Stargirl, by Jerry Spinelli (Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2000)

My nephew is going into seventh grade, and this was part of his required summer reading. He didn't have much to say about it, not surprising since it's hardly a title, nor a story, I would expect to appeal to most middle school boys. Or girls, for that matter. At that age, I would have picked up the book, assuming it was a science fiction story, then put it down in disgust when I discovered what it really was.

I'm not sure who the target audience is for this book, since the setting is high school and the themes adolescent, yet the intellectual level seems more geared towards elementary school.

Nonetheless, when I picked up the book recently to check it out, I became intrigued when I discovered that the title character was homeschooled before making her way into public high schoolóand definitely not fitting in. So when my nephew left for home, taking the book with him, I borrowed it from the library so I could finish reading the story. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, August 8, 2005 at 11:28 am | Edit
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Category Education: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]

Janet is currently in Japan, preparing to teach English. Perusing an old diary today, I discovered an inclination toward that profession appearing much earlier in her life than I had supposed. The incident took place in the fall of her third grade year.

[Her teacher] has been reading James and the Giant Peach aloud, a little bit each week. After she finished todayís reading, it was time to go outside. Janet asked her to continue reading out there, and she said no. Then, Janet asked if she could bring her own book out and read. Having received permission, she did just that, but instead of reading to herself, she read aloud. By the time recess was over, she had quite a group of kids around her, listening. She is reading Grimmís Fairy Tales.
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, August 5, 2005 at 5:19 pm | Edit
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Category Education: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]
I've heard it said that the male human body has enough blood to power the brain or the sexual organs, but not both at the same time. I'm not convinced women are any smarter, but this news report about the Third International AIDS Society Conference on HIV Pathogenesis and Treatment goes far in proving the adage for men. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, July 27, 2005 at 9:54 am | Edit
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Category Health: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]
This cannot be a detailed review, as too many of the people who read this blog have not yet read the book. But I will say that Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince did not disappoint me. The fifth book, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, I had found tedious, and I was disappointed in that I thought J. K. Rowling had set herself up for a great ending which never came.

Not so with the sixth book. It held my attention from beginning to end, not easy to do when the competition is an adorable 20-month old grandson, a flock of other wonderful family members and friends, and a lovely converted houseboat on the Connecticut shoreline. It did help that I found Harry's behavior less obnoxious this time. There were a few annoying points—I never did care to read about the tribulations of adolescent love—but they were minor.

Grace, sacrificial love, and persistent hope for the salvation even of one's enemies show more clearly here than in previous books. As always, Rowling's great contribution to children's literature is that she does not sugarcoat evil, nor minimize the cost of the battle, yet still manages to produce a book full of goodness, hope, and fun.
Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, July 25, 2005 at 7:05 pm | Edit
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This afternoon, searching for a birthday gift for my nephew, I ventured into long-forgotten territory: a Toys R Us store. Just as a child's growth is more noticeable to one who has been away for a while, so did I find the cultural changes represented by the toys and games to be startling. While there were a few of what I might call generic games, most were branded with characters from television shows and movies. Even the old standby, Candyland, now comes in Dora the Explorer and Winnie the Pooh (Disney version, of course) flavors. Back when I was a more regular visitor of toy stores, there were already a few media-inspired toys, but now the genre has exploded. I did not linger, but left with the impression that I would find more of reality at Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes.
Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, July 25, 2005 at 6:58 pm | Edit
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Category Random Musings: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]
Women who want to get pregnant are now being advised to avoid tofu and other soy products, at least around the peak times for conception. New studies have shown that even small amounts of genistein, which mimics the hormone estrogen and is found in soy products, cause sperm to lose their fertility.

Well, I guess that explains why 20% of the world's population is Chinese!
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, June 24, 2005 at 7:13 am | Edit
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Category Health: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]
I've never read Al Franken's Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them:† A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right, and frankly I doubt it will ever rise far enough up on my "must read" list to see the light of day.† For all I know, it's a great book full of interesting and useful information that would do me good to read.† But if so, why does it have a title that sounds like a pre-adolescent playground taunt?† That alone makes it hard to take the content seriously.† Someone needs a ghost title-writer.
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, June 3, 2005 at 6:58 pm | Edit
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Score one more for mothers. When you sang to your baby, rocking and bouncing him, or danced with him around the room, others may have said you were being silly. You may have thought you were just trying to keep your baby from crying. But what you were really doing was giving him his first music lessons. A Canadian study has shown that being moved to music helps babies learn rhythm. Just watching you dance is not good enough, by the way; the baby must dance, too.
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, June 3, 2005 at 9:00 am | Edit
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Category Children & Family Issues: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]
This isn't high on the list of important things I have to do at the moment, but Jon challenged me and it looks like fun, so I'll see if I can come up with something reasonably quickly.

Total size of music files in my computer
About 500 songs, I have no idea how many hours, about 2.1 GB.

This is slightly misleading, as most of the music I listen to is not on my computer. What I've counted includes a number of recordings, compositions, and transcriptions of music featuring family and friends.

Last record bought
Prayer for Peace (Orlando Deanery Boychoir and Girls' Choirs), title song by Robert Kerr

Song that I am listening to now
Silence. No, not Simon & Garfunkel's Sounds of Silence, but the real thing, or what passes for it in this busy world. Sometimes silence is my favorite song, especially when I'm trying to concentrate.

Five songs that I listen to a lot or that mean a lot to me
Impossible to choose! But here is a representative sample:

Camille Saint-SaŽns, Symphony No. 3 (Organ Symphony)

I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say/Star of the County Down (The link will take you to Horatius Bonar's words, but you'll have to click on the "Kingsfold" MIDI link to hear the right tune.)

St. Patrick's Breastplate (Irish tunes "St. Patrick" and "Deirdre" with Cecil Frances Alexander's translation of an ancient Gaelic poem attributed to St. Patrick. The link doesn't have the complete music, but will give you an idea.)

Kilkelly (Green Fields of America)

Non Nobis, Domine (unpublished arrangement by Linda Clary of Patrick Doyle's version from Kenneth Branagh's production of Shakespeare's Henry V)

5 persons to whom I am passing the baton
I'm not going to name names, but hope some people will add their own information in comments.
Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, June 2, 2005 at 12:56 pm | Edit
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Category Just for Fun: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]
Like many Americans, we plan to spend this Memorial Day relaxing with friends. As good and proper an activity as that is, we would be wrong not to recognize the true purpose of this holiday. Those who have given the last full measure of devotion to our country died for more substantial freedoms than a three-day weekend.

Here is some information on Memorial Day by the Department of Veterans' Affairs.

And here is a link to our Veterans' Day tribute to all who have laid their lives on the line for our country, including two family members who died in World War I.
Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, May 30, 2005 at 7:26 am | Edit
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Category Random Musings: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]
Who wouldn't want to be smarter, think more clearly, and be able to concentrate better? New Scientist has compiled a list of brain-building suggestions for everyone from students to senior citizens.† Some were new to me, some old hat, some intriguing, and some frightening: (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, May 28, 2005 at 2:40 pm | Edit
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Category Health: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]
Back in the old days, when corportate headquarters was on One Mustard Street in Rochester, New York, Porter worked for the R. T. French Company. That was when we discovered their Cattlemen's Barbecue Sauce. When we moved to Florida, this delicious condiment became difficult, and later impossible, to find. Soon we couldn't find it even on our periodic trips north for essential supplies, such as the famous Sassy Sauce from Sal's Birdland (Buffalo Wings are nothing compared to what they do with chicken in Rochester); Blenheim Old #3 Ginger Ale (an essential ingredient in a Lime Daley, this fabulous drink was once lost to the world but now can be found at the otherwise obnoxious South of the Border tourist trap), and white birch beer (good old Undina White Birch Beer from Higganum, Connecticut is no longer available, but now and then you can find source that understands the best birch beer isn't red). (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, May 27, 2005 at 9:48 am | Edit
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For those of you to whom this matters, I've added syndication links (RSS, etc.) to the right-hand panel. I'm a complete novice here, but I know that there are various programs out there that you can use with this to let you know when certain websites are updated. SharpReader was recommended to me, though I haven't tried it yet because I have to install the .Net framework first, and I just haven't bothered. For now, the Live Bookmark option in FireFox works pretty well.
Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, May 26, 2005 at 1:30 pm | Edit
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Category Computing: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]
Research has shown, once again, that the human body works best when used according to its original design. A study of more than 2000 nine to fifteen year olds indicates that exclusive breastfeeding significantly lowers systolic blood pressure, with the strength of the benefit directly proportional to the duration of the breastfeeding. This positive effect is comparable to that of exercise and of restricted salt diets in adults.
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, May 24, 2005 at 8:09 am | Edit
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Just off the Georgetown Pike (Route 193) in McLean, Virginia, right across from the CIA, you can step back in time to 1771 at the Claude Moore Colonial Farm. This living history museum is small enough, and inexpensive enough, to make a great "rest stop" for travellers along the frenetic I-95 corridor. Our most recent visit coincided with one of their Market Fairs, and we thoroughly enjoyed seeing the exhibits, eating the "18th century" food, and chatting with a remarkable wandering Gypsy fortune teller. I had always associated Gypsies with Europe, but learned that many came to Virginia, particularly after being told that being Gypsy and being Scottish had become mutually exclusive.
Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, May 23, 2005 at 10:13 am | Edit
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