As I have written previously, I believe that Florida's voting procedures in 2000 were as fair and accurate as any in the country, and better than some.

I have no such assurance this year. Four years ago, any irregularities were minor and mostly attributable to innocent mistakes. Now everyone knows that Florida matters, and the stakes are so high that I no longer trust either side to resist the temptation to pretend that the ends can justify the means. The negative ads, on both sides and at all levels, have convinced me of one thing: that neither side can be expected to take the high moral ground on anything important.

Between "early voting" and the misuse of the absentee ballot system, chances of fraud, collusion, and coercion are high, and the chance of knowing the results in a timely matter is low. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, November 1, 2004 at 4:04 pm | Edit
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This is for my dear friends who will soon be travelling to Spain:

When I was in elementary school, we were taught, drilled and tested on the formulas for converting temperature measurements between Fahrenheit and Celsius. Celsius was known as Centigrade back then, but they both begin with C so it doesn't matter. :)

F = 9/5 x C + 32

C = 5/9 x (F - 32)

It was an all but useless exercise. How often do most people need to do those conversions? In the science lab, we use Celsius; otherwise, Fahrenheit. Except at our house, when I was young. The thermometer that my father bought and installed outside our window read only in Celsius, so I was kept busy converting it into the more familiar numbers. Even so, I never really learned the conversion formulas; I never could remember which way they went. How liberating it was, many years later, when I realized that I could easily figure that out, knowing 0C = 32F (water freezes) and 100C = 212F (water boils).

It wasn't until I was more than 30 years outside of elementary school, vacationing in New Zealand, that I discovered even greater freedom. All temperatures there are in Celsius (as they are in most of the world), and those old formulas were just too clumsy. So I amused myself by developing a much handier formula that was just fine for my purposes. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, October 30, 2004 at 9:33 pm | 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 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:
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, October 29, 2004 at 3:09 pm | Edit
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I do all my blog work in Firefox, and my secondary browser of choice is Netscape, so I didn't realize the site is fouled up in Internet Explorer until a couple of kindly readers complained. I apologize to all of you IE users, and will try to figure out which of my changes could have made such a mess.
Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, October 27, 2004 at 11:16 pm | Edit
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We're watching the lunar eclipse. The first time I saw that beautiful phenomenon, my father awakened me in the early hours of the morning, and we drove to a place where we could see the moon well. I was cold and sleepy. But it was worth it: to see the moon, and to have that special time with my dad.

Tonight we have it easy. We step out of our front door into the warm Florida night, and there is the disappearing moon, clear and lovely and perfectly framed. It reminds me of watching space shuttle launches, which we also see from our front yard. Except that this time I have no lingering fears that the beauty will splinter and fall as I watch.
Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, October 27, 2004 at 9:39 pm | Edit
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Once upon a time, I thought it would be good to learn HTML and how to create a web page. What does a computer specialist-turned-homemaker, who has been out of the job market for 25 years, do when she begins to think about earning money again? What field has changed more in the past quarter century than computing? My knowledge of punched cards, JCL, and PDP-12 assembly language might qualify me as a docent in a History of Computing exhibit of the Smithsonian Institution, but no more. But web pages, now, and HTML: that would be fun to learn, and certainly there's a market for that. Or maybe not. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, October 27, 2004 at 4:38 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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Being originally a New Englander, Porter has been a Boston Red Sox fan since before he learned that those things he put on under his shoes were actually spelled s-o-c-k-s. He loves the team so much that he usually refuses to watch them play. (We lived near Boston for nearly two years, and never went to Fenway Park.) Demonstrating that paganism can still lurk in the deep recesses of a Christian's life, he is (or pretends to be) superstitious enough to believe he can jinx them just by watching. And I must admit that the anecdotal evidence is pretty strong. He has the opposite effect on the Yankees, too. During the first round of the playoffs this year, he watched seven seconds of a Yankees-Twins game, with Minnesota well aheadójust in time to see Rubin Sierra hit a three-run homer to tie the game, which the Yankees went on to win. Chastened, he watched not one second of the Boston-New York playoffs. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, October 23, 2004 at 6:26 pm | Edit
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I've added a statistics section for the blog (thanks, Jon!). It's not as accurate as I would like, as apparently it only considers a post read if you've clicked to it directly: clicking on "more," "comments," "permalink," or one of the direct article or comment links on the sidebar, or coming from a search enginge -- anything that gets you to the article itself. For some reason, the computer can't tell if your eyes are scanning an article on one of the pages that shows you several at one time. :)

Thus articles that can be read completely from the main page are underrepresented in the count. But I still think the statistics will be interesting. Another useful thing is being able to tell how many visitors are online. So when I see that it's only one (that would be me), I know I can experiment with the format without driving someone else crazy.
Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, October 23, 2004 at 8:41 am | 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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Category Health: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Children & Family Issues: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Random Musings: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] 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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With the nonchalance of season passholders, we spent the day at EPCOT’s International Food and Wine Festival. The park was not crowded by their standards, but it was by ours; we prefer to go when time spent waiting in line is minimal. Today, however, we found ourselves in line again, and again, and again…each time at a small booth with a long queue, that featured a different country’s food and drink. Portions were appetizer-sized, and prices were Disney-sized, but the idea was great. If the portions had been any larger, we wouldn’t have been able to enjoy so many tastes. It helps to have a partner in this situation: you wait in this line, I’ll wait in that one, then we’ll meet and share the food. It was a strategy that worked well.

Waiting in line was a social event, too. Floridians seem to have made an easy transition from exchanging hurricane preparation tips while in line at Home Depot, to exchanging food recommendations while waiting at EPCOT. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, October 16, 2004 at 8:55 pm | Edit
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