On June 8, 2023, we were in Gdansk, Poland. It was just for a day, and Gdansk was not for the most part a particularly pleasant city to visit. Poland has had more of a struggle than, say, East Germany in the aftermath of winning its freedom back in the 1980's, and Gdansk is far less clean and modern than the former East Berlin.

However, Gdansk was as moving and as inspiring as Berlin, where we had touched remnants of the Berlin Wall and stood at the site of Checkpoint Charlie. Arguably, Poland led the revival that liberated Eastern Europe, and it was an awesome experience to see the Gdansk shipyard where the Solidarity Movement had its beginnings.

An unexpected additional blessing was that we were in Gdansk for the Feast of Corpus Christi, and we were vividly reminded that in Poland during the Soviet era, the Catholic Church resisted the assaults on Christianity more successfully than in most other Eastern European countries, and that the Church's leadership and courage was a major factor in their liberation.

It came as a complete surprise to us, walking around the city, suddenly to find ourselves in the middle of their Corpus Christi Day procession, and what a moving experience that was. Even with all the tourists (like us) milling around and taking pictures. (I was not so moved as not to notice the very clever sound system, with speakers strategically placed throughout the procession to keep everyone together. I've been in too many much, much smaller Palm Sunday services, in which the tail of the procession gets hopelessly and painfully out of sync with the head, not to appreciate this innovation.)

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, May 30, 2024 at 6:00 am | Edit
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I have nothing to improve on the Memorial Day posts I have made in the past, except this thought that has been on my mind lately.

Perhaps the best way we can honor those who stood bravely "between their lov'd home and the war's desolation" is to stop taking for granted the freedom they gave their lives to protect. Let's not defile their sacrifices by treating lightly the present-day assaults on our sacred liberty and Constitutional rights, but work to preserve what was gained at so great a cost. 

Oh! thus be it ever, when free men shall stand
Between their loved home and the war's desolation!
Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the heav'n-rescued land
Praise the Pow'r that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, May 27, 2024 at 9:03 pm | Edit
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We travelled to Bethesda, Maryland recently for my nephew's wedding. We originally booked our flights with Spirit Airlines, but they kept changing our outgoing flight time until it no longer worked for us, so we cancelled that and went with Southwest. That turned out to work well, making it easy to meet two of our granddaughters at the BWI airport. Our return flight, which wasn't so time-critical, we kept with Spirit.

We had several hours to wait for the girls' flight, but BWI is a nice airport for waiting, even though they could do better when it comes to convenient charging outlets. After we were all together, we picked up our rental car from Avis—and experienced our first culture shock. They gave us an electric car! That added a lot of unnecessary stress to the weekend, but I'll save my ranting on that point for later.

Our hotel, a Hyatt, was very nice, if you discount the fact that the parking lot had zero working charging stations for electric cars.

Of course one of the best things about attending a wedding is getting together with family and friends—so much happier than the other major occasion for which far-flung relatives gather. One of the highlights for us happened the first day, when we encountered one of the groom's college roommates, who was wearing this shirt:

You don't run into fans of Jelle's Marble Runs every day, and finding each other was a thrill for all of us. 

The mother of the groom generously provided loaves of her famous pumpkin bread; when the TSA has made you leave behind your knife, you do what you have to do. (The card was washable.)

It was an evening wedding, so on Saturday we did this and that and tried to rest up for the upcoming long night. Some family members were ambitious enough to pay a visit to the National Mall, but the girls weren't excited about the idea and that was okay with us. We did get together at an historic diner for lunch.

The wedding itself was beautiful. Personally, I prefer church weddings, with Prayer Book liturgy and vows, and hymn singing. But it wasn't my wedding, and an outdoor ceremony in a beautiful park with vows written by the bride and groom and music I'd never heard before still managed to bring tears to my eyes. Before the ceremony was over, a light shower combined with chilly temperatures had several of us shivering, but every marriage will have its difficult places. If you don't let them get you down, you might get a double rainbow on the other side, like this one that blessed the reception.

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, May 24, 2024 at 6:05 pm | Edit
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I suspect something is wrong with our food, as well as our habits of living.

Reading my father's journals from 1959 to 1970, I noticed in particular something about our eating habits: we ate dessert three times a day. We had lunch dessert, dinner dessert, and bedtime dessert. I remember trying hard to convince my parents that we should logically have breakfast dessert as well, but was overruled. Probably because breakfast in those days was all too often sweet enough to be dessert in itself. True, we didn't have pre-sweetened cereal, but we had sugar in a bowl on the table....

And yet we were not overweight, much less obese. Not thin, but a healthy weight. Moreover, not one of us ever worked out at a gym or had any kind of regular exercise program. Ordinary living kept us in decent shape. My father was an engineer with a desk job; my mother a homemaker.

What made the difference? I can only guess.

I'm convinced that our food was both healthier and tastier. After all, I am older than McDonald's. Milk from a local dairy was delivered in glass bottles to our front porch; it was pasteurized, but not homogenized. Meat came from local butchers; I liked it best from the Jewish butcher, because then I was allowed to nibble on the raw ground beef, as we knew it had not been in contact with any pork products. (Pork was an exception to "food was healthier back then"; trichinosis was still a big problem, caused by pigs being fed raw pork, or so I was told.)

We didn't have farmers' markets back then; what we had instead was nearby farms that sold some of their produce at stands along the road. Their fruits and vegetables were only available in season, but they sure were fresh, and clearly superior to what the grocery stores sold. Our food didn't have nearly the variety we have today, but it was enough, and it was good. There's a blessing in being able to have access to food flown in from halfway across the world, and ethnic restaurants on every corner, but overall, thanks to agricultural mass production, it doesn't have the flavor it once had.

Consciously or unconsciously, we undoubtedly eat more quantity in an effort to make up for lost quality.

The other big difference that I remember in our food is portion size. At home, we always had plenty to eat, but common sense, both nutritionally and financially, kept the portions quite a bit smaller than is common today, even at home. And restaurant portions are ridiculous now! When I was growing up, restaurant meals were very rare occasions, and fast food almost non-existent. Even in restaurants the portions were much smaller than today. I had my first McDonald's hamburger during college; it cost 23 cents and, if memory serves, was half the size of a quarter-pounder today.

One thing we didn't do much of was snacking. Except for a small bit of milk-and-cookies after school, which was primarily valuable for the debriefing/decompressing time spent in the kitchen while my mother prepared dinner, eating between meals was considered unnecessary and even unhealthy.

Did I mention that we mostly ate at home? The food itself was largely home-prepared.  Store-bought cookies, box cake mixes, pre-prepared salads, frozen meals—all either non-existent or considered far inferior to homemade. (Exception: Girl Scout cookies.)  [Update:  Thanks to Porter for catching my egregious misstatement, as I had orginally written "superior"! Not, I assure you, a Freudian slip.]

Then there was exercise. If there were fitness establishments, I never saw one. Gym class in school was for fun, not fitness: tumbling, marching, and playing games (including dodge ball) where winning was not of primary importance. There were no formal team sports that I remember before high school, though pick-up games of all sorts were common in our neighborhood, which abounded with playmates of all ages. Winter or summer, we were outside and active. Avid bookworm that I was, I still spent much of my spare time outside, either playing with my friends or wandering the fields and woods near our house. As I said, my father had a sedentary job, but walked for transport when he could (sometimes wearing snowshoes in the winter), played games in the yard with us and the neighborhood kids who congregated in our yard, and—though not as often as he would have liked—took us hiking in his beloved Adirondack mountains. There was also a good place to swim that was only an eight-minute drive from home, so you can bet that in those days without air conditioning swimming was a frequent summertime activity. Plus, he and my mother (occasionally helped by us kids), spent a lot of time gardening. Not farming, just ordinary suburban gardening, but everything was done by hand. Sawing wood, digging holes, planting bushes, roses, flowers, and even the occasionable vegetables, though the latter were much more efficiently obtained directly from the farms. Then there was mowing the lawn: keep in mind that this is what our lawn mower looked like:

I don't mean to imply that our situation was ideal. We were in a time of transition, and definitely headed in an unhealthy direction, but we were not all the way there yet when I was young. Both society at large, and the medical profession in particular, had already given up on breastfeeding and thought bottle-feeding with a concoction of sterilized water, evaporated milk, and corn syrup was the superior way to go. Someone with more financial sense than taste buds then introduced our generation to the instant orange-flavored drink known as Tang, and as a teenager I downed Carnation Instant Breakfast before going off to school. Unbelievably, these abominations still exist today.

But for a while, in my childhood, we ate nutritious foods full of natural natural flavors, and spent a lot of active time outdoors (without sunscreen). We even survived having regular bedtime dessert.

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, May 21, 2024 at 4:09 pm | Edit
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I am brazenly stealing Heather's post; I can't say it better.

This is the day the doctors consider the transplant to be successful. 

This doesn't mean that she's not still at risk for a bunch of things. But it does mean that Faith's cells are firmly established in her system and doing their job!

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, May 18, 2024 at 8:08 am | Edit
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I couldn't resist posting this Future Proof video, because my husband is obsessed with flavored sparkling water, and our grandchildren love it, too—probably because they're allowed to drink more of it than they are allowed soda. Special note to said husband: check out this guy's favorite brand (9:17).

(14 minutes on normal speed, mild language warning. I am, by the way, really annoyed by the objectionable language that finds its way into so many YouTube videos. It would probably be easier to note when there isn't bad language. Good ol' YouTube, for whom "free speech" means you can swear to your heart's content as long as you refrain from expressing unfashionable opinions.

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, May 18, 2024 at 6:39 am | Edit
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The long-anticipated Day +100 is rapidly approaching, but Grace managed to make it more exciting by picking up her first post-transplant cold. Turns out it is just a simple cold, but in her situation a runny nose and mild fever sent her on her first unscheduled return to the hospital post-transplant. There are so many things more serious than a cold that they have to check for, and they need to observe her closely to make sure her body is handling the challenge well.

I worried that she might fear the prison doors were closing around her again, but she took it well, and was very happy to beat her dad in Chutes and Ladders twice in a row. (Does anyone besides me remember that the game was once called Snakes and Ladders?)

Here's the short story version from Heather:

Overall, things have been going well, Grace's numbers coming back satisfactorily.

But then she got a cold. Just runny nose and sneezing. But after her nap, she had a mild fever. Boston wanted us to take her to Dartmouth, but Dartmouth said that if her fever went up, they'd be transferring her to Boston. So Jon decided to take her straight to Boston. (That was Tuesday night.)

They did a plethora of tests and the only positive was rhinovirus. But they wanted to keep an eye out on her for at least 24 hours, so they admitted her. She did get blood overnight, but everything else is looking good. Jon is hoping to come home tomorrow afternoon. She did some painting and lots of games with Daddy. He went over to the Dana Farber resource room to get her more books, since I had only packed her a few.

This is a really short version to get the word out and still get myself to bed relatively on time. Please keep up the prayers. Day +100 is just around the corner, and Jon discussed with the doctors the weaning process for the immunosuppressant drug.

I'm so very thankful that our family has not had any sickness from the time we had COVID at Christmas until now. Please pray that general trend continues and we keep sickness (and hospital visits) away.

Here's a really cool thing about the timing: Our nephew's wife (niece-in-law?), the one who's a pediatrician at Boston Children's, happened to be on duty in the Emergency Room Tuesday night!

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, May 15, 2024 at 9:16 pm | Edit
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Before Canada's Freedom Convoy, which catapulted his vlog into fame, if not fortune, my favorite Canadian lawyer, David Freiheit, was a mild-mannered YouTuber who expounded on legal issues in a funny and understandable way. Today this flashback to 2019 showed up, and I offer it to you, in case you want to vicariously experience some really exciting zip lines, and learn about liability waivers in the process.

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, May 14, 2024 at 4:24 pm | Edit
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The U.S. News & World Report has come out with another ranking, this time of U.S. states, based on factors such as education, economy, public infrastructure, safety and the environment. I don't usually care much for such lists, based as they often are on factors opposite to what I would like (e.g. "family-friendly" countries being those with free daycare, instead of economies that allow families to live on one income). Sometimes they might even be outright harmful, which this one could be considered.

Why? Because New Hampshire is ranked #2, and Florida #9. What's more, Florida ranks #1 in the categories of Education and Economy. (New Hampshire is #1 in Crime, i.e. lack thereof.)

That's a good thing, you say? Well, yes and no. But neither New Hampshire nor Florida needs some magazine to tell us we have it good. We know that, and I'm not at all sure we should want to let those from other states in on the secret. I used to argue with the many people who say, "I could never live in Florida; it's too hot and too buggy; there are hurricanes and alligators." Now I don't bother. We love to have people visit—tourism is a big part of our economy—but we don't need any more permanent residents. You voted for the policies that made your state unliveable; don't come here and mess up ours. As the New Hampshire bumper sticker says, "Welcome to New Hampshire; Don't Mass it up."

(In case you're curious, the #1 state overall is Utah.)

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, May 13, 2024 at 6:30 pm | Edit
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I was wondering how I'd get a post out today, in which there is no time for actual writing. Then my grandson handed me this on a platter, which he dubbed, "The real reason I decided not to go to college." (This from one of the most learning-obsessed people I know.) Porter, you will love what he says about Economics.

Also, this is for all of my fellow Gilbert & Sullivan enthusiasts.

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, May 9, 2024 at 5:32 pm | Edit
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This story from my father's journals shows that air travel technology may have changed a lot in the past 50 years, but travel delays are much the same. What I find most interesting was the complete lack of airport security, not even checking the passengers' tickets for boarding, and thus not realizing that they were trying to board more passengers than there were seats on the plane. Also that there was another plane, with crew, available to accommodate the supererogatory passengers.

June 30, 1967, complete with foreshadowing. He was travelling from Philadelphia to Albany, New York.

This morning as I left for work it was raining hard, and at the time looked as though I could have trouble flying home tonight, if there were no change in the weather. The rain stopped sometime during the morning, however, and by the time I caught a taxi to the airport about 6:30 this evening, the weather posed no problem. I walked to the 30th Street station to get the cab because it was not obvious I would get one in front of the GE building. Traffic was quite heavy as we started out toward the airport, but was not really bad as we neared the airport. Apparently most of the traffic was made up of people heading for the beach.

The airport terminal was crowded, however, and I had a 5 or 10 minute wait before I could get a seat in the coffee shop and a much longer wait before I got my dinner. The coffee shop at the Philadelphia Airport is not the place to go for a quick meal. I had plenty of time, however, as my plane did not leave until 8:20.

My flight to Kennedy Airport was on National Airlines, and was uneventful, although the plane was full. But at Kennedy I saw the biggest crowd I have ever seen around an airport. I chose to walk to the Mohawk counter, which is in the building diametrically opposite the National terminal, and I found the roads, and many of the parking lots, filled to overflowing. The traffic was bumper to bumper and crawling on most of the roads, and the parking lots near the National terminal were not only jammed, but overflowing, with cars parked on sidewalks, and double-parked in ways that blocked other cars from getting out. Things were not quite so bad near the Mohawk-Eastern building, but were still quite crowded. A good percentage of the crowd were servicemen—showing without a doubt the influence of the Vietnam war.

At the Mohawk counter I was informed that because of a radar failure at Kennedy, my Mohawk flight would leave from LaGuardia and I should go to Gate 1 or 2 at 10:15 where a bus would take me to LaGuardia. So I called Lynn and told her the story and suggested that she call Mohawk before she went to the airport to meet me. It was obvious that we would be quite late.

The bus for LaGuardia was boarded, not at 10:15, but at 10:45, and after wending its way by devious routes, it arrived at LaGuardia and we were deposited at the Mohawk terminal with no indication of what to do next. Before long, however, an announcement said that our flight was boarding at Gate 25. What it meant was that it would eventually board at Gate 25.

After some delay, we boarded the plane with absolutely no checking of our tickets. As the plane became more and more crowded, the stewardess asked people to move forward and sit down, and she was greeted with the news that there were no more seats. Eventually, the plane was emptied, and all the passengers were loaded in a more orderly fashion on two planes. I gather that the problem was that an earlier flight from LaGuardia had been cancelled, and its passengers put on my flight on a standby basis, but somewhere along the line, the stand-by status got lost. Fortunately, there were two planes and crews available.

The upshot of all this activity (or, at times, inactivity) was that I arrived at the Albany Airport at 1:30 a.m.

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, May 6, 2024 at 10:30 am | Edit
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You like Pirates of the Caribbean? You especially like the music? I think you'll enjoy this 13-minute story of the soundtrack.

Having shared that, I can't resist reprising my personal favorite version of the Pirates themes. For all of our Grace fans, this is her primary support group; Grace is in the backpack, contributing to the percussion by dropping a French horn mouthpiece, twice. (Summer 2023)

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, May 3, 2024 at 8:34 am | Edit
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