The Visitation, by Frank Peretti (W Publishing Group, Nashville, Tennessee, 2003)

I believe it was Samuel Goldwyn who said, "If you want to send a message, use Western Union." He had a point. Great writers manage to convey many messages through their works, but people who start writing with a message in mind tend to write mediocre novels.

I find Frank Peretti's stories entertaining, and better than much so-called Christian fiction; certainly worlds better than the popular LaHaye/Jenkins Left Behind series. There's no doubt that his writing style and technique have improved considerably over the years, too. But Peretti always seems to have a particular axe to grind. One of his best books, Monster, still has specific points about evolution/creation and the perils of genetic engineering which he makes rather heavy-handedly. The Visitation suffers from the same problem, and more. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, July 13, 2006 at 10:47 am | Edit
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Okay, so the wider dissemination of lesser-known comic strips is not the greatest use of the Internet, but it's fun. I've featured Baldo before, but now they have an official Baldo website to include, and today's strip is worth broadcasting.

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, July 3, 2006 at 7:10 am | Edit
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We went to the Orlando Science Center last weekend. Because they had three new movies we hadn't seen, we didn't have much time for the exhibits, but that's okay since we know them all pretty well. However, they do have a new traveling exhibit called Invention at Play, at which we spent all the rest of our time, and which is one of the best new exhibits I've seen in a long time, at any science musuem. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, June 2, 2006 at 7:15 am | Edit
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Mere Discipleship: Radical Christianity in a Rebellious World, by Lee C. Camp (Brazos Press, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2003)

Because I believe Mere Discipleship to be an important book for Christians who are seeking more from their faith than "fire insurance," I want to deal with some of its problems first. There was enough that I found really annoying that I want to get some of it out of the way, so anyone who feels as I do will be encouraged to read past that and receive the good therein. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, June 1, 2006 at 10:22 am | Edit
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Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden side of Everything, by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner (William Morrow, New York, 2005)

Economist Steven D. Levitt enjoys standing a problem on its head to see what might shake out of its pockets; Freakonomics is an exhibit of his garnered treasures. Levitt takes on anything that piques his interest: from how to detect teachers who cheat on their students' exams to how legalized abortion affected crime rates, from what really broke up the Ku Klux Klan to the financial workings of inner city gangs, from why a swimming pool is more dangerous than a gun to parenting skills and naming trends. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, May 16, 2006 at 12:13 pm | Edit
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Any extravagance around the time of a birthday counts as part of the celebration, and thus comes without guilt. Thus when Porter wanted to attend the Mad Cow Theatre Company's It Was a Very Good Year, part of the Orlando Cabaret Festival, and even suggested we get the special dinner package, who was I to complain? (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, May 6, 2006 at 1:30 pm | Edit
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Chronological stories from our trip to Japan will have to wait until I have more time, but I'll try to fit in an occasionally tidbit here and there.

Many people have heard of the really fancy Japanese toilets, the ones with heated seats and more buttons than a DVD player, including Cover-Up Sound, Wash, and Blow Dry. I haven't had the opportunity to try anything but the warm seat feature (especially nice in unheated bathrooms), but we'd certainly have one if they were readily available at a reasonable price in the United States. I suppose we could special order one for an outrageous sum, but they aren't that wonderful.

It would take not money, but a societal attitude change, to make another of the great Japanese toilets available in the United States: the "squatty potty." Nearly flush with the ground (pardon the pun), these toilets are particularly great for public places, as they are much easier to keep clean than the kind we are accustomed to. They are also surprisingly easy to use. Before I tried one, I couldn't picture using it successfully, but it's really no problem at all.

My favorite Japanese toilet is the kind in Janet's apartment. It's a "normal" toilet with one fabulous feature: the tank lid is a faucet/sink arrangement. Flushing the toilet causes water to pour out of the faucet for handwashing purposes; the water drains into the toilet tank and is used for the next flush. What an economical, ecological idea!
Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, March 29, 2006 at 6:22 pm | Edit
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There were any number of reasons why we shouldn't have gone to the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra's A Celtic Fantasy concert last night. We have a huge deadline looming, and delightful out of town company as well. However, a commitment to a friend kept us from taking the logical course and giving away our tickets, and are we glad we didn't miss the performance!

When the OPO brought renowned flutist James Galway to town we enjoyed that concert tremendously. Last night’s Celtic Fantasy, featuring OPO principal flutist Aaron Goldman was every bit as delightful, if not more so. As Galway had done, Aaron played both flute and pennywhistle with grace and beauty and skill. Memo to the Orlando Philharmonic: James Galway is no doubt a very busy and expensive performer. Forget the big names: give us more Aaron Goldman! (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, March 19, 2006 at 11:53 am | Edit
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Forget the green beer. After having discovered genuine Irish ancestors in my heritage, I'm even more convinced that any good celebration of St. Patrick's Day must include singing his very own hymn, usually called St. Patrick's Breastplate or I Bind unto Myself Today. The words are attributed to St. Patrick himself, with the modern, metrical version provided by Cecil Frances Alexander.

The challenge in St. Patrick's for first time singers is finding the flow; the first verse is shorter than the rest, one or two verses (depending on the version) are sung to a different tune, and usually you must turn the page to complete this hymn. (In my favorite hymnal it covers four pages!)

The tunes are Irish and easily singable, however, and the words packed with theology, beauty, and joy. Do yourself and St. Patrick a favor, and honor him on this day by becoming acquainted with this grand and glorious expression of ancient Celtic Christian faith.

The Oremus Hymnal includes the commonly sung verses and page numbers for St. Patrick's Breastplate in a large collection of hymnals.

The Cyber Hymnal includes two additional verses that are rarely sung but give even more of a feel for the ancient Celtic culture out of which which it arose.

This Irish Culture and Customs site has a non-metrical translation of the poem.
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, March 17, 2006 at 6:31 am | Edit
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We should visit restaurants more often when they are closed! My post about the Sake Moon tells how we discovered that fine restaurant because the one at which we had intended to eat was not open. Ironically, our next great discovery came because the Sake Moon was closed when Porter was in the mood for pho(More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, March 14, 2006 at 10:00 pm | Edit
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For many years before he died, my father would come visit us for a month each year around February (usually a good month to exchange Pennsylvania for Florida temporarily). Once a week he would take us to lunch at the Sakura, the best Japanese restaurant in our experience, including the time when all the restaurants of Boston were at hand.

Alas, when we returned from Massachusetts we were able to enjoy only one more meal at the Sakura before it closed. We've spent the last three years searching for a substitute, to no avail. The Asian restaurant that took its place isn't bad, however, and that's where we headed last Monday night. We remembered too late that it is closed on Mondays, but that disappointment quickly turned into a blessing. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, March 14, 2006 at 4:08 pm | Edit
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Affluenza, by John de Graaf, David Wann, and Thomas H. Naylor (Berrett-Koehler, San Francisco, 2001)

affluenza, n. a painful, contagious, socially transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety, and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more

Many years ago I was walking through downtown Wayne, Pennsylvania with my father, and we stepped into the Encore bookstore. While browsing, I came upon The Plug-In Drug, Marie Winn’s indictment of television. It was a life-changing book. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, February 22, 2006 at 1:31 pm | Edit
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I haven't yet managed to post my review of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, but I'll let End of the Spear sneak in ahead while it's fresh in my mind, because I'm afraid if you don't see it soon, you'll have to wait for the DVD. Not that we had a hard time finding a showing yesterday, but it had already come and gone at our first choice theater.

Half a lifetime ago I read Elizabeth Elliot's Through Gates of Splendor. Subsequently I lost track of the story of the five American missionaries who were killed in Ecuador, but I could never totally forget it, especially since we have several friends in Ecuador—including some who were there at the time—and even sang in choir for a while with one of the children of the slain men.

Despite these connections, the story seemed "long ago and far away," so it was almost shocking to have an opportunity to learn "the rest of the story." Particularly because at last I could hear it from the other side. As I sat in the theater, the movie critic in the back of my mind starting saying things like, "That's all speculation; they don't know what really happened on the beach [where the killings occurred]." Suddenly I realized I was wrong: At the end of Through Gates of Splendor they didn't know—but they do now. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, February 6, 2006 at 2:03 pm | Edit
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The Giver, by Lois Lowry (Dell Laurel-Leaf, New York, 1993)

I doubt I would have found The Giver had it not been required reading for two of my nephews. One read it as a class assignment in seventh grade; for the other it was read aloud in fifth grade. Intrigued, I borrowed the book from our library.

The Giver makes me wish I belonged to a literary discussion group. Without a doubt there is plenty here to discuss, and I can see why teachers might be eager to share this Newbery Award winner with their classes. I would love to talk about it in a group, to toss about various interpretations and implications. And yet, despite the "young adult" designation, despite the fact that the main character has not yet reached his teens, I question the value of such a book in the elementary or middle school curriculum. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, January 7, 2006 at 11:09 am | Edit
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The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home, by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise (W.W. Norton and Company, New York, 2004)

I heard so many homeschoolers raving about The Well-Trained Mind that I had to read it for myself. Then the question became not why so many people love it, but why do I? One reviewer called this approach “ultra school-at-home”—which should have been enough to send me fleeing as from a thousand devils. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, November 11, 2005 at 12:40 pm | Edit
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