There are a number of people—I certainly am one of them—who strenuously object to being unwilling medical guinea pigs in the matter of the COVID-19 vaccines.

I'm all for medical research, worked as part of a medical research team, and have been a willing human guinea pig in a few experiments myself. This work, when done carefully, knowledgeably, and ethically, is an essential part of scientific and medical advancement. But the ethically part is essential, and I don't think it's ethical to "enroll" masses of people in experiments for which there cannot possibly be adequate knowledge of the risks, and thus they cannot possibly give "informed consent." Plus, when there is no documented, adequate control group, not to mention that the experimenters have done their best to make sure there cannot be an adequate control group—well, then you've lost good science as well as ethics.

You're thinking I'm talking about the COVID-19 vaccines here, and I am—but that's not all. I don't know how many times we've been unknowingly subjected to these unethical experiments, but I do know that it has happened at least two other times in my lifetime.

Aspirin used to be the standard, go-to medication for children, even babies, with fevers or discomfort. I vividly remember the doctor recommending alternating doses of aspirin and acetaminophen when my infant daughter had a stubborn high fever. This was in the early 1980's, and for most people it worked just great. However, there appeared to be a possible correlation between aspirin use in children and young teens, in combination with a viral illness (often chicken pox), and a rare but sometimes fatal condition called Reye Syndrome. We had many doctors among our coworkers, and had no reason not to believe what they told us at the time: The decision to tell doctors and parents to avoid giving aspirin to children was a deliberate, national experiment: They thought aspirin caused Reye's Syndrome in children, but they couldn't prove it, so they hoped that if aspirin use went down dramatically, and so did the incidence of Reye, their point would be made. The disorder did, indeed, retreat significantly, whether through causation or merely correlation is still unknown. The cynic in me insists on pointing out that, whatever the stated reasons for this massive non-laboratory experiment, and whatever good might or might not come of it, one clear result was that a cheap, readily-available, and highly effective drug was massively replaced by one still under patent. The patent for acetaminophen (Tylenol) did not expire until 2007, and Tylenol was still reeling from the 1982 poisoned-Tylenol-capsules scare. Practically overnight, and with timing highly favorable to the pharmaceutical industry, Tylenol became the drug of choice for a large segment of the population.

The next example I remember of such a huge, non-controlled experiment happened in the early 1990's, and was not a drug but a parenting practice: the insistence by the medical profession that all babies never be allowed to sleep on their stomachs. Sleep position recommendations have flip-flopped several times over the years. The professionals never think it safe to leave that decision up to the babies and their parents, they just keep changing what it is that is "the only safe way for a baby to sleep." Personally, I think "whatever helps the baby sleep best" is almost always the right choice. (But I am not a doctor, nor any other medical professional, so make your own choices and don't sue me.)

Early in the 1990's the thought was that back-sleeping might reduce the incidence of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Indeed, there was a decline after the "Back to Sleep" push went into effect, though once again the experiment was unscientific with no significant control group. Certainly there were still parents who put their babies to sleep on their stomachs, but if there was any widespread study of them I never heard of it, and indeed the data was necessarily corrupted because the pressure was so great not to do so that few parents talked openly about it. And doctors, even if they were well aware of the advantages of stomach-sleeping, could not risk mentioning them to their patients. I remember vividly the one young mother who, months later, confessed to the pediatrician that her son had always slept on his stomach. The doctor laughed, saying, "Of course I knew that! Look at how advanced he is, and look at the perfect shape of his head!" But stomach-sleeping is still very much a "don't ask, don't tell" situation.

These massive, uncontrolled, and to my mind unethical experiments on the human population are justified in the minds of many because, after all, they "did their job." Deaths from Reye Syndrome, SIDS, and COVID-19 have all fallen, so who cares how we got there?

Well, I care—and so should anyone who believes in the scientific method, the Hippocratic Oath, and open, honest, and ethical research.

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, October 29, 2022 at 6:09 am | Edit
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No, it's not St. Crispin's Day today. I'm a day behind.  But I can't wait another year to post one of my favorite scenes from one of my favorite movies: The St. Crispin's Day speech from Kenneth Branagh's Henry V.

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, October 26, 2022 at 7:08 am | Edit
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Recently, I caught a brief glimpse of a BritBox show about Robin Hood. I don't even know the name of the series. But Porter likes to give me puzzles—and I enjoy them tremendously—so he called me in to ask me if I recognized a certain character. You see, before I knew what face blindness was, I used to be amazed by how he and our children could recognize an actor from one movie to another. Although I'm lousy at recognizing faces, I now know that I'm very good with voices, which is a compensatory strategy often used by the face blind. Consequently, I win at his game more often than not.

This puzzle could have been particularly difficult, because the movie was quite old, and the actor much younger than I had ever seen him before. But the voice—it didn't take more than a line or two of dialogue for me to recognize Inspector Japp (Philip Jackson) from the popular Poirot series.

None of that is the point of this post, however.

In those few lines of dialogue, one character remarked that it doesn't seem fair that there are so many devils and only one God. That is, I've discovered, a very common heresy: that somehow Satan is an equal being, opposite to God. But devils are merely angels in rebellion—if I may be forgiven for using "mere" to describe such terrifying beings. As C. S. Lewis said in his introduction to The Screwtape Letters, "Satan, the leader or dictator of devils, is the opposite, not of God, but of [the archangel] Michael."

Once one is aware of this error, it's surprising to see how often it appears.

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, October 24, 2022 at 8:10 am | Edit
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Who says vegetables have no feelings? That's a hug if I ever saw one.

I thought "caduceus," but Siamese twins is another possiblity. All body parts were intact; unfortunately, I was unable to separate them without damage.

Heartless omnivore that I am, after my unsuccessful surgery, I ate them.

They were delicious.

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, October 18, 2022 at 6:57 am | Edit
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A long time ago, in a Presbyterian church far, far away....

One Sunday, when our family was working the sound booth, the pastor was expounding on the beliefs of John Calvin and of Charles Hodge. Our young children, safely hidden from congregational eyes, were sprawled out of sight, half dozing, as they awaited the end of the sermon.

But they weren't sleeping, as evidence by they rapidity with which they shot up, eyes wide open, when the pastor raised his voice in the triumphant proclamation,

I stand with Calvin and Hodge!

Suddenly the sermon, and their pastor, had become a lot more interesting.

I found it odd that the congregation did not laugh. Maybe, because they were familiar with Charles Hodge, they were less susceptible to mis-hearing the name.

At the beginning of the Gospel reading in church last Sunday, the congregation didn't laugh either. But I know that I heard what I heard, because Porter did, too, and laughed along with me. Quietly—I like to think subtly—but we did laugh. Wouldn't you if this were the image that came into your mind?

The reader really did put an extra "D" in Luke 17:12.

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, October 15, 2022 at 6:28 am | Edit
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Happy Columbus Day!

In my heart, Columbus Day is always October 12, no matter what the calendar says. It's a better day, anyway, because we get mail today, and we didn't Monday.

If you don't think Columbus Day is worth celebrating, feel free to have a miserable day. Or not. Your choice.

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, October 12, 2022 at 1:15 pm | Edit
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The idea that those who criticize Fauci are inherently on the right is insane and really makes the left look like a bunch of baboons, frankly, and you know, we're not—not all of us.

I think both left and right can smile at that. It is one of my favorite quotes in this excerpt from DarkHorse Podcast #143, though it's just one small part. The larger topic is the capture of our most venerable institutions, such as journalism, academia, and science, by ... Something. Bret and Heather don't have a name for it, but find it has become too obvious to be ignored. They leave out government, but maybe that goes without saying.  (20 minutes)

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, October 11, 2022 at 8:36 am | Edit
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Something unusual happened in our water aerobics class.

I had fun. I had fun participating in something resembling a sport.

So what? Well, here's the big deal: I don't think that has happened since elementary school.

I loved physical activity back then. Sports, even. Soccer, kickball, dodge ball, volley ball, gymnastics, trampoline. I even enjoyed the since-much-maligned Presidents Physical Fitness test. I was one of the best in school at swarming up a rope to the ceiling. After school, the neighborhood kids played active games, usually until dark. I was reasonably strong and fit—most children were, in those days—and loved active play.

What happened? Don't say I got old, or busy, though of course I did both. Don't blame it on phones or computers; this was long before these became part of my life.

Physical activity changed. Sports changed. Most people adapted; I didn't.

Back in my day, soccer wasn't the organized sport it is today for even the youngest. We had goals, we had a ball, we had a few basic rules (e.g. "no hands"), and we had a gaggle of kids roughly organized into two "teams." What we did, what I loved, was to run madly up and down the field, trying to kick the ball into the goal. Except for goalie, there were no assigned positions; it was literally a free-for-all. No one today would deign to call it soccer. But it sure was fun.

Volleyball was similar. Again, we had two teams—their composition always changing—a net, a ball, and a few basic rules. But no assigned positions. Serving, but little setting. Just a madcap "let's hit the ball over the net." And I loved it.

For many other people, the eventual organization of sports, honing of skills, multiplication of rules and tactics, and emphasis on competition made the games more fun. The rest of us, I guess, simply dropped out, to the detriment of both our physical and our mental health.

Which is why I was so excited when our instructor suddenly decided that Thursdays would be play days. She gave us small beach balls, and paddles, and organized us very loosely in games of no recognizable sport, but which—in groups, in pairs, and individually—challenged us to use our muscles in ways we hadn't used in a long time: reaching, jumping, running; increasing our strength, agility, and hand-eye coordination—all those things that sports are good for.

Perhaps best of all, when we played together, we became people to each other, not just a group of individuals gathered for healthful exercise. We looked at each other, we made eye contact, we worked together to make sure everyone was included and benefitting.

I was a kid again.

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, October 8, 2022 at 6:14 am | Edit
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The following is a Dark Horse clip about the significant increase in myopia in children, as reported in this Atlantic article. Bret and Heather have issues with the article, but confirm the myopia problem and have their own theories about it. And, at the end, about orthodontia. It's 30 minutes long—and there's a section in the middle where they spend maybe too much time on the concept of "heritability"—so if you can stand it, you may want to speed up the playback. But I highly recommend watching the video, particularly to parents who are concerned about their children's eyes and teeth. I guess that would be all parents....

As I've said before, Bret and Heather are not always right, and sometimes dangerously wrong. But they are always interesting, and impressive in their quest for truth and their willingness to follow where it leads them, regardless of the popularity of their opinions.

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, October 5, 2022 at 10:29 am | Edit
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Our internet came back while we were at church this morning. It took much longer to be restored than power did, but I know which one is more important! I was also impressed that it came back without our intervention—we didn't even have to reboot the modem. We weren't suffering, just burning through data by using my phone as a wi-fi hot spot, so it's good to have the house wi-fi back.

Our water supply has been fine throughout, but since the beginning the city has asked residents to cut down on our water use (read: don't flush so much, take short showers, limit laundry), and we're still doing that. We have a wonderful sewage treatment program that produces water that's good for irrigation and washing cars, and it's so popular they still have to limit its use during times of drought. But these are not times of drought, and when the big storage tank is full, it is full, and the overflow goes into the Little Wekiva River. It's perfectly safe—except that the last thing the overflowing Little Wekiva needs is more water.

Here's a video Porter took early this morning, showing both that the flood waters have receded considerably and that they still have a long way to go. To reiterate: this is not our street, but a couple of blocks away.

In between all of the cleanup (which for us is a LOT less than it might have been), we've ventured out a few times: Friday, to Outback for dinner with our neighbors; Saturday morning to church to help clean up the campus (Porter), Saturday afternoon to one of our very favorite museums, the Morse in Winter Park. There we encountered our first evidence of flooding outside of our neighborhood: nothing that hindered our travel, but water was bubbling up through a manhole on one street. Today was a completely normal Sabbath, except that the choir may have spent a little more time than usual exchanging stories.

I've said for a long time—at least since Porter had a job in New Orleans after Hurrican Katrina went through—that you never know what kind of leadership you have until hard times come. It's like insurance: it doesn't matter who your company is, or what kind of policy you have—as long as you don't need to make a claim. I'm very pleased by how our local government and utilities responded in this crisis.

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, October 2, 2022 at 7:07 pm | Edit
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Since COVID isn't so much of a problem in New York City anymore, Mayor Eric Adams and New York City Health & Hospitals CEO Dr. Mitchell Katz have come up with a new way to terrorize those who must be admitted to a Big Apple hospital. At the moment, it's just three facilities: H+H/Lincoln, Metropolitan, and Woodhull Hospitals, but it's feared the contagion may spread.

If you're unfortunate enough to be admitted to one of those hospitals, keep an eye on your dinner plate.

Culturally diverse plant-based meals are now the primary dinner options for inpatients.

Don't panic, NYC residents and visitors. I'm here to reassure you that this problem is not actually new, and there are ways around it.

Back in the mid-1980's, when we moved to Florida, we were warned that our local hospital was run by Seventh-Day Adventists, and consequently meat was never on the menu. The solution, we were told, was to be sure that your doctor provided you with a prescription for meat. I have no idea if making it a prescription increased the cost of meals fifty-fold, or if any insurance plans covered it. But we were assured that the hospital honored the doctors' orders, and the kitchen staff even did a better-than-usual job of preparing the special meals.

Apparently the same work-around will be honored in New York.

 Non-plant-based options continue to be available and are offered in accordance with a patient’s prescribed diet.

Choose your doctor well.

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, October 1, 2022 at 6:38 pm | Edit
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