Thanks to John C. Wright for bringing to my attention Story Time by Andrew Klavan, in City Journal.

Read it. It may frustrate you, it may make you despair, it may inspire you; it will certainly break your heart.

Where there is no vision, the people perish. (Proverbs 29:18)

Let me write a nation's songs, and I care not who writes its laws. (various attributions)
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, June 6, 2008 at 8:14 am | Edit
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My feminism tends to be of the on-again-off-again sort.  As a child—thanks to parents who encouraged me—I never considered any good character trait, activity, or occupation to be off limits because of my sex.  I didn't think much about feminism back then; I just acted, becoming the first girl to break the sex barrier in my high school's stage band, and the only or one of just a few girls in some of my science classes.  This sounds tame and silly from a 21st century perspective, but it was a big deal back then.

When Feminism became a movement, however, I soon had to distance myself from it, largely because it distanced itself from me.  I was (and am) all for equality of opportunity—as much as is physically possible; I don't ever want to see men getting pregnant—but when Feminism veered into being anti-man and pro-abortion, when it denigrated the role of homemaker and made the two-income family first common and then in some cases necessary, and when it invoked "political correctness" over the very words we speak and even started calling God "Our Mother," that's when I turned away.  Not from my beliefs, which hadn't changed, but from the movement and the label.  Women were now included, and succeeding, in nearly every possible opportunity; it was time, I believed, to give feminism a rest. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, June 2, 2008 at 8:41 am | Edit
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I like academia. I love college campuses, chem labs, and the smell of libraries with old books. Places and institutions dedicated to the advancement of knowledge, to study, investigation, and discussion. In an odd way, I feel more at home on a college campus than in most places. They feel exciting, challenging, and yet as comfortable as a pair of well-worn shoes. That my own college experience differed significantly from my theoretical ideal did not do much to diminish my belief that a college professor had a near-perfect job in a near-perfect setting.

Pausing to let my professor friends recover from their choking fits.... (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, May 30, 2008 at 8:54 am | Edit
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I recently finished reading a book called The Marketing of Evil: How Radicals, Elitists, and Pseudo-Experts Sell Us Corruption Disguised as Freedom.  That's not what this post is about, because while the author, David Kupelian, does have some important insights into how our culture got to be the way it is, his tone is too strident to allow me to recommend the book with particular enthusiasm.  However, he cites his sources well, and thus I am able to give full credit for what is perhaps my favorite part of the whole book, the following great quote from G. K. Chesterton.

Sex is an instinct that produces an institution; and it is positive and not negative, noble and not base, creative and not destructive, because it produces this institution.  That institution is the family; a small state or commonwealth which has hundreds of aspects, when it is once started, that are not sexual at all.  It includes worship, justice, festivity, decoration, instruction, comradeship, repose.  Sex is the gate of that house; and romantic and imaginative people naturally like looking through a gateway.  But the house is very much larger than the gate.  There are indeed a certain number of people who like to hang about the gate and never get any further.
G.K.'s Weekly, January 29, 1928

It is a great tragedy of our day that we have been all but convinced that the gate is all there is, that the house and fields beyond it are, and have always been, no more than a romantic, imaginative dream—at best.  Perhaps we need a Puddleglum to stamp on the enchanted fire and clear our heads.

Perhaps the strident tone of Kupelian's book is, after all, just the un-enchanting smell of burnt marsh-wiggle.
Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, May 29, 2008 at 10:35 am | Edit
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I don't enjoy reporting bad news, really.  It makes me sound old and curmudgeonly.  Okay, so I am old and curmudgeonly, but that's beside the point.  So today I feature an exciting story from the Philadelphia Inquirer:  Midwife Diane Goslin has emerged victorious from a court case in which the State of Pennsylvania accused her of practicing medicine without a license by assisting at home births.  (See my previous post.)  The author of the article, Angela Couloumbis, and the headline writer who created the title, Birthing Women Win Legal Decision understand that this victory is not about one person's profession, but about one of our most basic freedoms:  choosing where and with whom we will give birth to our children.

I could point out that some of the rejoicing may be premature: the State is considering appealing the decision, and the court only dealt with the charge of practicing medicine, not with the problem that Pennsylvania is not among the 22 states in this country that recognize the Certified Professional Midwife license.  There is cause for joy, to be sure, but not for letting down our guard.  But we'll take our victories one at a time, and be thankful for daily bread even if we're not certain of next week's provision.

Anything less would be curmudgeonly.
Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, May 24, 2008 at 10:00 am | Edit
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Someone on one of my Internet forums alerted me to Rush, Little Baby, a Boston Globe article of a few months back.  As articles critical of academically-oriented education for young children, it's a pretty good one, covering many perspectives and giving fair space to the opposing view.

It's still frustrating. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, May 7, 2008 at 8:50 am | Edit
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Dana Summers is one of my favorite cartoonists, partly because I like his cartoons and partly because he's a local boy.  Not a native, but few of us Floridians are.  He creates editorial cartoons, produces the strip The Middletons with Ralph Dunagin (also a Central Floridian and editorial cartoonist), and—the inspiration for this post—is the creator of the Bound & Gagged.  So, for Heather, who is tandem nursing and currently expecting...

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, March 19, 2008 at 6:37 am | Edit
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Eternal Vigilance Is the Price of Liberty

Whether you attribute that quotation to Wendell Phillips, Thomas Jefferson, or Patrick Henry, it's the truth, and no less true when it comes to the rights of parents to educate their own children. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, March 18, 2008 at 9:02 am | Edit
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One of the strangest and most difficult aspects of interacting with other people is discovering those areas which you consider to be so basic, so foundational, so obvious that you don't even think about them—until you run up against someone for whom they are not basic, and maybe not even important.

For me one of those givens is that you don't take food from a common dish and then put it back, and if your hands touch something on a common plate you take it, even if you didn't mean to.  Thus I find it particularly unnerving to watch at church potlucks, or <shudder> restaurant buffet bars, as folks violate those maxims repeatedly and egregiously, with no consideration for those behind them in line.  I'm not speaking particularly of children here; the adults are just as likely, sometimes more so, to be the offenders.

This raises two questions:  Is this really a matter of fundamental hygiene and common courtesy, or merely a particular, culture-specific custom?  I do hope not the latter, or I may have to stop eating away from home.


What are the habits that seem perfectly normal and natural to me, yet cause in others the stomach-turning reaction I experienced this morning?
Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, March 16, 2008 at 12:30 pm | Edit
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Since—ta da!—we expect our fourth grandchild in October Smile, and since choosing a baby's name has an aura of sacrament in the Daley household, and since others have already begun making positive suggestions, I hereby offer an article on baby names not to use.'s Bad Baby Names on the Brain features the book, Bad Baby Names: The Worst True Names Parents Saddled Their Kids With—And Now You Can Too!  I don't know if the article is open to the public or requires a subscription; in case of the latter, I present just a few of the 2,000 or so names, culled from census data, that I would rather not use when speaking of our newest grandchild:  Title Page, Magenta Flamingo, Ghoul Nipple, Mann Pigg, Mary A. Belcher, Deuteronomy Temple, Hell Grimes, Lucifer Carmendo, Sandwich Green, Mayo Head, Tuna Fish, Fanny Pack, Major Nutt, Warren Peace.  Some people have no imagination; names like Octavio and Quintin clearly indicate birth order (though the one present-day Octavio I know is an only child; go figure), but the authors also found, as first names, "every number from one to twenty, by tens to a hundred, and thousand, million, billion, and infinity."  I know our Puritan ancestors were fond of naming their children after virtues (Love, Prudence, Patience, Charity, Endurance), and sometimes after circumstances associated with their lives (Fear, Wrestling), but who would name a child Lust, Wrath, Greed, Avarice, Envy, Sloth, Wrath, or Pride?

Take a moment and be thankful for your parents' wisdom.  Even if you've always hated your name, you now know it could have been much, much worse. 

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, March 11, 2008 at 12:43 pm | Edit
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I am on an Andrew Pudewa kick.  I first discovered his Institute for Excellence in Writing through an online forum for early childhood education, and—as usual—once I'd heard of him, his name started coming to my attention in other ways.  A friend of ours is the principal of a private Christian school which emphasizes academic excellence as well as a solid Christian worldview, and she and her teachers waxed so enthusiastic about his program for teaching writing that she even sent me a sample videotape of one of his lectures.  It didn't take me long to get hooked.  For the first three minutes, I found Pudewa's voice to be annoying; after that I was so intrigued by what he was saying and how he was presenting it that it didn't matter.

Now I'm not averse to spending money on educational materials for our grandkids, but they're not yet old enough for the writing materials, which are a bit pricey to buy on speculation, especially since there might well be a subsequent edition or two by the time they would be used.  Fortunately for my curiosity, one of our favorite homeschooling families was impressed enough to try it out, and I'm looking forward to hearing about their experiences. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, February 27, 2008 at 3:05 pm | Edit
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The One Thing You Need to Know...About Great Managing, Great Leading, and Sustained Individual Success, by Marcus Buckingham (Free Press, 2005)

[This is Part Two.  Part One is here.] 

The mediocre manager believes that most things are learnable and therefore that the essence of management is to identiry each person's weaker areas and eradicate them.

The great manager...believes that the most influential qualities of a person are innate and therefore that the essence of management is to deploy these innate qualities as effectively as possible and so drive performance. 

I find Marcus Buckingham's belief in the essentially unalterable effect of our genetic makeup on our abilities to be disturbing, to say the least.  However, that doesn't change my appreciation of his observation that we spend too much time and effort trying to shore up our areas of weakness, and not enough building on our strengths.  True, we can't afford to ignore our weaknesses, and well-directed efforts at overcoming them are often in order.  Spending the majority of our energy on our strengths, however, generally leads to the most progress, the most satisfaction, and the most achievement. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, December 16, 2007 at 8:41 am | Edit
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Central Florida is the most dangerous place in the country, at least if it's lightning strikes that worry you.  The tragedy of a girl who was struck by lightning just after descending from her school bus is still fresh in our memories, so it's no wonder the Orange County school board policy errs on the side of caution:  No student is allowed outside until 30 minutes after the last lighning flash, if thunder follows the lightning within 30 seconds.

They are wisely reconsidering the policy, however, after a recent debacle.  A long-lasting storm coupled with rigid enforcement of the rules kept some 2000 students trapped at two schools until nearly 9 p.m.  Snacks were trucked in (the district apparently caring less about the safety of their employees), and no doubt many of the students thought the excitement high adventure—at least for the first hour.  But most of the children—not to mention the teachers—must have been anxious to get home to their families, with not a few kindergarteners crying for their mommies. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, August 28, 2007 at 8:23 am | Edit
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With my interest in both children and education you knew it wouldn't be long before I commented on the latest "Baby Einstein" controversy.  A study (based on telephone surveys) published in The Journal of Pediatrics found that babies between eight and sixteen months experienced a significant decrease in language development for every hour spent per day viewing baby videos.

Now those who ridicule parents' attempts to enrich their children's early educational enviroments are having an I-told-you-so field day, and those who profit from the business are crying foul.  The responses that bother me most, however, are those of the defenders of baby videos.  They are giving answers to the wrong questions, and reassurances for the wrong concerns. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, August 16, 2007 at 11:13 am | Edit
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Television has long been called the "idiot box," but here is more evidence that being a couch potato harms the brain as well as the body.  Unfortunately, in this case reading is just as bad as watching TV.

The Swedish experiment was actually about depression.  Previous studies have shown that the hippocamus region of the human brain shrinks in depressed people.  In this study, exercise was shown to have a significant anti-depressant effect in rats, and promoted dramatic neuron growth in the hippocampus.  (If you, like me, wonder how on earth they can tell if a rat is depressed, read the article.) (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, July 5, 2007 at 8:39 am | Edit
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