I hope this Weather Underground data is inaccurate!  Are there any readers from the Downingtown, Pennsylvania area who can confirm or deny this reading?
Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, June 27, 2007 at 11:01 am | Edit
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We ventured further last weekend, driving to Clermont and the General James. A. Van Fleet State Trail.  Porter was all for doing the whole 30 miles from one end to the other, but I voted for going in stages.  This time we biked about a third of the way, 19+ miles, from the Mabel Trailhead to the Bay Lake Trailhead and back.

The Van Fleet Trail is straight and flat, and apparently popular with those who want to race and time their biking, so it is well marked in miles and tenths, much more reliably than any other trail we've been on.  Thus I was able to check the calibration of my odometer, and was pleased that it appears to be off by less than half a percent.

This is one of Florida's most rural trails, and thus a pleasant ride.  We were not there at the best time of day to see wildlife, but the sights did get better after the dead rat in the parking lot.  A rabbit bounded across the trail in front of us, we saw a few tortoises, and heard innumerable birds.
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, June 26, 2007 at 10:15 am | Edit
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That's the subtitle of a Wired article by Edward Tufte.  My brother sent me the link.  I prefer to believe he didn't know I was in the middle of working on a PowerPoint presentation of pictures from our recent trip to Europe.

Tufte is not speaking primarily about education, but he makes this perceptive observation: 

Particularly disturbing is the adoption of the PowerPoint cognitive style in our schools. Rather than learning to write a report using sentences, children are being taught how to formulate client pitches and infomercials. Elementary school PowerPoint exercises (as seen in teacher guides and in student work posted on the Internet) typically consist of 10 to 20 words and a piece of clip art on each slide in a presentation of three to six slides -a total of perhaps 80 words (15 seconds of silent reading) for a week of work. Students would be better off if the schools simply closed down on those days and everyone went to the Exploratorium or wrote an illustrated essay explaining something.

PowerPoint isn't really the villain here, however. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, June 25, 2007 at 2:27 pm | Edit
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One of our nephews is a Boy Scout.

My father was for many years a Boy Scout leader, so when I joined the Girl Scouts I was mightily disappointed that we did so little of the camping, hiking, mountain climbing, knot-tying, fire-building, and survival skills work he did with his boys.  Thanks to some amazing (and somewhat rebellious) leaders and dedicated parents, we still had a good time, but the national program left me less than impressed. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, June 25, 2007 at 8:41 am | Edit
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We were exhausted after our return from Switzerland, and our trip was a lot shorter and easier than Janet's will be, so I'm sure she'll appreciate your prayers.  She has four flights, ground transportation between two airports in New York, long wait times, and about 24 hours of travel—if all goes well—to look forward to.  Good thing she's younger than we are.  :)

It sure will be good to see her!
Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, June 25, 2007 at 7:06 am | Edit
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Last year's small garden yielded only half a dozen tomatoes, some chives, and a good supply of basil, largely because it got no water during a critical dry spell when we were attending to a much more important affair:  Noah's birth.

This year we were late in planting, but have already eaten better with promise of more to come. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, June 24, 2007 at 9:45 pm | Edit
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The May 21, 2007 issue of Computerworld has an interview with Amory B. Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute.  Talk about RETHINKING—who would have thought industry had a good use for slush?  (

You advocate using, of all things, slush to cool data centers. Can you explain that? We recently did a design for a high-tech facility in a temperate climate that was originally going to have over 20,000 tons of chillers, and by the time we got through, the number was zero.

We found we could meet about 70% of the load with the coolness or dryness of the outside air using either air-side or water-side economizers, depending on the time of year. The rest [came from] a mountain of slush sprayed out of snow-making machines into a hole in the ground on a few cold nights and used to provide 32-degree Fahrenheit meltwater all year.

Twenty thousand tons of chillers originally planned; zero used.  They use snow-making machines to generate the slush; perhaps the next step should be finding a way to use the mountains of snow urban areas are always struggling to dispose of in the winter.
Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, June 23, 2007 at 4:53 pm | Edit
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The July issue of Reader's Digest has an advice column called "Ask Laskas."  Here is the first question:

Q,  It was my idea to have a family reunion, and I called my younger sister.  She loved the idea and then, without consulting me, ran with it.  The next thing I knew, the party was planned down to the napkins.  I asked why she didn't include me.   She said if I don't like it, I don't have to come.  I'm fuming.  Should I stay away or go?

A. Oh, go and have a good time, secure in the knowledge that you had a great idea.  Getting credit is nice, but a united family is worth a little swallowed pride.  The next time you have a brainstorm, however, think twice before you share it with Sis, who seems to be suffering from younger sibling syndrome.

Huh?  My younger sister knows that if a family get-together is going to happen, she's probably going to have to organize it—and the rest of us are exceedingly grateful when she does.  This lady has a good idea and then is upset when someone else does all the work?  Whatever "younger sibling syndrome" is, I'm glad my sister has it!
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, June 22, 2007 at 6:24 pm | Edit
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Each family has its own Thanksgiving traditions.  Friendly swordfighting is part of ours.  Here Noah and Jonathan demonstrate their eagerness to carry on the custom.

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, June 21, 2007 at 10:30 am | Edit
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Every once in a while the Orlando Sentinel publishes a comics survey, in which they ask readers to rate the comics they read and suggest new ones for the paper to run.  Not a bad idea.  I've been considering revamping the Morning Coffee section of my Sursum Corda home page.  Since I know that several of you visit it regularly, it seems only fair to get your input.  In fact, one person already suggested a new comic—which was the inspiration for this post.

So...what do you like?  Not like?  Do you use any of the other links on the page besides the comics?  What else would you like to see?

Thanks, all!
Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, June 20, 2007 at 8:48 am | Edit
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Round Ireland with a Fridge, by Tony Hawks (St. Martin's Press, New York, 2000)

This is Janet's book, given to her by a friend when she graduated from college.  I try to treat other people's books with greater respect than I do my own—and that's saying a lot.  Nevertheless, I must confess the damage done to Round Ireland with a Fridge when I spewed a fresh mouthful of iced tea all over one of its pages.  It's the kind of book where one loses control of the laugh reflex. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, June 19, 2007 at 7:20 pm | Edit
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Yesterday we thought we'd do a few short stretches of trail to cover the northernmost portions of the Cross-Seminole Trail and the Seminole Wekiva Trail.  We thought it would be shorter than it turned out to be, and before we were done I was regretting not having been more generous with the sunblock, but we managed to avoid sunburn anyway, despite the unshaded nature of much of our ride.

We parked at St. Peter's Church, which is located adjacent to the trail and provides a convenient rest area with tables, bike parking, and potable water for weary travellers (a generous interpretation of Matthew 10:42).  We headed north briefly, soon coming to the end of the line and turning around through a cemetery. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, June 17, 2007 at 12:02 pm | Edit
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I'm mailing a package to France, and as always it amused me to check out the "prohibited" list.  You are not allowed to send any of the following:

Arms, ammunition. Cigarette lighters using butane gas. Feeding bottles. Funeral urns. Goods bearing false marks of French manufacture or origin. Imitation pearls containing lead salts and any articles of jewelry made with pearls of this type. Measuring instruments marked in units not complying with French law. Perishable infectious biological substances except as noted in Restrictions below. Perishable noninfectious biological substances except as noted under Restriction below. Radioactive materials. Saccharine in tablets or packets. Live plants and animals. Arms and weapons. Human remains.

Okay, so much of that makes sense.  But feeding bottles?  If I didn't know better, I'd say that France must be extremely pro-breastfeeding.  Measuring instruments marked in units not complying with French law?  Maybe they take their metric system very seriously.  Saccharine in tablets or packets?  Quart jars are okay then?  Interesting to have baby bottles, rulers, and sweeteners in the same category as ammunition and radioactive materials!
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, June 15, 2007 at 4:14 pm | Edit
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In honor of Flag Day, I give a salute not only to our own flag, but also to those of our ancestors (so far discovered).


These aren't entirely accurate, as they represent modern countries that did not exist when our ancestors came here (e.g. Germany), but it's a good general picture.  Also, some of the flags represent countries that were separate but are now joined.
Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, June 14, 2007 at 8:52 am | Edit
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If I'd known how big a project book cataloguing would be, I'm not sure I would have had the courage to start, but now that it's done, I'm quite pleased with it.  There's a link to it here, and on the sidebar, and on the Sursum Corda home page.  I'm not yet ready to leave it open to any and all web crawlers, so there's a small amount of security associated with it.  Family members can get in the same way you access the Family News page.  If you're a friend who happens to want to browse in this library, please e-mail me, and I'll be happy to open the door to you.

C. S. Lewis once quipped that the only books we will have in heaven will be ones we gave away or lent on earth. This is a lending library; if you see something you'd like to read that's not in your own public library, please ask(More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, June 13, 2007 at 7:30 pm | Edit
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