Once again, Florida is making national headlines, this time because of the mysterious outbreak of serious kidney disease, hemolytic uremic syndrome. Most, although not all, of the sufferers had attended either the Plant City Strawberry Festival or Orlando's Central Florida Fair. What else did they have in common? High on the list of suspects is the petting zoos, and the e. coli bacteria often found in animal feces. This is by no means the only source being considered, but it has been jumped on by the media and parents seeking answers. Panicked parents and teachers have cancelled planned zoo trips, and it's not hard to understand why. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, March 29, 2005 at 1:27 pm | Edit
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Easter Sunday is the most wonderful day of the year! Acknowledgement of this in the "everyday world," however, is so rare that it lifts my spirits to see a few comic strips still honoring the day. (As if my spirits should need lifting on such an occasion!). A few of the comics I surveyed, such as The Wizard of Id, were set in a church without making mention of the reason the characters might be there. Some showed egg hunts and chocolate bunnies. Most made no mention of the day at all. A very few hinted at why this day is different from all other days, including B.C., The Family Circus (I'm sorry I couldn't find a link to the actual comic), and my favorite, Fox Trot(More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, March 27, 2005 at 6:36 am | Edit
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This Christmas, Heather and Jon gave me a collection of contemporary "praise and worship" CD's. This was a welcome gift, not because I like that form of music, but because I don't. Knownig that familiarity with a song often induces fondness, even when the style is one I dislike, I was determined to give this music a chance to grow in my heart. It is so pervasive in churches now that not to be able to worship in its presence is a distinct handicap. Therefore one of this year's Lenten disciplines was to listen daily to my new CD's. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, March 25, 2005 at 8:50 am | Edit
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As part of our constant dialogue on worship and music styles, Jon send me this SheepComics link. I was actually more intrigued by the commentary than the comic, in particular this part:


What I mean is that by and large there really is only one "worship style" and the vast majority of churches consider it a certain kind of meeting that goes like this:


  1. Opening prayer.
  2. Sing music or listen to performed music.
  3. Listen to a speech.
  4. Closing prayer.

I find that interesting because I disagree strongly. It is certainly true of some churches, but I wouldn't say majority—at least it would not characterize most of the churches I've been to. And certainly not what I would consider a more ideal "script" if you want one, which would be simply...

  1. The Word (Scripture and sermon)
  2. The Eucharist
...with prayers and singing liberally interwoven in all parts. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, March 23, 2005 at 4:26 pm | Edit
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Recently we decided it was time to pick the remainder of the grapefruit from our tree, and yesterday I made several batches of juice, knowing we couldn't eat all of the fruit itself before it spoiled. Actually, that's fine with me, as I love grapefruit juice. Not the juice you can buy in the grocery store—although that's tolerable if you get the "not from concentrate" kind—but real, live, non-pasteurized, fresh grapefruit juice. It's unbeatable!

If I'd known how wonderful it would be to have our own tree, I'd have planted more than one when we moved here 20 years ago. This is truly one of Florida's great treasures. And yet if you drive around and look at homes with citrus trees on the property it seems that most people don't appreciate the gift, but let the fruit fall and rot.
Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, March 21, 2005 at 8:38 am | Edit
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I borrowed a cookbook from the library: the Beat That! Cookbook by Ann Hodgeman (Chapters Publishing, Ltd., Vermont, 1995). This is not a book review, nor a recipe review, but a brief comment on a remarkable coincidence. Flipping through the book, I came upong the entry for Sarah's Tomato Sandwiches, which begins with the following note: "Before she embarked on a church career, Sarah Gaede was a caterer. This hors d'oeuvre recipe was one of her most popular." The author lives in Connecticut, but who can doubt that this recipe is from the Sarah Gaede we knew at the Cathedral Church of St. Luke in Orlando?
Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, March 17, 2005 at 11:45 am | Edit
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A friend sent me the following Frazz comic and I was immediately hooked. The setting is an elementary school, and the main characters are Frazz (school janitor and Renaissance Man), Caulfield (a genius who hates school because it bores him; he hangs out with Frazz a lot), Mrs. Olsen (Caulfield's teacher), Mr. Burke (the school's best teacher, and Frazz's best friend), Mr. Spaetzle (the principal), Miss Plainwell (first grade teacher).
I've never been much of a Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. fan, but his short story, Harrison Bergeron, has haunted me since I first read it, long before frustrations with our chidren's schools brought us head to head with its stunning reality. Written in 1961, Vonnegut's warning is yet more accurate and more frightening today. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, March 15, 2005 at 8:44 am | Edit
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On Saturday we went to the Central Florida Fair, old-fashioned fun with rides, a midway, cotton candy, and hundreds of exhibits. I particularly enjoy the 4H and Future Farmers of America presentations. What I like best, perhaps, is that it is SO NOT DISNEY.

alt This year I again visited my favorite fair vendor, Our Vital Earth. I like them because they sell worm condominiums. That's Porter's term for the product, which I like better than the official name, Can-O-Worms. Whatever the appellation, it's a nifty system for dealing with home garbage. The tiered container (shown here expanded) takes up about as much room as a large kitchen garbage can. You put your organic garbage—scraps (except meat and bones), grass clippings, leaves, newspapers, dryer lint, old cotton socks—into one of the three trays (the bottom tier holds liquid) along with the garbage-eating worms. When that tray is full, put another on top; the worms migrate upward as they run out of food. After a while the worms are out of the bottom tray, leaving fine fertilizer behind. Water and worm urine collects in the bottom; the resulting liquid makes a good, natural insecticide as well as fertilizer. (They also say it's good for sunburn, but I don't think I'd try that one.) It's supposed to be a rapid, odorless process, big in Australia, where I'm told the device is often kept in the kitchen. I'd probably opt for the back porch, but the one I saw at the fair would not be out of place in a kitchen. It smelled better than most garbage cans.

We have no affiliation with Our Vital Earth, nor any other Can-O-Worms seller. We don't even own a worm condo; I just think it's a cool idea. And we may get one yet, once I figure out how to keep a straight face when arranging for a worm babysitter when we go on vacation. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, March 14, 2005 at 5:58 pm | Edit
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Recently I discovered Li’l Writer Guy living in my head.

That sentence is enough to make half the readers of this blog think I’m insane, and the other half think I’m possessed. Be that as it may, it’s the best way I know to explain the way I think. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, March 4, 2005 at 10:21 pm | Edit
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So, I know I don't have time to spend posting to the blog, but over lunch I read quite a strange article in today's paper. Here is a link, I hope. (This is my first post to the blog and out of our family I know the least about computers - well, I may know more than Jonathan, but not for long!) Anyway, about the article. It is about devices that a Rochester woman sells to keep belly button holes from closing up when women are pregnant and the ring won't fit anymore (though it took me to the end to actually figure that out). It is interesting how the article is worded as if to sound that this is a need that has no other options. Women speak of this device as life-saving because they don't want to HAVE to be pierced again, and it's so great because it's safer than the do-it-yourself methods. As one bright woman observed: "'I took a piece of string and tied it together like a ring,' she recounts. 'It didn't look professional, and people looked at me funny'." Okay, since when did showing your belly ever look professional?
Posted by harp on Wednesday, March 2, 2005 at 11:23 am | Edit
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American Sign Language to the rescue! In New York, a choking woman dialed 911, but was unable to speak. Her three year old daugher, whom she had taught some basic sign language, conveyed her mother's signed plea for help to the operator. This recent news story illustrates just one of many good reasons for teaching your baby as much ASL as you can manage.

Learning another language and culture is a huge benefit. Not only does it broaden your understanding and appreciation, it also increases your brainpower! It would be best, certainly, to teach your children (and yourself) to the point of fluency in ASL—and in several other languages as well. Even a little is much better than none, however. Children can sign before they can speak, and anyone who has experienced the frustration of not know what a screaming baby wants will appreciate this means of communication. Signing does not slow down speech acquisition, but rather accelerates it. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, March 1, 2005 at 12:00 pm | Edit
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The whole world is now following what once was just a Florida story: the tragedy of Terri Schiavo, the woman who collapsed 15 years ago and suffered severe brain injury due to lack of oxygen to her brain. She continues to survive—it's hard to call this "living"—in a nursing home, breathing on her own, but dependant on a feeding tube. Doctors say she is completely brain dead, her brain has atrophied, and what looks like reaction to stimulus is really only reflexive movement. Terri has no living will nor other end-of-life directive. Her husband insists that she would not wish to linger in this state, and is trying to have her feeding tube removed. Terri's parents, on the other hand, believe there is hope, and are fighting for their daughter's life. I do not presume to be able to judge either Terri's neurological state nor her desires, but wish to emphasize an aspect of this mess that has always seemed of primary importance, but which has been generally ignored. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, February 25, 2005 at 9:10 am | Edit
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In the Presence of My Enemies, by Gracia Burnham with Dean Merrill (Tyndale House, Wheaton, Illinois, 2003)

In May of 2001, Martin and Gracia Burnham took a one-day holiday from their busy work in the Philippines for the New Tribes Mission, celebrating their 28th anniversary at the Dos Palmas Resort in Palawan, a Philippine island province in the South China Sea. Their 29th anniversary would mark a year’s captivity among the Abu Sayyaf, a Filipino Muslim terrorist organization with ties to Osama bin Laden. They would not reach their 30th anniversary. Kidnapped from their beds along with several other people at Dos Palmas, the Burnhams were held for ransom under horrific conditions until a less-than-successful rescue attempt by the Filipino army on June 7, 2002. Gracia, wounded, was the only hostage to survive the rescue. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, February 24, 2005 at 12:52 pm | Edit
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It's not news that tea (Camellia sinensis) can be good for our health, offering benefits related to heart disease, cancer, stroke, rheumatoid arthritis, dental health, and even weight loss. However, good things in excess do not always remain good, as in the case of the woman who drank one to two gallons of double-strength iced tea per day. Tea contains naturally elevated levels of fluoride, which is part of its contribution to good dental health. Too much fluoride in the diet can cause skeletal fluorosis, a painful condition in which bones become both more dense and more brittle. Researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis tested regular strength preparations, in fluoride-free water, of several commercially available instant teas. Fluoride concentrations ranged from 1.0 to 6.5 parts per million. The maximum level allowed in drinking water is 4 ppm (Environmental Protection Agency), in bottled water and beverages the limit is 2.4 ppm (U. S. Food and Drug Administration), and the U.S. Public Health Service recommends a concentration in drinking water of no more than 1.2 ppm. Brewed and bottled teas were not included in this study.
Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, February 23, 2005 at 11:13 am | Edit
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The Virus and the Vaccine: The True Story of a Cancer-Causing Monkey Virus, Contaminated Polio Vaccine, and the Millions of Americans Exposed, by Debbie Bookchin & Jim Schumacher (St. Martin’s Press, New York, 2004)

Let me state at the outset that I am in favor of vaccinations. I’m very grateful to all those folks whose work has given us some measure of victory over so many horrible diseases. (And to the animals involved, whose sacrifices are usually even greater.) That said, it needs to be more clear that those little jabs to which we subject ourselves, our babies, and our soldiers, are neither miracle nor magic. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, February 22, 2005 at 7:30 am | Edit
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