It looks as if this will be the first season in over 10 years that we won't get our flu shots. We started the habit long before flu immunizations were recommended to the general public. One year there was a particularly nasty strain that was sidelining its victims for about two weeks. We looked at our schedules, particularly those of our children, and decided that we didn't want to deal with the consequences of losing that much time. We considered my father—elderly and with respiratory problems, and thus vaccinated—who had been our regular February visitor since we'd moved to Florida. We'd get sick; he'd stay healthy. Seemed like an obvious choice to us. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, October 9, 2004 at 7:30 am | Edit
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I suppose we should be watching the presidential debates tonight. But I already know how I'm going to vote on that race. (We need to have debates for the local races, where I'm not yet convinced.)

Nonetheless, Porter—after a grueling week of work—was in the mood for a mystery story. I checked out Blockbuster online to see what we might expect, and found a good assortment of Agatha Christie, Inspector Morse, Rumpole of the Bailey, P.D. James, even a couple of Dorothy Sayers. (Alas, no Father Brown stories, nor Ngaio Marsh.) Thus encouraged, we paid a visit to our local Blockbuster store.

What a shock! They've remodelled since we were there last, and their movie stock has been considerably diminished. More than half the store is now given to game rentals and movies for purchase. There is no longer a "mysteries" section. When I asked the clerk for help, he told me that any mysteries would be scattered around, probably in "drama" or "action." There is no way to browse for a good mystery. Next I asked if they had any Agatha Christie movies in stock, only to learn that there was no way for him to answer that question, as his computer only allowed him to look up movies by title! "You mean," I said, disbelieving," that unless I come into this store knowing exactly what it is I want to rent, you can't help me?" Apparently. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, October 8, 2004 at 8:37 pm | Edit
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I can't find an official Baldo website to advertise with a link, but today's comic says a lot about some folks' attitudes toward grading:

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, October 8, 2004 at 11:25 am | Edit
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We have been found. Try typing "sursum corda" wightman in Google and hit "I'm Feeling Lucky." If you just type "sursum corda" we're 5th on the list. Now I really need to clean up the pages so it says something intelligent in the description....
Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, October 7, 2004 at 10:10 am | Edit
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As Floridians, we've had to endure too many jokes about Florida's elections. I challenge any state to stand up to the scrutiny Florida received after the last presidential election. Many states simply couldn't have done a recount, because they have no permanent record of individual votes. I've voted in Florida, New York, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts, and Florida's system holds up well in comparison. Even after the 2000 election, we found that it would have been easy to cheat in Massachusetts, if we had wanted to. I'm not going to complain about their system, because it was nice to feel trusted. But it was certainly a surprise not to have to provide any form of ID when we voted.

I also like Florida's paper ballots. (We had paper ballots in Massachusetts, too.) We've used both the punch-card ("hanging chad" style) and the fill-in-the-circle (standardized test style) ballots, and despite what you've heard on the news, they are not hard to understand! I'm old fashioned enough to think that someone too clueless to understand the simple ballots, or too lazy to take the time to make sure he has filled his out correctly, or unwilling to ask for help if needed, probably shouldn't be voting anyway.
 (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, October 7, 2004 at 8:24 am | Edit
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Here's a particularly appropriate excerpt from my father's as-yet-unpublished autobiography (to give a fancy name to the project he and I were working on when he died):

There was no kindergarten in the Pullman School system and I started first grade at the age of five, my sixth birthday coming before the new year and in time to let me start. I went to the Franklin Elementary School, which was about a half dozen blocks away. This gave me a rather short walk compared with that of many of the students. There were no school busses to the elementary schools in those days. I do not remember much about my first four years in school, although in 1980 I did find it easy to remember that one of my teachers had said that Mt. St. Helens was an extinct volcano.

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, October 6, 2004 at 1:22 pm | Edit
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Today's For Better or For Worse comic strip, though it's talking about an actual school, expresses neatly the technique I used when required to produce a curriculum and transcripts for our homeschooled children. "Educationese" isn't hard to speak once you've read enough of it. There is one difference, however: In the comic, the teachers are fitting the material to the students' interests; with homeschooling, the interests generally come first, and when necessary one finds official words to describe the educational results.

comic
Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, October 6, 2004 at 11:57 am | Edit
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While waiting in line at the grocery store today, I picked up a Reader's Digest and read an article about several traditional first aid measures that are no longer approved. Some were ones I've known for a long time, such as putting butter on burns; my mother knew half a century ago that cold water was a much better choice. However, I did not know that hydrogen peroxide is no longer recommended for cleaning wounds. Hydrogen peroxide kills germs, but apparently it also damages healthy cells, and inhibits healing. The proper way to clean a wound? With clean, running water.

Not that I consider Reader's Digest to be the ultimate medical authority, but I wish I could have read that article a year ago, before I had a small, basal cell carcinoma removed from my face. Following the dermatologist's instructions, I cleaned the wound frequently with hydrogen peroxide. It took a long time to heal, and left a nasty scar. Since I normally heal well and quickly, it's hard not to think there's a connection there. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, October 5, 2004 at 6:59 pm | Edit
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I don't remember if we have the Olympics or the hurricanes to thank for this, but for one of those occasions we had the television on long enough to hear an advertisement for the PBS show, The Question of God with Dr. Armand Nicholi. It caught my attention because Dr. Nicholi's popular Harvard course of the same name was featured in the Boston Globe while we were living in Massachusetts.

Subtitled C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud Debate God, Love, Sex, and the Meaning of Life, the program interweaves biographical information on the two men, quotations from their writings, and a seminar-like discussion among an eclectic group of serious thinkers. Alas, I was too busy to give the two-part, four-hour show the complete attention it deserved, but I saw most of it, and I haven't been so impressed with something on television since Ken Burns' The Civil War. The intellectual quality of this show is as far above normal PBS fare as normal PBS fare is above the rest of television.
Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, October 4, 2004 at 11:57 am | Edit
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Don't be surprised if you see posts appearing with long-past dates. I'm gradually collecting some of my old writings into this blog.
Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, October 3, 2004 at 8:53 am | Edit
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One consequence of having had to keep a weather eye out for hurricane news is that our television set was on quite a bit recently. I'll save my comments on the generally repulsive nature of what we saw for another time.

There were actually a couple of shows that qualified as interesting enough (and un-raunchy enough) to keep my attention for a while. One of these was Medical Investigation, which we found on NBC from 10 to 11 p.m. Friday nights. I can be grateful that the hour is so late, as I'm less likely to be tempted to seek it out. For it is just the kind of story I love: a mystery, and a medical mystery at that. In fact, in at least two of the stories so far the plots were lifted directly from the wonderful—and true—medical detective stories of Berton Roueché(More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, October 2, 2004 at 9:31 pm | Edit
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Thanks to a great deal of help from Jon Daley, I am venturing into the world of the Blog. It sounds rather like something from an old science fiction movie. My first step in having an online presence was the making of my home page, which I greatly enjoy, and which I've used—among other purposes—to keep friends and family informed of our adventures during Florida's recent hurricanes. I could be content simply to keep expanding my webpages; there certainly is a lot to learn and much that can be done. However, what I really like about the blog software is its ability to let other people add comments. Since I hope this will become a forum for the exchange of ideas as well as information, it seems a worthwhile project.

I am only splashing in the shallows of these waters as yet, so please be patient with problems and changes as I set out on this new adventure. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, October 1, 2004 at 9:34 pm | Edit
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Friday, October 1, 2004. 7:30 a.m. Again, I don’t know who gets the credit for this; it appears to be circulating unattributed.



A few random notes: (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, October 1, 2004 at 7:30 am | Edit
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Tuesday, September 28, 2004. 1:00 p.m.  The power is still on, and we are all happy about that. Porter is currently up on the roof, making repairs, and is glad that the pool is looking better this morning. Jonathan, Heather and I have a date to see some friends this afternoon, but we hope to get in some yardwork and a swim, too. Jonathan is not yet very helpful with the yardwork, but makes up for it by being incredibly cute as he tries to handle the rake. And he really enjoys the swimming part afterwards.
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, September 28, 2004 at 1:00 pm | Edit
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9:15 p.m. We didn’t get our swim in. We were just finishing in the front yard when Porter came home. Since we had discovered that we were cooler working outside than we had been sitting inside, Porter decided it was time to take the rest of the plywood down so we could open the windows. During the process Jonathan discovered a stream of water in the gutter and got his shoes soaking wet. Leaving him (with his mother watching, of course) to splash and play in his naked glory, I took his shoes in to clean them up. While I was inside, the phone rang. The cordless phone rang. Wait a minute...the cordless phone doesn’t work unless we have POWER! Sure enough, the power was on; our best guess was that it came on around 6:30. Twenty-nine and a half hours without power this time. We welcomed the return of light and A/C and computing power with 100% gratitude, but also with the usual small percentage of wistfulness, as there is something magical about being without electricity. Hot, and dark, and sometimes frustrating, but also, in a way, fun. Not that I’m in any hurry for more of that fun for a while!

Porter made a trip to Home Depot tonight, as we lost enough shingles this time to require some temporary roof repair. I’m glad the store was open; when Heather and I went out, we found most stores closed, including two of our three grocery stores, and most gas stations.

Jon made it safely home. In fact, his was the call that let us know the power was back.

Jonathan is really happy to have the air conditioning back on; he was one hot and sweaty kid! While the power was off, he’d kept staring at the lights with a puzzled look, as if he couldn’t understand why we didn’t turn them on. When the power came back on, he still focused on the lights; this time with a big smile.

Time for a shower and a night’s sleep. Good night, all!
Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, September 27, 2004 at 9:15 pm | Edit
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