I'm reading an extraordinarily important and fascinating book: What's Going on in There: How the Brain and Mind Develop in the First Five Years of Life (Lise Eliot, 1999, Bantam Books). I'll probably end up making several blog posts out of quotations from this book, so here's a start. I always wondered why deliberate smiles, such as those manufactured for photographs or in an attempt to look more cheerful than one actually is, usually look so false:

[S]miling is not voluntary. Although you can willfully concoct your face into a smile, this kind of “polite” smile uses only the muscles of your mouth. Genuine smiles, by contrast, also involve a specific muscle that surrounds the eye, the orbicularis oculi, and movement of this muscle is entirely involuntary.
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, August 12, 2005 at 8:00 am | Edit
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This afternoon, searching for a birthday gift for my nephew, I ventured into long-forgotten territory: a Toys R Us store. Just as a child's growth is more noticeable to one who has been away for a while, so did I find the cultural changes represented by the toys and games to be startling. While there were a few of what I might call generic games, most were branded with characters from television shows and movies. Even the old standby, Candyland, now comes in Dora the Explorer and Winnie the Pooh (Disney version, of course) flavors. Back when I was a more regular visitor of toy stores, there were already a few media-inspired toys, but now the genre has exploded. I did not linger, but left with the impression that I would find more of reality at Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes.
Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, July 25, 2005 at 6:58 pm | Edit
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Like many Americans, we plan to spend this Memorial Day relaxing with friends. As good and proper an activity as that is, we would be wrong not to recognize the true purpose of this holiday. Those who have given the last full measure of devotion to our country died for more substantial freedoms than a three-day weekend.

Here is some information on Memorial Day by the Department of Veterans' Affairs.

And here is a link to our Veterans' Day tribute to all who have laid their lives on the line for our country, including two family members who died in World War I.
Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, May 30, 2005 at 7:26 am | Edit
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Hard, painstaking work is the toll an independent spirit charges itself for self-respect.

John Taylor Gatto

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, May 2, 2005 at 7:33 am | Edit
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Better yet, who proofreads them?

I was curious to compare the ingredients and nutritional value of the two varieties of soy milk in my refrigerator: Organic Valley Soy Vanilla, and Silk Unsweetened Soymilk. Staring at the nutritional labelling, I couldn't get past the beginning. Two half-gallon containers. Both say "Serving size: 1 cup." The Organic Valley carton says the expected, "Servings per container: 8," whereas the Silk Unsweetened says, "Servings per container: 4."

When kids would come to me for tutoring in mathematics, I would often feed them cookies, claiming this would help their "math brains." I offer the above as evidence that sugar is, indeed, important for correct mathematical thinking.
Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, April 27, 2005 at 1:44 pm | Edit
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When Terri Schiavo dies, there's going to be cheering, and I don't understand why. I know there will be cries of exultation because of the commentary I've heard, and the rude jesting, even from as mainstream a production as National Public Radio's Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me. Perhaps people make light of tragedy in self-defense; I know my family was able to find humor even as our father lay dying. There was, however, an enormous difference: our humor was suffused with an undeniable love for the man and a determination to do all we could for him. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, March 30, 2005 at 8:21 am | Edit
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As part of our constant dialogue on worship and music styles, Jon send me this SheepComics link. I was actually more intrigued by the commentary than the comic, in particular this part:


What I mean is that by and large there really is only one "worship style" and the vast majority of churches consider it a certain kind of meeting that goes like this:


  1. Opening prayer.
  2. Sing music or listen to performed music.
  3. Listen to a speech.
  4. Closing prayer.

I find that interesting because I disagree strongly. It is certainly true of some churches, but I wouldn't say majority—at least it would not characterize most of the churches I've been to. And certainly not what I would consider a more ideal "script" if you want one, which would be simply...

  1. The Word (Scripture and sermon)
  2. The Eucharist
...with prayers and singing liberally interwoven in all parts. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, March 23, 2005 at 4:26 pm | Edit
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A friend sent me the following Frazz comic and I was immediately hooked. The setting is an elementary school, and the main characters are Frazz (school janitor and Renaissance Man), Caulfield (a genius who hates school because it bores him; he hangs out with Frazz a lot), Mrs. Olsen (Caulfield's teacher), Mr. Burke (the school's best teacher, and Frazz's best friend), Mr. Spaetzle (the principal), Miss Plainwell (first grade teacher).
I've never been much of a Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. fan, but his short story, Harrison Bergeron, has haunted me since I first read it, long before frustrations with our chidren's schools brought us head to head with its stunning reality. Written in 1961, Vonnegut's warning is yet more accurate and more frightening today. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, March 15, 2005 at 8:44 am | Edit
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Recently I discovered Li’l Writer Guy living in my head.

That sentence is enough to make half the readers of this blog think I’m insane, and the other half think I’m possessed. Be that as it may, it’s the best way I know to explain the way I think. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, March 4, 2005 at 10:21 pm | Edit
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So, I know I don't have time to spend posting to the blog, but over lunch I read quite a strange article in today's paper. Here is a link, I hope. (This is my first post to the blog and out of our family I know the least about computers - well, I may know more than Jonathan, but not for long!) Anyway, about the article. It is about devices that a Rochester woman sells to keep belly button holes from closing up when women are pregnant and the ring won't fit anymore (though it took me to the end to actually figure that out). It is interesting how the article is worded as if to sound that this is a need that has no other options. Women speak of this device as life-saving because they don't want to HAVE to be pierced again, and it's so great because it's safer than the do-it-yourself methods. As one bright woman observed: "'I took a piece of string and tied it together like a ring,' she recounts. 'It didn't look professional, and people looked at me funny'." Okay, since when did showing your belly ever look professional?
Posted by harp on Wednesday, March 2, 2005 at 11:23 am | Edit
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Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it.  (Proverbs 3:27)

Last night some friends came over for dinner, and were enchanted by the Lady Grey tea that I served.  When they left, I thought about giving them some tea bags to take with them.  However, we had plans to go to the beach together this weekend, and I decided it would be nicer to bring the tea with me, as a surprise.  Unfortunately, due to a crisis at work, we had to back out of the beach plans.

The moral: If you can do something good, do it now. Tomorrow is not promised to us.
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, January 21, 2005 at 11:10 am | Edit
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Everywhere you turn these days you'll find an opportunity to make donations to help the victims of the recent Indian Ocean tsunami. My favorite is World Vision International, a well-established organization that has been doing good work in developing countries longer than I've been alive. Some of the reasons I like World Vision are succinctly explained in a statement I quote below from their tsunami donation website. Before you click on the World Vision link, however, there is one thing I'd like to clarify. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, January 6, 2005 at 8:57 am | Edit
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News reports are trumpeting findings which, if true, show that our society has fallen even lower than I had thought. A study of almost 1000 Texan women found that they ranked watching television high on the list of activities that give pleasure, while taking care of children was low—almost as low as doing housework. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, December 3, 2004 at 9:12 am | Edit
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We have a friend who just delivered her third child after two previous Caesarean sections that followed non-progressive labors. According to a recent report in the New York Times, that blessing would not have been possible with many doctors and hospitals. For a number of reasons, many hospitals are refusing to allow patients to attempt VBAC's (vaginal births after Caesarean). (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, November 30, 2004 at 1:58 pm | Edit
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A study in London showed that chocolate is a more effective cough medicine than those terrible-tasting syrups, and has fewer side effects. Patients in the study were given theobromine in amounts equivalent to two cups of cocoa, or codeine, or a placebo. Codeine, traditionally used to suppress persistent coughs, was only slightly more effective than the placebo, but the theobromine excelled. The next questions: Is more better? Is less just as effective? Since milk chocolate contains less theobromine than dark chocolate, do I need to eat more M&M's than chocolate chips for the same result? <Ahem>, <ahem>, excuse me while I go nip this cough in the bud....
Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, November 24, 2004 at 1:41 pm | Edit
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