I wrote a long comment to Mark Shiffman's Front Porch Republic article, Why we do not own a Television; not being one to waste an item on a single use if it can be recycled, I reproduce it here.  You'll have to follow the link to see the context (and other readers' comments), but I think what I wrote is pretty clear on its own.

To my total surprise and (almost) mortification, I write in defense of television.  I agree with some of the comments that DVD is the only way to go, but most if not all of the content I find valuable on DVD originated in the TV and movie media, so despising them completely would be a bit hypocritical on my part. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, May 2, 2009 at 9:55 am | Edit
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More random tidbits found while sweeping the corners of the Internet.

Professor John Stackhouse gives a cheer, a half a cheer, and a hiss to Charles Darwin in honor of his birthday:

[W]e can all cheer Darwin's work in bringing microevolution—the phenomenon of small-scale changes happening within species as they adapt to their environment—into focus. Even "creation science" proponents grant the reality of evolution on this scale.

 (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, May 1, 2009 at 9:00 pm | Edit
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This Stone Soup cartoon makes me think, not of our children, who have learned from us and built well upon what they've learned, so that we in our turn have learned from them, but about our society in general, as we (re)discover the virtues of thrift and living within one's means; of childbirth as a natural, personal process; of breastfeeding; of small farms and organically-grown food; of respecting, enjoying, and conserving our natural environment.  We knew all this 40 years ago; how did we fail to pass it on?  Probably in the same way our parents' and grandparents' generations failed to pass their virtues on to us....

Not that progress isn't being made:  somehow we've managed to make smoke-free airplanes and restaurants stick, for one thing; and many in the next generation are rediscovering what was lost between our parents' generation and ours:  the blessings of having many children.  :)
Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, April 25, 2009 at 7:34 am | Edit
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I have no more information yet than is in this Post-Gazette article, but it looks as if the seven-year ordeal is finally over.  If it's not the vindication and ringing endorsement of birthing rights I was hoping for, it's probably the best we could have hoped for from a judge who is also a doctor.  I'm not sure how he managed to convict Judy for not having a license, since Pennsylvania doesn't license Certiied Professional Midwives, but I can't imagine Judy will not pay the $100 fine and move on.  Other midwives have pled guitly to worse in order to stop the torture and expense.

Perhaps the Amish, who rely on non-nurse midwives like Judy, will—if reluctantly—push harder for better midwifery laws in Pennsylvania.

Judith A. Wilson, 53, of Portersville, was found not guilty by Common Pleas Judge Donald E. Machen of the most serious charges [involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment], but found guilty of practicing midwifery without a certificate. She was fined $100.

Life has not stopped for us, no more than for Judy, in these seven years, but it is very good not to have this sword dangling over our necks anymore.

I hope to learn more—news reports, especially initial ones, being suspect—and will fill in here when I can.  Thanks to so many of you for your earnest prayers for us all.  (Earlier posts on this subject are The Trial, Part II; The Trial; and Options In Childbirth: A Personal Odyssey.)
Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, April 23, 2009 at 4:16 pm | Edit
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Three diverse takes on China:

Although written nearly a year ago (note the line, "Assuming that the global economy does not decline now, it will at some point"), George Friedman's geopolitical analysis of China (via InvestorsInsight) is perhaps frightening, perhaps reassuring, but certainly fascinating.  The concluding summary provides an introduction to the ideas, though it by no means does justice to the long article. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, April 17, 2009 at 8:54 am | Edit
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From the frequency of my posting recently, my overwhelmed readers can see I'm hacking away at a hugh backlog.  Here's another  in the Casting the Net series, which makes the job easier for me, if not for you. The good news is, like the can't-pass-this-up offer at the bottom of my inbox, and that $1 off coupon that's been in my wallet for six months, several of my must-posts are enough out of date I can cheerfully hit the delete key and not trouble you with them.  (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, April 10, 2009 at 7:48 am | Edit
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A brilliant student, Marcus sailed through grade school. He completed his assignments easily and routinely earned As. Marcus puzzled over why some of his classmates struggled, and his parents told him he had a special gift. In the seventh grade, however, Marcus suddenly lost interest in school, refusing to do homework or study for tests. As a consequence, his grades plummeted. His parents tried to boost their son’s confidence by assuring him that he was very smart. But their attempts failed to motivate Marcus (who is a composite drawn from several children). Schoolwork, their son maintained, was boring and pointless.

The story above is from a Scientific American Mind article entitled The Secret to Raising Smart Kids. (I've changed the name because in the original it is "Jonathan."  Apologies to any Marcuses who might read this.)  I insist that Marcus was probably right:  most seventh grade schoolwork is boring and pointless.  Be that as it may, the article investigates a question I have wrestled with for decades:  Why do so many bright students fail of their promise, surpassed sooner or later by their apparently average, ordinary classmates? (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, April 7, 2009 at 10:08 am | Edit
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I've written often enough about threats to the fundamental right of parents to educate their own children:  the dreadful situation for homeschoolers in Germany, my concerns for Switzerland, and the unwarranted judicial intrusion in family life and education touched closer to home, in California.  California ultimately upheld the legitimacy of home education, but it appears North Carolina is the next battleground.

As with the Terri Schiavo case, it is family problems that allowed the court's nose into this tent.  It illustrates a serious problem with our "no fault" attitude towards divorce:  despite the husband's admitted, ongoing, adulterous affair, his desire to send his children to public school has been allowed to trump his wife's desire to continue homeschooling.  What is truly worrisome, as it touches homeschooling is the judge's power and attitude, as well as whatever precedent his decision may set. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, March 12, 2009 at 10:22 am | Edit
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VPK

"What is VPK?" asks an article in our city's magazine.

Pre-math, pre-reading and social skills.  How do I teach my child all this information before she enters kindergarten?  Many parents used to ask themselves that precise question not too long ago.  However, for the past four years, concerned parents have decided to enroll their children in what is called VPK, or voluntary pre-kindergarten education....VPK is free [that is, tax-funded]...regardless of family income.

 (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, March 4, 2009 at 4:57 pm | Edit
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As with most First Things articles, David B. Hart's 2004 essay Freedom and Decency is intellectual, dense, long, and not easy going.  But—again like most First Things articles—it is well worth the effort.  (Hat tip to John C. Wright.  Who says science fiction writers can't be deep thinkers?)  What earns the article its own post rather than a brief mention in my "Casting the Net" series is the following extraordinary paragraph, which leaps from the somewhat dry erudition with the shock of a striking panther.

I am not convinced that we are in any very meaningful sense in the midst of a “culture war”; I think it might at best be described as a fracas. I do not say that such a war would not be worth waging. Yet most of us have already unconsciously surrendered to the more insidious aspects of modernity long before we even contemplate drawing our swords from their scabbards and inspecting them for rust. This is not to say that there are no practical measures for those who wish in earnest for the battle to be joined: homeschooling or private “trivium” academies; the disposal or locking away of televisions; prohibitions on video games and popular music; Greek and Latin; great books; remote places; archaic enthusiasms. It is generally wise to seek to be separate, to be in the world but not of it, to be no more engaged with modernity than were the ancient Christians with the culture of pagan antiquity; and wise also to cultivate in our hearts a generous hatred toward the secular order, and a charitable contempt. Probably the most subversive and effective strategy we might undertake would be one of militant fecundity: abundant, relentless, exuberant, and defiant childbearing. Given the reluctance of modern men and women to be fruitful and multiply, it would not be difficult, surely, for the devout to accomplish — in no more than a generation or two — a demographic revolution. Such a course is quite radical, admittedly, and contrary to the spirit of the age, but that is rather the point, after all. It would mean often forgoing certain material advantages, and forfeiting a great deal of our leisure; it would often prove difficult to sustain a two-career family or to be certain of a lavish retirement. But if it is a war we want, we should not recoil from sacrifice.

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, February 26, 2009 at 4:48 pm | Edit
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A couple more quick takes, as I dig through the backlog.

Think Your Kid's Gifted?  You're Probably Wrong, from Geek Dad.  An unfortunate title, as is the similar title of the article on which he is commenting; I would have said instead, "You're Probably Right."  At long last parents are beginning to realize that children are not mindless lumps of clay, but are nearly all born brilliant.  (You doubt that?  Plunk yourself down in the middle of a foreign country and see how long it takes you to become fluent in the language.)  Finally people are realizing that what they do, or don't do, with their young chldren makes a difference, and that they need better opportunities than most of them get.  Why do some people feel it necessary to debunk the idea?  Probably because, being fallen humans, we tend to focus not on "my child is brilliant" but "my child is brighter than someone else's child."  Geek Dad catches the real issue, however. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, January 16, 2009 at 6:57 am | Edit
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Take time out of your Christmas Rush and enjoy this offering from the Von Tone-Deaf Family Singers.  :)

(Hat tip to Jennifer at Conversion Diary.)
Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, December 20, 2008 at 7:54 am | Edit
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With both of our girls we participated in the wonderful YMCA Swim and Gym classes from the time they were a few months old.  The Y no longer offers this great class—the organization officially no longer believes infants should learn to swim, much to the distress of Floridians who know how important it is.  Be that as it may, these twice-weekly parent/child sessions were one of the best parenting decisions we ever made, and lots of fun besides.

Having little ones who can swim well has its consequences.  For one thing, you freak out all the other folks at a public pool when your child launches herself into the deep end, while you remain in your lounge chair, calmly watching her swim the length of the pool and climb out. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, December 16, 2008 at 5:10 pm | Edit
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To all those following and praying for Heather, Jon, and Judy Wilson:  Judy's trial resumes this afternoon.  I'm no longer there to continue my blow-by-blow commentary, but I'll pass on the news as I am able.  Jon is now scheduled to appear as a defense witness, so prayers for him and his testimony would be appreciated.   (I find it bizaare that he was ping-ponged that way—he was originally scheduled, like Heather, as a witness for the prosecution—but my prosecuting attorney friends don't.  Facts are facts, and you use whomever you need to establish them.)

There may even be a verdict today, so prayers for the judge would also be a very good thing!

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, October 29, 2008 at 7:20 am | Edit
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The American Academy of Pediatrics has recently doubled its recommendation of vitamin D intake for children, from 200 IU to 400 IU per day.  Not only is vitamin D important in the prevention of ricketts, but there is increasing evidence that its deficiency can promote type 2 diabetes, cancer, and autoimmune diseases.  Some doctors think 400 IU may not be enough.

This recommendation is all well and good, but I draw the line at this:  Breastfed and partially breastfed infants should be supplemented with 400 IU a day of vitamin D beginning in the first few days of life.  The reason?  [B]ecause of vitamin D deficiencies in the maternal diet, which affect the vitamin D in a mother’s milk, it is important that breastfed infants receive supplements of vitamin D. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, October 16, 2008 at 4:25 pm | Edit
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