scorn for the few who do.

John Holt, How Children Fail

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, January 20, 2000 at 3:10 pm | Edit
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This Hallowe’en we had not a single trick-or-treater come to our door, perhaps due in part to confusion as to the day. Some of our municipalities encouraged trick-or-treating on Saturday instead of Hallowe’en. This prompted me to write a letter to the newspaper, which they didn’t publish, but I will: (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, October 31, 1999 at 8:47 pm | Edit
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We went to the Orlando Museum of Art to see a special exhibit of Hudson River School paintings, and our attention was captured by a couple of school groups. I was pleased that the museum was busy with school children, but disappointed, as I've been with most school field trips, in what they were able to do. The docent explained that grant money and school time is only available if they show that they’re meeting certain school curriculum goals, such as “uses deductive skills,” so they design the art activities around these. They also try to do a lot of hands-on work, which has a point, but I still think that 10 minutes of “creating a landscape” by taping together pieces of paper has limited value and could be done back at school instead of in the museum where they could instead spend time looking at the landscape paintings! (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, September 30, 1999 at 6:05 pm | Edit
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