Thursday, October 25, 2007

Pun intended:

My inner nerd is doing her happy dance!

I think even Mr. Keillor would approve.

Via Catholic Mom

More fun with Chesterton:

"I have always imagined myself to be a lover of all animals, because I have never met any animal that I definitely disliked. Most people draw the line somewhere. Lord Roberts disliked cats; the best woman I know objects to spiders; a Theosophist I know protects, but detests, mice; and many leading humanitarians have an objection to human beings."

--G.K. Chesterton, Dogs

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Apostle of Common Sense or cultural Prophet?

In "On Evil Euphemisms" G.K. Chesterton wrote quite eloquently about the sexual revolution--and the euphemisms that came with it--before it actually happened:

For this sort of revolt strikes me as nothing except revolting; and certainly not particularly realistic. With the passions which are natural to youth we all sympathize; with the pain that often arises from loyalty and duty we all sympathize still more; but nobody need sympathize with publicity experts picking pleasant expressions for unpleasant things; and I for one prefer the coarse language of our fathers.

I bet if he had been around in the late 1960's he would have said " I told you so."

Though he would have certainly said it in a much more interesting manner.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


It's not often that we have a natural disaster of such magnitude that the media need not exaggerate the story. Here is a picture from NASA that shows the satellite's-eye-view of the smoke and flame:

My husband and I have friends in areas threatened by the fires, as well as many of my family members, and former students and colleagues and their families.

Many people in L.A. and SanDiego counties have already lost their homes, and it is expected that many more homes will be lost before this is over. In places not threatened by fire, poor air quality due to massive amounts of ash and smoke is a serious problem. All San Diego county school districts, as well as Catholic schools operated by the Diocese of San Diego were closed today, as were several college campuses, including UC San Diego and USD.

Let us remember all of the people whose lives have been affected by these fires in our prayers.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

What is a "schoolmarm", anyway?

Somebody found my blog while searching for the etymology of that word.

I could be a typical teacher and tell my reader to go look it up in the dictionary. :)

But I guess, since I'm in a good mood right now, I'll tell you anyway.

Here is one definition I found on etymologies, such as are available:

From the American Heritage Dictionary (AHD)
school·marm (skōōl'märm') n. --A woman teacher, especially one who is regarded as strict or old-fashioned.

Schoolmarm is a a compound of the word school and the dialectal marm (variant of ma'am).

According to the AHD, the etymology of school is as follows:
[Middle English scole, from Old English scōl, from Latin schola, scola, from Greek skholē; see segh- in Indo-European roots.]

Ma'am is itself a dialectal variant of madam, which, according to the AHD is derived from the Middle English word madame, which itself is derived from the Old French ma dame (which, if I'm not mistaken translates as "my lady")

There you go. The etymology of a schoolmarm.

For the origins of this schoolmarm, read this post.

I get really annoyed...

... when information is misused.

Especially when that information is misused to promote a political agenda that is both disgusting and immoral.

To see what I mean, read the update to my post on a certain sex scandal at a certain middle school last march. Apparently, someone has used my opinions as an excuse to defend immoral, predatory--and might I add generally illegal--- behavior.

I'm very vexed.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Wholegrain goodness.

I had a look at Wheat & Weeds today, after another blog I read linked to a post over there.

And my inner Catholic, pro-life feminist (not an oxymoron, I assure you) did a little happy dance when I started browsing through posts labled "It's Only Women", which examine ways in which the present culture of death betrays the women it claims to empower. She makes many of the same points I have made here, only in a more articulate manner. Check them out for yourself, and see what I mean.

At least read these two posts:
"Thank Heavens for littler girls and free clinic access"--on the recent decision to give Maine middleschoolers birth control pills.
"Death is better than babies"---As long as it's only women who die so men won't have to deal with any...shrinkage. Read the post on some little mentioned anti-feminist history behind the development of the female birth control pill.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Kids' Maine source for birth control pills.

It's official! The Portland, Maine middle school I posted about earlier approved the plan to provide birth control (including "the pill" and condoms" to 6-8th grade students, with or without parental knowledge or consent.

I posted on this story yesterday. Click here to read my post, and my opinion of just how irresponsible this decision is.

Modern Commentaries also has a post on this today, examining ways in which this erodes parents' ability to responsibly raise their children.

Even Bill O'Reilly covered this on his show this evening.

Click here to read about the hazards of birth control pill use.

Update: Read what Catholic Mom posts on this issue from her perspective as a medical doctor and a mom. You don't need an M.D. to see that she makes good sense, though. Parents, you do not have to take this lying down! Really!
Update 2: The Guttmacher Institute, the research tentacle of Planned Parenthood, inadvertently demonstrates that easier access to birth control does not reduce unplanned pregnancies or abortion rates, contrary to what many who support policies like that just adopted at the Maine middle school would have us believe. Via Jeff Miller.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Congratulations... Archbishop (now, soon to be Cardinal) DiNardo of the Archdiocese of Galveston Houston.

Read more at:
Houston Chronicle
Ad Altare Dei

Portland area middle school to provide "the pill"?

Parents living in Maine may want to keep their eyes on this story at the Portland Press Herald. King Middle School is considering providing birth control pills and other contraceptives to students in grades 6-8.

My favorite line from the article is the following:

Of 134 students who visited King's health center during the 2006-07 school year, five students, or 4 percent, reported having sexual intercourse, said Amanda Rowe, lead nurse in Portland's school health centers.

"This is a service that is totally needed," Rowe said. "It's about very few kids, but they are kids who don't have the same opportunities and access as other students."

What "opportunities and access" is she talking about? Opportunities to decide not have sex, like the other 96% of their classmates? If they don't have a choice in that, they don't need pills. They need the police.

This blogger has posted extensively on the serious health risks associated with use of birth control pills. There are no words for how irresponsible it is to provide them to young girls who have barely even started puberty.

Portland, Maine: These are your tax dollars at work.

Nod: Tito

Monday, October 15, 2007

"I don't want to go on the cart!"

"Back off! I'm Not Dead Yet"--an article on living wills and advance directives at the Washington Post by Charlotte F. Allen (If my link does not work, try the one at Real Choice) Her article begins with her short battle with breast cancer, and her experiences with the paperwork that comes with risky (yet often life-saving) medical treatments.

Having recently been seriously ill enough to be in the hospital--and asked questions about advanced directives--and having had two of my relatives diagnosed with cancer in the past 6 months, and the oldest living member of my family now receiving hospice care, this article really hit home for me.

Here's a small excerpt:

...I found something weasely in the way all those options were presented, as though my only real choice were between being dispatched into the hereafter at the first sign of loss of consciousness or being stuck with as many tubes as needles in a voodoo doll and imprisoned inside a ventilator until global warming melts the ice caps and the hospital washes out to sea. I found the box on the form that said "I decline a living will" and checked it. Right now, my husband is my living will, and after we spent 13 days observing Terri Schiavo exercise her "right to die" by being slowly dehydrated to death after her feeding tube was removed in 2005, he knows exactly how I feel about such matters.


it seems that people talk a good game about living wills, especially when they're healthy, but when their health begins to fail, they often have very different ideas about what they would be willing to undergo to stave off death for a little while. Furthermore, according to a 1990s study by the National Institutes of Health, even when patients have living wills, if those wills contain directives with which doctors and hospitals disagree (such as, I myself suspect, prolonging the patient's life instead of terminating it), many doctors simply ignore the patient's desires. Living wills, it would seem, are effective only if they happen to comport with doctors' and bioethicists' own theories about what is best for the patient anyway. For this reason, the authors of the Hastings study propose that instead of filling out a living will, people execute a durable power of attorney, a simple document that entrusts decisions about end-of-life care to a relative or friend who shares the signer's moral beliefs about death and dying. That sounds about right to me.

None of us should be tossed on the cart before it's time.

Hat tip: Christina Dunigan

Legal help for women harmed by Abortion.

Information about several possible resources, including the beginnings of a new one can be found in this post at the After Abortion blog.

  • Abortion Malpractice litigation services for lawyers
  • American Catholic Lawyers Association
  • American Center for Law and Justice
  • Life Legal Defense Foundation
  • National Institute of Family & Life Advocates
  • Rutherford Institute
  • Thomas More Law Center

  • For emotional and spiritual healing after abortion, here is a list of resources.

    If you are facing a difficult pregnancy, abortion is not the only option. Click here for more information and links to pregnancy centers and shelters where you can get help. Also, check the list in the sidebar. You may have to scroll a bit.

    Friday, October 12, 2007

    Cleaning up the Culture of car at a time!

    I missed out on this event this year, but I wanted to draw attention to it, because I like it!

    Wash for Life is nationwide pro-life fundraiser. Young people wash cars to raise money for their local crisis pregnancy centers. The next one will be September 13, 2008.

    Occasionally I'll see kids doing car wash fundraisers for sports teams and cheerleading squads--the kinds of extra-curricular activities that define the American high school experience, but which have little long-term impact on the world. These kids are doing something that has much more significance.

    Contrary to popular belief, not all teenagers are up to no good. It's kids like these that remind me what potential there is in the young people I work with, and why my job as a high school teacher is worth doing.

    Here is the website for this event:

    Click here to find out where this year's car wash opportunities were located.

    Shame on them...

    Holy Cross College in Worcester, Massachusetts apparently supports Planned Parenthood. It is playing host to a conference for The Massachusetts Alliance for Teen Pregnancy which features organizations such as Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts.

    Among those who have spoken out forcefully has been Bishop Robert J. McManus of the Diocese of Worcester, who said in a lengthy statement, “It is my fervent wish that the administration of the College of the Holy Cross will unequivocally disassociate itself from the upcoming conference sponsored by the Massachusetts Alliance on Teen Pregnancy so that the college can continue to be recognized as a Catholic institution committed to promoting the moral teaching of the Roman Catholic Church.”

    Bishop McManus identified three key reasons the event should be cancelled: Holy Cross living its identity as a Catholic university; the Church’s teachings on life issues; and Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts’ position in opposition to Church positions on life.

    Unfortunately, Holy Cross President Father Michael C. McFarland, S.J. responded to the Bishop’s thoughtful statement by declaring his continued support for the event.

    The full story is at Phatcatholic Apologetics.

    This is nothing short of scandalous. Keep the college administration, especially Father McFarland in your prayers. They ought to know better.

    Related: The Newman Guide to Choosing a Catholic College

    Update: The Cardinal Newman Society is putting on a counter-event highlighting Catholic teaching as an answer to the problem of Teen Pregnancy. Click over to Dawn Eden's blog to read more.

    Wednesday, October 10, 2007

    Another study that re-states the obvious

    Big news, ladies and gentlemen!

    Drumroll please...

    Parent involvement is the most important factor in student academic success!

    It's even more important than where you send your child.

    They could have just paid me the money they spent on this research. I could have told them the same thing.

    Hat tip: Catholic Mom

    Interesting: NSAID's and infertility?

    I can't take NSAID's (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) myself. These include medicines like aleve an asprin.

    But I heard recently that they can sometimes interfere with ovulation.

    Here is a link to a list of abstracts of studies that relate to this connection.

    Tuesday, October 9, 2007

    Just one of the family

    Here's a kitty whose manners have elevated her to new status in her family:

    See the video on YouTube.

    Mandatory organ donation?

    BBC news reports that the British house of Lords has been contemplating its participation in the European Union's organ donor pool. Specifically, whether it should be an opt-in program, where donors must explicitly state their desire to participate, or an opt-out program, where citizens are considered donors by default, unless they specifically opt out.

    According to an article ath the BBC news website:
    The UK is currently considering switching from an opt-in to an opt-out system, in the hope of meeting a chronic organ shortage.

    The article also states:
    The Church of England has declared organ donation to be a Christian duty, in keeping with giving oneself and one's possessions freely.

    Body parts should not be mistaken for the person themselves, and the best way to treat them reverently is to use them to heal others, the Church said.

    The Anglican Church officials would not state a preference for an opt-in or opt-out program.

    Though it encourages organ donation, the Catholic Church does not elevate organ donation to the level of being one's required duty. Paragraph 2296 of The Catechism of the Catholic Church says the following about organ donation:

    Organ transplants are in conformity with the moral law if the physical and psychological dangers and risks to the donor are proportionate to the good that is sought for the recipient. Organ donation after death is a noble and meritorious act and is to be encouraged as an expression of generous solidarity. It is not morally acceptable if the donor or his proxy has not given explicit consent. Moreover, it is not morally admissible directly to bring about the disabling mutilation or death of a human being, even in order to delay the death of other persons.

    A mandatory donor program, where the default position is for every citizen to be a donor, unless s/he opts out creates a problem in the area of explicit consent. If a person is unaware of this program, or for any reason unable to submit the necessary paperwork to "opt-out," his or her organs may be removed without explicit consent. I suspect that those in favor of such a program know that this may be the case, as they expect it to solve the organ shortage problem. Clearly, they know that people who would not explicitly volunteer will become donors by default under an opt-out policy.

    Add to this that the legal definition of death (at least here in the US) allows for the harvesting or organs from braindead persoons whose hearts are still beating. (See this blog post by an anesthesiology resident involved in such a procedure--be warned that it is somewhat disturbing) Sometimes, according to this, anesthesia is not included. The BBC article makes no mention of any provisions to be made to protect the braindead or the terminally ill from exploitative organ harvesting.

    While generosity with one's organs is to be encouraged, it should not be mandated by the state.

    Related Links:
    Searchable online Catechism

    Hat tip: Christina Dunigan

    Monday, October 8, 2007

    Gossip Girl: "harsh realities" or low expectations?

    Susan Vigilante over at Desperate Irish Housewife has an article in the current National Review about "Gossip Girl", yet another distorted television series about high school age kids. Click here to read the entire article, which is in Vigilante's usual conversational-satirical style.

    Noticing excessive underage drinking in a famous New York hotel bar (among other moral issues) in the series, she called the director of communications at the New York Palace. Here are some parts of her summary of their conversation (with my favorites of his comments in bold)

    I spoke to Peter Holmberg, director of communications at the hotel, and asked him what he thought about the New York Palace bar’s new identity as the easiest place in New York for teenager to score a martini.

    At first, Holmberg seemed even more surprised by my call than I was that he took it. No one else, he said, had asked this question. But he was willing to discuss it.

    First of all, he said, it’s important to remember that Gossip Girl is a fantasy. The hotel you see on the show “isn’t really our hotel. Our hotel is called the New York Palace; the one in the series is called the Palace. Our hotel is playing a character in the series. It isn’t really us. Did you see the show? That reception desk wasn’t even ours. It was a fake.”

    “But that really was your bar,” I said. “And that really was your courtyard.” Besides, I went on to tell him, “The Palace” might be a slightly different name, but there’s no way anyone who had ever seen the place would confuse it with some other hotel. The place has been a landmark for a hundred years. There is simply no mistaking it for anything else.

    “We are the New York Palace Hotel,” he repeated. “The ‘Palace” in the series isn’t really us.”

    I said that was like saying “The cathedral” across the street wasn’t’ really St. Pat’s.


    “Look,” Holmberg went on, “I read the script.” If it hadn’t included things like drinking and pot-smoking, he said, “it would not have rung true to me. This series illuminates some of the harsh realities of teenage life. It’s a quality program that touches on controversial issues.” But, he added, “If I felt it was endorsing [these behaviors] I would never have allowed it to film here.”

    'Scuse me? Since when does a "fantasy", as he calls it, have to be true to life? And why does it have to teenagers trying to get into bars to score an illegal martini or five to "ring true"? What does that say about what he expects of teens?

    Oh yes, and did we mention that Mr. Holmberg tires to placate Mrs Vigilante my mentioning that he himself is the uncle of teenagers?

    Holmberg told me he has two teenage nieces. Thanks to Gossip Girl, he said, he has had some very “fruitful, in-depth” discussions with them about things like underage drinking

    Oh, that makes me feel sooo much better.

    Look, people. Teenagers already know that our expectations of them are pathetically low. But, believe it or not, there are plenty of them who manage to get through high school (and sometimes even college) without getting drunk, high, or pregnant, and who will probably never be cruel enough to put anybody in dire need of therapy.

    Is there a lot of that going on? Absolutely. But even if destructive behavior is "normal" do we have to reinforce it? What's wrong with raising our kids to be a little better than that? If we're going to talk about "fantasy," what's wrong with the occasional TV protagonist who can rise above these "harsh realities"? That doesn't have to be a fantasy, you know. Most kids are capable of doing that, if given proper motivation. The trouble is, many adults don't believe this is true.

    The other trouble is, many parents are afraid of rasiing kids that are different. Teenagers may get pressure to conform from their peers, but their fear of being different is reinforced by parents who lack the courage to teach their kids to be proud of what makes them distinct. Some parents are so afraid that they actually buy the kegs for their teenagers' weekend parties! They help their kids engage in destructive behaviors, assuming that if they get drunk and have promiscuous sex at home, they'll be safer because they are in a "safe place" being "supervised".

    Note to concerned parents: If you want your child to survive junior high and high school, you cannot participate in mindless conformity yourself. You cannot make your first concern your child's social popularity. You must start teaching them not to follow the lemming hordes from an early age. Like, say, as soon as they start school. It really can be done.

    And, by the way, if we really want teens to avoid underage drinking and similarly destructive behaviors, why are we going to such lengths to cultivate the "everybody 's doing it" myth with our popular entertainment?

    So a big high five from this educator to Susan Vigilante, for her attempt to infuse some common sense into a world that needs it.

    Update: I wasn't kidding about parents providing alcohol for their minor kids' parties. This was a prominent enough problem at the high school I attended, that a local judge was actually invited to a parent meeting to explain the legal ramifications of it.

    According to a post over at Catholic Mom, One parent in Rockville, MD just got in BIG trouble with the law for doing so. In my home state of California, you could be charged with "contributing to the delinquency of a minor", among other things, assuming anyone actually bothered to enforce the law. Unfortunately, most of this stuff goes unreported.

    I should have added earlier that parents who put on keggers for their kids are not only guilty of being lemmings--they are also criminally negligent.

    Saturday, October 6, 2007

    Another of life's mysteries explained?

    Having recently had mine removed, I have been pondering the appendix quite a lot lately, wondering why we have one in the first place.

    As if in answer to my questions, my husband found the following on today:

    The function of the appendix seems related to the massive amount of bacteria populating the human digestive system, according to the study in the Journal of Theoretical Biology. There are more bacteria than human cells in the typical body. Most are good and help digest food.

    But sometimes the flora of bacteria in the intestines die or are purged. Diseases such as cholera or amoebic dysentery would clear the gut of useful bacteria. The appendix's job is to reboot the digestive system in that case.

    The appendix "acts as a good safe house for bacteria," said Duke surgery professor Bill Parker, a study co-author. Its location _ just below the normal one-way flow of food and germs in the large intestine in a sort of gut cul-de-sac -- helps support the theory, he said.

    Also, the worm-shaped organ outgrowth acts like a bacteria factory, cultivating the good germs, Parker said.


    In less developed countries, where the appendix may be still useful, the rate of appendicitis is lower than in the U.S., other studies have shown, Parker said.

    Read the rest here.

    Friday, October 5, 2007

    Intelligence and Confusion

    "Vanity working on a weak head, produces every sort of mischief."
    Mr. Knightley, Jane Austen's Emma

    I tell my students that asking questions when they are confused is a sign of intelligence.

    Let me explain that.

    Two possible things happen when people are confused: they recognize the confusion, or they do not. The ones who do not tend to forget whatever it was that confused them. So, for instance, a student may read the assigned chapter for homework, but he won't remember a thing---and he probably won't wonder why. He'll just assume he doesn't remember things he reads very well, when the real problem is that his reading comprehension skills are not at th level he needs to understand the text.

    Those whose conscious minds do in fact register confusion tend to react to it in one of two ways. The most common response is to say something like, "That's dumb!" (Translation: I don't get it, and I don't feel like finding out why I don't get it, therefore the problem is with the concept, and not with me.)

    The other (more intelligent, and generally more practical) response is to ask questions, listen openly, get clarification and *gasp!* resolve the confusion!

    Now, speaking for myself as an educator, I have a great deal more respect for people who respond in the latter fashion. I have absolutely no respect for opinions formed based on needlessly ignorant filling in of the blanks, especially when ignorance can be easily fixed with a quick look at reliable publicly available documentation. I get even more annoyed when ignorant filling in of blanks is presented as "fact".

    I once heard someone wisely point out that we have two ears and one mouth for a reason. Maybe it has something to do with keeping our feet out of that mouth.

    So you can imagine my opinion of what went on recently at The View.

    'nuff said.

    Nod: Tito

    Thursday, October 4, 2007

    Newer Comedy?

    In the beginning, there was Old Comedy, which centered around a male clown figure, or possibly a pair of them involved in farcical shenanigans, usually in a misguided attempt to resolve a conflict.

    Then there was New Comedy, which revolved mostly around love stories (think Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, Pride & Prejudice)

    Dawn Eden links to "When Harry Met Sal," an interesting article by Justin Shubow on recent trends in comic movies, involving male clown duos exhibiting patterns of behavior that have mostly been reserved for romantic couples. Is this a twist on New Comedy, or another way of combining elements of Old and New?

    Shubow offers the following explanation for this recent innovation:

    But there might be a deeper reason for the advent of the man-crush rom com. In these extremely unromantic times (Is there anything less romantic than having sex while wearing a condom?), in which serial monogamy followed by divorce-prone marriage has become the norm, living happily ever after has become a less and less believable fantasy. By contrast, “best friends forever” is not just a live possibility, it’s one that is widely lived. And when romantic relationships are impermanent, life-long friendship becomes one of our few consolations. Admittedly, such an interpretation is an awfully heavy take on light entertainment. But if one looks past the full-frontal vulgarity, even the most immature comedies might be capturing a contemporary truth: Outside the family, anyone looking for undying words of devotion might just have to settle for “I love you, man.”

    Read the rest of the article here.

    For further reading on New Comedy: Ordinary Pleasures: Couples, Conversation, and Comedy by Dr. Kay Young