Here's the latest Daley update, complete with pictures.

The Reader's Digest version:

  • Grace and Jon are still at Boston Children's, so she can be observed while awaiting the test results.
  • The bone marrow aspiration went better than last time and they got all the marrow they need for their tests (but results will come later).
  • Grace's esophagus looks fine.
  • Her colon is quite inflamed, which the doctors are sure is causing her GI symptoms. They have no idea why, but are hoping for enlightenment when the pathologist looks at her colon biopsy. Hopefully that will be early next week, as in the meantime the doctors involved don't agree on what to do with her diet.
  • She had some cardiac irregularities when waking up from the anesthesia, but they were short-lived, and otherwise her recovery went well.
  • During a video call last night, she was eating a bagel, laughing at her brothers, talking, and playing.
  • The rest of the family had a great activity day, arranged by on-belay.org, an organization supporting kids impacted by a loved one's cancer. They all had fun, but Faith is still frustrated by the pain that continues to restrict her activities, so please remember to pray for her as well.

As always, we are so grateful for your support.

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, June 30, 2024 at 8:30 am | Edit
Permalink | Read 299 times | Comments (0)
Category Pray for Grace: [first] [previous] [newest]

I've always been ambivalent about electric cars. On the consumer end, eliminating exhaust fumes and engine noise is attractive, especially in cities, though I'm not convinced that electric cars are all that environmentally friendly when you look at the big picture. The electricity has to be produced somewhere, and while large-scale power generation and distribution might be more efficient than having an engine in every car, that doesn't make it harmless. It is beyond me why California—which already suffers from lack of what it takes to produce enough power for its popuation—is pushing to ban non-electric cars. Then there's the problem of the batteries that drive these cars: expensive to produce, requiring scarce resources, relatively short-lived, and difficult to recycle—I'm not convinced they aren't worse than the problem they are trying to solve. I don't think we know enough about it at this point, and I can't see burning our bridges until we know the cure isn't worse than the disease. We've had enough of that approach!

Be that as it may, I can still see the attraction, for the individual, of a small electric car for tooling around town. Not that I forsee living long enough for an electric car to fit into our budget. Even used they are ridiculously expensive. But that doesn't mean I'm not open to the idea.

Or rather, I was open. Having had an electric rental car forced upon us during our recent time in Maryland, you'd pretty much have to give us an electric car to make me want one at this point.

That's not to say that the computer nerd in me didn't find it exciting to read our Chevy Bolt's instruction manual. So many amazing features! It was a lot like getting a new computer, and upgrading to Windows 11 from Windows 3.1. Only no one ever expected me to learn a new computer operating system at highway speeds with our lives, and those of two grandchildren, depending on it. Fortunately, Porter—who had lots of experience with strange rental cars during his IBM travelling years, though none were electric—did a fine job. I wasn't even driving, but the flurry of on-the-fly questions ("What does that light mean? What does this button do? Where on earth is the shift lever? (There wasn't one.) How do I read these dispay heiroglyphics?") and the rapid flipping through the very thick manual on my part, hoping for answers, about did me in. I'm not against new technology, but prefer to get acquainted with it slowly.

That, however, was the least of my complaints. I was not at all happy with the 200-mile range of the car. Fortunately, all the wedding venues were reasonably close to the hotel, so we managed to get back to the airport without having to give it a recharge, but that doesn't mean it wasn't stressful. Especially since the battery lost about 20 miles of reserve just sitting in the parking garage overnight. It's not as if we could have just zipped into a gas station for 5 minutes to "fill the tank." I have run out of gas once in my life, and that's an experience I don't wish to repeat.

I know, theoretically there are places available for recharging electric vehicles. Even our local botanical gardens has a couple of spots in its parking lot where you can charge while you admire the plants. But we were in a strange city, and in all our driving never saw such a place to pull over and fill up. Google indicated that there were some in the area, but we never saw them. Oh, wait—even if we'd found such a place, we didn't have the time it would have taken for a recharge.

When we picked up the car, the Avis agent had brushed off our concern, with "any decent hotel will have plenty of charging stations." True, our otherwise lovely Hyatt Regency had a good number of such stations—but every single one of them was out of order, so we couldn't recharge overnight.

We survived the experience—Porter even enjoyed braking with the turn signal. That's not quite an accurate description, but it's what it looked like. There was also a foot pedal brake, but the hand brake somehow shunted power back into the battery, which was cool. But I don't quite see the usefulness of an electric vehicle if you want to travel more than 200 miles away from home; 100 miles if it's a day trip.

Maybe if we needed a second car just for short trips, an electric one would be nice. But for now, I hope we can enjoy for many more years our 11-year-old gasoline-powered car that seats eight, has a range of over 400 miles, and a tank that can be fully replenished in under 10 minutes. Okay, 30 minutes if the stop is at Buc-ee's.

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, June 29, 2024 at 4:40 pm | Edit
Permalink | Read 234 times | Comments (3)
Category Random Musings: [first] [previous]

From Heather (emphasis mine):

Grace has been on a clear liquid diet until today where she is getting nothing into her stomach until anesthesia at 5:30. She will be getting a complete GI scope and a bone marrow biopsy. Please pray for the anesthesiologist and the surgeons as well as for Grace.

Jon called this morning to say that they will be at the hospital at least until Monday, because the doctors want to observe her as she goes back on feeds. Also, for the results of the biopsies. (I'm assuming intestinal, because the bone marrow takes a week.)

Jon is discouraged and sleep-deprived, and it's not really practical for me to go there because of Hope.

Grace and Jon did have a good day yesterday, playing games, doing crafts, reading books, painting, watching Mary Poppins.

We're holding on here at home, but now will need to prepare for and go to Family Camp without two important members of the family. Hopefully, they will be able to join us soon.

In other news, Noah is 18 today, and to celebrate true adulthood, has a written FAA test and a dentist appointment. Laughing

In case you were wondering, those of you who know of Noah as a baker, he is making his own cake today. Maybe I'll have pictures later.

And here's a joyful update, which I'm sure is helping Jon a lot:

We have a friend who just volunteered to go down and give him a break. Praise God for his people!

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, June 28, 2024 at 12:37 pm | Edit
Permalink | Read 241 times | Comments (0)
Category Pray for Grace: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]

I readily admit ignorance of a lot of things, but I can't say I'd never heard of Tucker Carlson. That is, I had heard his name—but I'd never heard him speak, and certainly wouldn't have recognized him. I couldn't have told you a single thing that he was known for, nor any of his beliefs.

You may not believe that anyone could be so ignorant, but there it is. If you need an even greater example of the extent of my cultural ignorance, I'll tell you that—until I was recently schooled by a choir friend whose granddaughter was over the moon to have attended one of her concerts—I knew nothing about Taylor Swift. Well, I'd figured out that she was a singer, as our rector has made several references to her songs in his sermons, and Porter had told me that there was something between her and some football player whose name and team I promptly forgot because that's what my mind does to information with the term "football" attached. But that was it. There are limits to both my brain capacity and my interest, and neither Taylor Swift nor Tucker Carlson ticked enough checkboxes to stick.

Until Tucker Carlson was fired by Fox.

That news made so much of a buzz that even I couldn't miss it. That was enough to induce me to take a look at just who this person was who inspired so much love and so much hatred. 

I listened to some of his programs, and to my amazement discovered someone who makes sense. He's obviously intelligent, a quick and clear thinker, a good speaker, and someone whose opinions are sufficiently similar to and different from my own to make him interesting.

The only problem I've found so far is that he seems to have far more time to produce videos than I have to watch them. That's nothing new, however. My list of videos to watch is not as long as my list of books to read, but it's equally impossible.

The following speech, given in Australia, is very nearly an hour long, which will no doubt put a lot of people off, but I found it worthwhile. The actual talk ends at 21:30; the rest is a Q&A session, which is also interesting. Since he thoughtfully provided a table of contents, I'll include it here.

0:00 Intro
2:31 Tucker reacts to Julian Assange's release
16:13 Christianity
21:49 Q&A
21:55 Who's the most difficult person Tucker has interviewed?
27:32 Tucker clashes with journalist over Putin
32:33 Assange
37:05 Is China a threat?
43:22 Heated exchange between Tucker and liberal journalist on immigration

Who knows? Maybe I'd actually like Taylor Swift's music if I took the time to listen to her.

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, June 26, 2024 at 8:59 pm | Edit
Permalink | Read 247 times | Comments (0)
Category YouTube Channel Discoveries: [first] [previous] Here I Stand: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]

This was Heather's morning post. (I'm copying the text, but if you click on the link, you'll see a cute picture.)

When Jon and Grace got back from Dartmouth, Jon asked me to take her temperature. He could feel that she was hot, but the thermometer they used at Dartmouth did not register a fever (it was the kind that you hold a centimeter away from the forehead.) My initial armpit reading was 101.8. That means Boston admission. So I had Joy and Nathaniel pack a few more days of clothes for Jon and Grace (our emergency bag in the car only has two days' worth) and Jon got her medicines and his work stuff ready. By the time they left, her armpit temperature was 103.3.

Jon's midnight update included that her fever had gone down to 38.1 (100.8) by the time they arrived at the ER and that she had eaten half a popsicle and smiled for the first time all day. She got all sorts of tests done and abdomen x-rays. So far, according to the portal, she is negative for flu and cold viruses and x-rays show nothing unusual. Her hemoglobin fell significantly, so I expect she got/is getting some blood this morning. At midnight, she had not been admitted yet, but she is in 6 West now.

First, I have to make a correction. That may have been the first smile Jon saw yesterday, but we Skyped with her mid-morning, and she was smiling then, even though she had just thrown up.

(Kudos to Heather, who had to clean up what must have been an all-time record for spreading vomitus in the most inconvenient places.)

Since then, she has had some very welcome visitors, having had the good sense (?) to get herself admitted just in time to catch our favorite Boston Childrens' pediatrician before she becomes our favorite pediatrician at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. (Whether it was a good move to show up just in time for the arrival of the annual batch of newly-minted residents is another question.)

The plan is to talk with the gastroenterology people today. In preparation, Grace is not allowed to eat. Apparently that is making her sad, which is actually good news, because since getting sick she has had little to no interest in eating. Is she still getting nutrition through her NG tube? I don't know. Is there any medical person who can tell me if "NPO" means "no input to the system" rather than literally "nothing by mouth"? If the point is to have her system empty for her procedure(s), putting the food directly into her stomach would seem just as bad.

I don't know if she received blood or not, but maybe not, since they're blaming her hemoglobin drop on having pumped a lot of fluids into her (because of the fever, I assume).

That's all, folks ... for now.

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, June 26, 2024 at 2:48 pm | Edit
Permalink | Read 189 times | Comments (4)
Category Pray for Grace: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]

The doctors seemed to be taking Grace's recent intestinal problems very casually, but since she threw up her NG tube this morning, they're sitting up and taking notice. The new plan is for Grace to be admitted (in Boston) on Friday for observation and testing. (Not the way they wanted to celebrate her brother's 18th birthday!) Here's Heather's latest post.

Today, Boston called to say they'd like to observe Grace over the weekend and to prepare for admission on Friday. They will likely do a colonoscopy and maybe even an endoscopy. (And Dartmouth suggested they get some bone marrow while she's sedated.)

She threw up her NG tube this morning and so Jon took her to Dartmouth. They were able to do her regular appointment stuff so we don't have to go in tomorrow. It was a more traumatic NG tube placement than the other two times, and their tape is not as good.

We have been giving her zofran the last few days. Her appetite has been practically nil. There's definitely something going on. It's not the typical GVHD symptoms, but they haven't ruled it out yet. There might be an NF1 related cause; I've done minimal research on that and it's a possibility.

We depend on God to hold us up, so please intercede on our behalf.

How quickly things can change.

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, June 25, 2024 at 6:37 pm | Edit
Permalink | Read 253 times | Comments (5)
Category Pray for Grace: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]

I can be a sucker for headlines like "Second grade math question has the internet fighting over the answer," and this time I was caught despite knowing it was click-bait.  Here's the question:

A mother posted what she said was her child’s second-grade math homework. Here’s how the question goes: “There are 49 dogs signed up to compete in a dog show. There are 36 more small dogs than large dogs signed up to compete. How many small dogs are signed up to compete?

I took it seriously, knowing there must be a trick or it wouldn't be controversial.  But I quickly dismissed questions like, "How do you draw the line between large and small dogs?" as being uninteresting, and decided to take the problem at face value.

It's one of the easiest, most basic algebra problems.  If you are wondering why an algebra problem was given to second graders—well, I've seen children even younger solve such puzzles through logic and an intuitive sense of the world that school hasn't yet had a chance to squeeze out of them.

So.  Simple algebra.  (It's a lot faster and easier than it looks, written out, but bear with me.)

  • Let L = the number of large dogs.
  • Let S = the number of small dogs
  • We know L + S = 49
  • Therefore L = 49 - S
  • We know S = L + 36
  • Therefore S = (49 - S) + 36  [substituting (49 -  S) for L]
  • Therefore S = (49+36) - S
  • Therefore S = 85 - S
  • Therefore 2S = 85  [adding S to both sides]
  • Therefore S = 42.5

That's where the Algebra I student stops.  The second grader knows better:  "Half a dog?  Are you crazy?  Math makes no sense."

Math makes plenty of sense.  All too often, math textbooks and tests do not.

The teacher whose homework assignment caused the kerfuffle admitted that the problem itself was wrong, casting the blame on the school district.  She confirmed, however, that 42.5 would be the correct answer, "if done at an age appropriate grade."

No.  Just no.

This is why bridges fall down.

Math word problems that purport to be about real-world situations should reasonably conform to reality.  If you want to use those numbers, maybe try something like, "Tom and Lisa shared a box of 49 Krispy Kreme donuts.  Tom ate 36 more than Lisa.  How many did Tom eat?" ("Enough for a massive stomach ache," would be my answer.)  Or just change the numbers!  (Maybe the error was a misprint.)

The only correct answer to the problem as stated is, "This question is not answerable."

If we teach our children that it's okay to plug numbers into an algorithm (or a computer model) and make decisions based on the results without considering whether or not the answers actually make real-world sense; if we teach them that giving a wrong answer is better than saying, "we don't know," or even "we can't know"; then bridges are going to collapse, windows are going to blow out of airplanes, economies are going to crash, countries are going to start wars, and people are going to die.

 


 

Although it made Tampa's NBC News affiliate only two days ago, the story is at least five years old, as you can see here (if you don't mind the language).

For what it's worth, this was my thought process once I realized that the problem was the problem.

  1. The total number of dogs, 49, is an odd number.
  2. The only way two integers can sum to an odd number is if one of them is odd, and the other is even.
  3. The number of small dogs and the number of large dogs differs by 36, which is an even number.
  4. The only way two integers can differ by an even number is if they are either both odd, or both even.
  5. (2) and (4) are mutually exclusive conditions.
  6. Since dogs must be counted by positive integers and not fractions, the problem is not solvable.

 


 

There's one more difficulty in this puzzling and disturbing report.

The Tampa news team ends the story with their own solution:

The digital team from Nexstar affiliate WTAJ took a crack at it, with their own Olivia Bosar determining the following:

“You first subtract the 36 to group them as small dogs since you need at least 36 small dogs. You then divide the remaining 13 into two categories: large dogs and small dogs. But you have to divide them in a way that would give you the ability to create a class that’s X and a class that’s X+36. It’s not possible in this equation because 13 is a prime number.”

As a prime number, once you try to divide 13, you end up with a .5 in your answer, and, well, obviously, you can’t have half of a dog.

I give them credit for recognizing that you can't have half a dog, at least not if you want him alive enough to compete in a show.  But what does the fact that 13 is a prime number have to do with anything?  If you make the total number of dogs 51 instead of 49, then after you subtract 36 the number of remaining dogs is 15.  Fifteen is not prime, but the problem is jut as insoluble.

Back in elementary school, I loved what was then called the "New Math."  Working with sets, and other bases—I ate it up.  (Tom Lehrer has a great song about it.)  But today's Newer Math?  I have my doubts.

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, June 23, 2024 at 8:08 am | Edit
Permalink | Read 244 times | Comments (4)
Category Education: [first] [previous] [newest]

With good reason, we have been focusing here on Grace. But there's another half to this bone marror transplant, and that's her sister-donor, Faith. They were a perfect bone-marrow match, and Faith was delighted to be able to provide this life-saving gift to her little sister.

But it has not come without significant sacrifice, and I daresay insufficient preparation. The bone marrow transplant literature makes it out to be a much lighter procedure than it is. The pre-donation testing is rigorous and extensive—Faith fainted at one point—and the donation itself involved forty-seven separate insertions of the needle into her bones! (Possibly twice that many; I don't remember if that number was total, or for each side.) They had made so little of the strenuousness of the procedure that Faith had hoped to be able to join her friends on a ski trip a few days afterwards—not to ski, of course, but to sit in the lodge and enjoy the camaraderie and atmosphere. That was so far from the reality that I question whether "informed consent" was taken seriously.

Here's what happened, and is happening, according to Jon's most recent post:

When Faith signed up for the donation, she was told to expect one or maybe two days of significant pain, and then a week of pain that should be managed with Tylenol and then no running and jumping for six weeks, even if she felt like it.

She had 3-4 days of significant pain, and has certainly gotten better since the first week, but at more than 4 months, continues to have 2 out of 10 pain 24 hours a day. And more pain if she exerts herself too hard.

Grace's doctors referred Faith to her primary care, who took some x-rays and referred her to physical therapy. The x-rays didn't show any fractures. The physical therapist didn't really know what to do, in that she didn't know anything about bone marrow donation, but asked a bunch of good questions and gave her some exercises to do daily. She is supposed to go back to her primary care if she is still in pain in a month or two. We did find on Google that 4% of donors are still in pain at 9 months and 1% are in pain at 12 months, but the cancer doctors said that Faith shouldn't be in that class of donors, since she is so young. We do wonder if the "hard time" the doctors had when collecting the bone marrow would result in this extra pain, but we don't know.

Faith wants to play soccer in the fall, but if the pain continues, will not be able to. She would appreciate your prayers as she tries to rest, but also work on getting her body ready for soccer.

I know Faith, and I know that she would have made the donation anyway, even if she had known the consequences. But facilities that do bone marrow transplants should be paying more attention to the donors, who are an absolutely essential part of their cancer treatment process. Shouldn't there be someone on staff who knows about the consequences and complications, and can do more than send her back to a primary care doctor who undoubtedly knows little to none of that? I have great respect for physical therapists, and this one sounds good, but they don't have this specialized knowledge.

When you pray for Grace (thank you!) would you please also pray for Faith?  For wisdom for her, her parents and the doctors; for complete healing; and that she will be able to get fully back to normal life (and soccer!).

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, June 22, 2024 at 7:54 am | Edit
Permalink | Read 320 times | Comments (2)
Category Health: [first] [previous] [newest] Pray for Grace: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]

It has been blessedly quiet on the Grace front for a while, giving the family a chance to focus on Hope, her new little sister. No news has been great news, with Grace being weaned off the cyclosporin, laughing, smiling, playing, growing hair, and generally enjoying life despite the remaining presence of her nasogastric tube and central lines.

But now we're back with another prayer request. In Heather's words,

Grace has been having belly pain and a lot of mucous in her stool, often with blood as well. We have taken her off cow's milk again (she had been asking for it instead of almond milk.) We haven't seen much improvement in the last week, and she does complain that her belly hurts and she also has a diaper rash. There is the possibility that this is GVHD (graft vs. host disease) and for the moment we have stopped weaning her cyclosporine. We are waiting for her Dartmouth team to communicate with her Boston team to see what to do.

Please pray for complete gut healing, normal stools, and normal appetite. And wisdom and peace.

Thank you all.

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, June 21, 2024 at 2:56 pm | Edit
Permalink | Read 237 times | Comments (6)
Category Pray for Grace: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]

Reading his amazon.com "about the author" page, I found nothing about Mark Groubert to attract me. Hollywood, MTV, National Lampoon, celebrity culture, drug rehab—these are not descriptors calculated to grab my attention, except negatively.

So it's a good thing that's not where I learned about him.

Credit for that goes to David Freiheit, aka Viva Frei, the man I still still call my favorite Canadian lawyer, even though he's no longer practicing law and now lives in South Florida, the man whose podcast was one of my first YouTube Channel Discoveries, even though he now does most of his work on Rumble and Locals. At some point, he discovered America's Untold Stories and shared his discovery with the world. That link takes you to the YouTube channel, but again, most of the fun is on Rumble and Locals.

It was Porter who followed up that lead, but as sometimes happens, I wandered in while he was watching some of their broadcasts, and found them fascinating. I haven't seen nearly as many as I would like to, if I had infinite time—it's rather like the very large pile of books on my to-read list.

America's Untold Stories is hosted by Eric Hunley and Mark Groubert. Again, the subtitle, "A Magical Mystery Tour of Pop Culture and History" is not something to attract me. But these two are fascinating to listen to. Groubert is a consummate storyteller with a brilliant mind, and Hunley is a great host and facilitator. Do you know people who just happen to find themselves in the right places at the right times and have the social skills to get to know a large number of amazing people? We do. And Mark Groubert is another one. From this background, plus some high-powered research skills, his stories emerge.

I'd never paid much attention to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy (not even when it happened—I was 11), and definitely wasn't interested in all the theories about why the official story of that event wasn't accurate. However, I do know enough to be certain that when someone says "we won't let you look at the data till 75 years have passed"—whether it's about JFK or COVID policy or anything else—something is being covered up, and it's probably done to protect not the innocent, but the guilty.

America's Untold Stories tells extensively-researched and entertaining tales about the times and places and people of Kennedy's era that will make your hair curl. (I don't know why that's supposed to be a bad thing; maybe it's an expression created by someone like me, who was forced as a child to wear painful curlers to bed at night, at least until my mother finally gave up on civilizing me.) The stories of President Lyndon Johnson alone make me wonder how America has survived so many really terrible presidents. I've noted before that very unsavory people can make good presidents, and good people can make terrible presidents. Johnson managed to be both a bad person and a bad president.

Hunley and Groubert cover history, current events, and personalities in a way that captivates me more than any history teacher I ever had, even the best one. I find their current series on Watergate especially interesting, since I lived through those times at an older age (early 20's). There is so much I never picked up at the time, and so much more that only came to light much later. Just as with the Kennedy assassination.

America's Untold Stories makes people and history interesting, whether politicians or pop culture personalities or mob bosses or high-end hookers. I'm sure there's a lot more to Eric Hunley than I know, but what I can say for sure is that he reminds me of the best piano accompanists, who know that their job is to make the soloist shine; he and Groubert are a great team.

I've chosen the following video to include here because it is relatively short (only half an hour on normal speed). It was posted for Thanksgiving 2021, and goes back to the beginnings of our country: tales of the Mayflower and its times you don't usually hear. Since I know a bit about the subject, I'm not sure Groubert has a good grasp of the overall picture. For example, he never mentions the differences between the "Saints" and the "Strangers" among the passengers, which was a significant division. Despite that, and even though much of what he mentions was familiar to me, I learned quite a bit. We all know how important tea is to the British, but I never knew how its introduction, in the 1650's, mitigated the scourge that followed the discovery of gin, which had been devastating Europe for a hundred years. In those days, the water was commonly so polluted that drinking it led to disease and death. Tea, made with water that had been boiled, provided a safe, non-alcoholic drink. The Mayflower passengers, who landed here in 1620, vied with the crew over the remaining beer and wine stores (needed for the crew's voyage back to England), until they were desperate enough to drink from the pristine streams of the New World, which they regarded as poisonous.

We had the privilege of meeting Eric Hunley and Mark Groubert recently, but that's a tale for another post.

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, June 20, 2024 at 6:55 am | Edit
Permalink | Read 227 times | Comments (0)
Category YouTube Channel Discoveries: [first] [previous] [newest]

Here's a post from someone—Sasha Stone—who has a great perspective on Father's day, having found a way to honor fathers, and her own less-than-ideal father, despite being herself one of a long line of "single mothers raising babies and absent dads not living up to their responsibilities."

It’s been six years since my dad died. He was a great guy, even if he wasn’t there the way I always imagined a father should be there. He was usually floating high on weed when he spent time with us, but I look back with gratitude that he was there at all. ... He was uncomfortable in family situations—he preferred to be banging on the drums at a jazz club to making idle small talk about mortgages and careers. He always existed on the fringes of life, never quite becoming the man he wanted to be. He was always the sucker who fell for a scam. He never had any money and he lived with my grandma until she died then he lived in her house until he died. But he stuck. He showed up. He was there at every Thanksgiving, every birthday, every Christmas. He would bring over bags of groceries for my daughter and me, loaves of wheat bread, hot dogs—all the things he thought we’d like from the dollar store. It’s been six years since he died and I think of him almost every day.

I’ve had so many male friends who have felt obligated to step up and be a father figure for my daughter. ... As great as it is, it’s not the same as having a father there. Fathers build courage and strength. Fathers make children, girls especially, feel like they can trust the world. Without a father there, the world seems unpredictable because no woman, no matter how great she is as a mom, can do everything and be everything.

We seem to be living through a time where fathers aren’t as valued as they once were because men aren’t as valued as they once were. It seems to have set things off balance, like our entire country is now fatherless. We seem to be collectively craving that kind of leadership now. Just give us a good dad. He’ll make things right.

Sasha's post includes six movie clips of fathers. She often embeds videos in her posts, and I confess that although I read all of her words, I usually skip the videos. I watched these, however. (I really need to see It's a Wonderful Life sometime. I never have.) And then she writes a profound commentary on our time, which I've highlighted in bold.

Since I grew up watching movies I’ve always loved the movie dads in some of my favorite films. And it’s true when you watch them you think about how badly you’d love to have a dad like that. But now, I look at them and think about how I wish we had a culture that still valued dads like that.

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, June 17, 2024 at 6:50 pm | Edit
Permalink | Read 212 times | Comments (0)
Category Here I Stand: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]

Back in January of this year, Jordan Peterson and Tucker Carlson answered a question about where they saw 2024 headed. Here we are in the middle of the year, and what they have to say is still relevant. This is a 10-minute excerpt from a much longer show, which I'll say upfront I haven't seen. But, being a very much johnny-come-lately fan of both men, I appreciate their differing points of view—and especially how they come together at the end.

Fathers, we need you. The future of the world depends on you. Well, no—not entirely. But the great Father upon whom all depends invites you to be part of His work. Understand the truth of the dark times Carlson foresees, and take hold of Peterson's optimisitic solution.

Happy Father's Day!

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, June 16, 2024 at 6:00 am | Edit
Permalink | Read 231 times | Comments (0)
Category Politics: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Last Battle: [first] [previous] Here I Stand: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]

The chimerism results from Grace's most recent bone marrow aspiration are in:  >97%!

I've seen chimerism results of 100%, but with this particular laboratory the best you can do is >97%.  Sort of the way the highest grade on a number of educational standardized tests is 99%.  So it's great news!

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, June 13, 2024 at 6:00 am | Edit
Permalink | Read 106 times | Comments (1)
Category Pray for Grace: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]

A family member was feeling chronically tired, unusual for someone of her age and apparent health. Suspecting anemia, the doctor did some blood tests. Lo and behold, her iron levels were fine—but she was deficient in vitamin D! From what I've heard, that's not unusual for Americans, especially those who live in the northern parts of the country. I grew up knowing that vitamin D was important for preventing rickets, a disease I had mentally relegated to history, like smallpox and scurvy. (I actually thought about smallpox more frequently than rickets, since I am of the last generation to receive routine smallpox vaccinations.) However, it turns out that vitamin D is essential for a lot more than that, including a healthy immune system. As with nearly everything health-related these days, there's controversy over how much is needed, but one thing is clear: many of us are deficient, and could safely use a lot more than we are getting now.

I find it interesting that the tests my doctor orders for every annual exam, which check my blood for multitudinous levels of this and that, do not include measures of vitamin D, or any other vitamin for that matter. Not that I'm worried about D in particular, given that we live in Florida. There's no doubt in my mind that the best way to obtain vitamin D is through exposure of our skin to the sun (don't tell my dermatologist I said that), not only because it is the most natural (there are not many un-fortified food with a lot of vitamin D), but because sunlight exposure produces other substances important to health, such as nitric oxide.

Let's see: For many decades, Americans have been increasingly avoiding the sun, spending nearly all our time indoors, and slathering ourselves with sunscreen when we are not. We have also been cutting down our intake of some of the best natural food sources of vitamin D: egg yolks, red meat, and liver, with fatty fish being about the only good source we're not encouraged to eat less of. (I'm certain it's not coincidental that fatty fish has throughout history been a popular food in lands where it's difficult or impossible to get sufficient vitamin D through sun exposure.) It's no wonder that we have a hidden epidemic of vitamin D deficiency!

I've always wondered why breast milk is apparently deficient in vitamin D, which is why babies who don't get fortified formula are routinely prescribed supplements. It doesn't seem right that the system designed for a baby's best nutrition should be so lacking. I can think of two possibilities: (1) mothers are themselves deficient, and thus can't provide what their babies need, and/or (2) in cultures with sufficient sunlight, babies have for millennia spent a great deal of time outdoors, naked or nearly so, and thus would be making their own vitamin D.

Florida is a good place for getting all the sun exposure we need. However, we too spend most of our time indoors, and shouldn't be complacent. When it was recommended from a couple of independent sources, I decided to download the dminder app on my phone. It's pretty simple, and lets me keep track of my vitamin D intake, from food, supplements, and exposure to the sun. In my case, the first two pale in comparison with the last, at least at this time of year.

Taking into account skin tone, clothing, weather, latitude, elevation of the sun, and time of exposure, dminder calculates approximately how much vitamin D I'm making through my skin for each exposure session (at least those for which I remember to start the app).

A few interesting observations:

  • For the purpose of making vitamin D, there's no point to sunbathing except between the hours of 8:56 a.m. and 5:54 p.m., because the elevation of the sun is not sufficient at other times. (The hours change, of course, with latitude and the changing of the seasons.)
  • Solar Noon at the moment is actually 1:25 p.m., thanks to our propensity for meddling with the clocks.
  • In the present season, during which I wear shorts and a t-shirt, in the middle of the day I can easily generate 2000 IU's of vitamin D during a mere 25-minute walk around the neighborhood!

I will be interested to see what dminder has to say about the summer sun in New England.

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, June 12, 2024 at 7:30 am | Edit
Permalink | Read 272 times | Comments (0)
Category Health: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]

altMark Schweizer's Liturgical Mysteries (St. James Music Press)

The Alto Wore Tweed (2002), The Baritone Wore Chiffon (2004), The Tenor Wore Tapshoes (2005), The Soprano Wore Falsettos (2006), The Bass Wore Scales (2006), The Mezzo Wore Mink (2008), The Diva Wore Diamonds (2010), The Organist Wore Pumps (2010), The Countertenor Wore Garlic (2011), The Christmas Cantata (2011), The Treble Wore Trouble (2012), The Cantor Wore Crinolines (2013), The Maestro Wore Mohair (2015), The Choir Director Wore Out (2018)

Back in 2000, I read and reviewed the first book in this series, The Alto Wore Tweed. I don't know what took me so long to get to the rest of it, but once I restarted, I couldn't stop. Four years ago, I said, "This book is just for fun. If there is something of redeeming social value about it, I didn't notice, but I laughed longer and harder than I have over a book in a long time." Our choir director introduced me to the series—we get some of our anthems from St. James Press, and are currently singing one by Mark Schweizer himself. Yes, he knows whereof he speaks when he writes about being a church musician!

Hayden Konig is the chief of police in St. Germaine, a small town in the mountains of North Carolina. He's also the organist and choir director of St. Barnabas Episcopal Church, across the street from the police station, and a would-be writer of "hard-boiled" detective fiction. St. Germaine could be Jan Karon's Mitford....except for all the murders.

The stories could stand by themselves as delightful "cozy" mysteries, but what really makes them so amusing to me is Schweizer's highly accurate view of life in the Episcopal church, from a musician's point of view. Allowing for literary license, and concomitant exaggeration and hyperbole, there is so much about the Episcopal Church (and choirs, and other denominations, and small town life) that he just nails. There's plenty of wordplay of the kind I dearly love, and for those in the know, lots of what are known in the computing world as "Easter eggs"—here in Central Florida we call them "Hidden Mickeys." For example, here's one of my favorites:

[Speaking of a tent-revival preacher] The good reverend had an assistant who would be choosing the Gospel passages on which Hogmanay McTavish would preach each and every evening. This assistant was what many politically correct folks might call "Poultry-American." Other folks might call her "dinner." Her name was Binny Hen. Binny Hen the Scripture Chicken.

I'm certain many of Schweizer's gems have gone over my head, but having lived within five miles of Benny Hinn's ministry in Central Florida, I couldn't miss that one.

I said that there was nothing of redeeming social importance in these tales, but the truth is that they contain a good deal of accurate information about both Episcopal Church services and classical choral music. Granted, even in our heyday our thurifer was unable to draw Biblical scenes in smoke; I've never had a choir director who was independently wealthy (that's some wishful thinking on the part of the author, I suspect); and I doubt Tim keeps a pistol in the organ bench (though I've never checked). Thankfully, the rates of crime and moral turpitude among the choir, congregation, and clergy are greatly exaggerated, but for general misbehavior—such as persistent chatting during rehearsal, and whining about the music—it is spot on.

If the "crimes and moral turpitude" are all too human, the language is quite mild for modern writing, the worst I could find being the following passage, in which cleverness covereth a multitude of sins.

Her name was Barbara—Barbara Seville—and she was a mezzo. Some said she slid to the top of the opera world on her husband’s money: that before she married Aristotle bin Laden, she’d been demoted to seamstress and spent most of her time in the wings tucking up the frills instead of on the stage doing the opposite.

Here are some brief passages I particularly enjoyed. Expect further excerpts in subsequent posts. Some are from the mystery itself, and some from the detective fiction Konig writes in his spare time and copies onto the backs of the Psalm copies for the choir to read during the sermon.

"I thought you had given up beer for Lent," Meg said.

"I started to, but then I decided to give up meddling in church politics. In order to do that, I'm going to need the beer."

The following is unfortunately an accurate discription of our own church's sound system.

Our sound system in the church was minimal—just a little amplification for the readers and the priest. Trying to send music through it was akin to listening to a symphony over a CB radio.

I began to suspect that the alto section was trying to forestall the rehearsal of the Harris piece. The alto line had been giving them fits for the last two rehearsals. The soprano section, on the other hand, was sitting quietly and smiling demurely, having already mastered most of the notes in the upcoming anthem. Basses and tenors were, by all indications, asleep.

“You know there’s a handgun in the organ bench?”

“Yeah. That’s mine. It’s a Glock 9mm. Tends to keep the tenors in tune.”

“A new dive just opened up across from St. Gertrude’s. It sounds like our kind of place. Good looking beer-fräuleins in tight shirts, lots of German brews, and Baroque organ music from a three-manual Flentrop with a sixteen-foot heckelphone you can really hang your hat on.”

“Sounds sweet,” I agreed, suddenly interested. “What’s this place called?”

“Buxtehooters.”

"Nancy's off today, Dave's in at noon," I said, and sipped my coffee. "I'm hoping there's no crime wave till tomorrow."

"You're probably okay," said Cynthia. "We've had two murders in two weeks and I heard that yesterday someone tried to bludgeon the bishop to death with his own stick. That should do us for a while."

I sighed. "We've had two unrelated deaths and the bishop just happened to be standing in the way when Humphrey Brownlow decided to attack the video drone with the crozier during a naked baptism."

"Video drone?" said Pete. "Naked baptism? I've got to start going back to church."

"You know," said Cynthia, giggling, "I've heard of other churches that get together to sing hymns of faith, hear a sermon, pray for each other, and then go out to lunch afterward."

"Where's the fun in that?" I said.

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, June 9, 2024 at 6:00 am | Edit
Permalink | Read 188 times | Comments (0)
Category Reviews: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Music: [first] [previous]
Go to page:
1 2  Next»