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Category Archives: Learning

word of the day: periphrasis


noun: A roundabout way of saying something, using more words than necessary.  {or in some cases – such as a filibuster – saying nothing . . .}

Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks for 8 hours against tax cuts,
while Congressional Black Caucus joins opposition

Well after the sun had set and most of his colleagues had flown home, Sanders was still sharing – about taxes, bad trade deals and “the crooks on Wall Street,” among many other topics.

“China, China, CHINA!” he yelled at one point, stressing that the $14 trillion national debt was largely being financed by the Chinese government’s decision to continue buying U.S. bonds.

The last time any senator spoke as long as Sanders did was in November 2003, when Sen. Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), then the minority whip, spoke more than nine hours all by himself to protest a proposal by Republicans to eliminate filibusters on judicial nominations. To help fill the hours, Reid even read from his autobiography.

Before that, the only other attempt at an old-school filibuster in the past two decades came from Sen. Alfonse M. D’Amato (R-N.Y.) in 1992, when he spoke for more than 15 hours against a tax provision that would close a typewriter plant in his state. D’Amato sang “South of the Border” at times, protesting how the typewriter plant was headed for Mexico.

the inner voice of love

In the introduction to Henri Nouwen’s book, The Inner Voice of Love, he writes that “This book is my secret journal.  It was written during the most difficult period of my life, from December 1987 to June 1988.  That was a time of extreme anguish, during which I wondered whether I would be able to hold on to my life.  Everything came crashing down–my self-esteem, my energy to live and work, my sense of being loved, my hope for healing, my trust in God . . . everything.  Here I was, a writer about the spiritual life, known as someone who loves God and gives hope to people, flat on the ground and in total darkness.

“What had happened?  I had come face to face with my own nothingness.  It was as if all that had given my life meaning was pulled away and I could see nothing in front of me but a bottomless abyss.”

Excerpt from the chapter entitled “Claim Your Unique Presence in Your Community”

Your unique presence in your community is the way God wants you to be present to others.  Different people have different ways of being present.  You have to know and claim your way.  That is why discernment is so important.  Once you have an inner knowledge of your true vocation, you have a point of orientation.  That will help you decide what to do and what to let go of, what to say and what to remain silent about, when to go out and when to stay home, who to be with and who to avoid.

When you get exhausted, frustrated, overwhelmed, or run down, your body is saying that you are doing things that are none of your business.  God does not require of you what is beyond your ability, what leads you away from God, or what makes you depressed or sad.  God wants you to live for others and to live that presence well.  Doing so might involve suffering, fatigue, and even moments of great physical or emotional pain, but none of this must ever pull you away from your deepest self and God.

Your unique presence in your community is the way God wants you to be present to others.  Different people have different ways of being present.  You have to know and claim your way.

Quote of the day

Writing would be merely an act of crazy hubris were it not a means of discovery, cunning and patience.

Mary Rose O’Reilly

the inner life of a cell

“The Inner Life of the Cell” takes undergrads beyond textbooks and vividly illustrates the mechanisms that allow a white blood cell to sense its surroundings and respond to an external stimulus.This animation explores the different cellular environments in which these communications take place. “I was impressed by the ability of the XVIVO team to transform all the structural information and the very detailed sequence of molecular events that I assembled in a story-board into a visually pleasing work of art. This was made possible because the XVIVO team combines artistic talents with a good understanding of biology,” says Alain Viel Ph.D., Associate Director of Undergraduate Research at Harvard University.

Even if one (and I am certainly one) does not understand the biological terms and words used in this video, it is spectacular to visually see the organization of the cell.


QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “People do not process information in a neutral way. Their preconceptions affect their reactions. Biased assimilation refers to the fact that people assimilate new information in a biased fashion; those who have accepted false rumors do not easily give up their beliefs, especially when they have a strong emotional commitment to those beliefs. It can be exceedingly hard to dislodge what people think, even by presenting them with the facts.” — Cass Sunstein, “On Rumors”

“The Theory of Mind” and the importance of public libraries

An M.R.I. of a brain highlighting areas used during reading

“It’s not that evolution gives us insight into fiction,” William Flesch [a professor of English at Brandeis University] said, “but that fiction gives us insight into evolution.”

I can’t remember a time I didn’t visit a public library: before I could even read, I would accompany my mother to the library and marvel at all of the books with colorful jackets.  As soon as I could read, I was selecting books at a mobile library that would come to our neighborhood at certain times of the week.

Admittedly, I do have an extensive home library; however, I constantly borrow books from our public library and take advantage of the research books and periodicals in the library and occasionally do a little regional and genealogy research.  The ability to borrow books from other libraries (interlibrary loan) through the Seguin library is marvelous and I certainly avail myself of that opportunity.

Seguin’s library is a small facility with very limited parking and no $$;  I am astonished at all our small competent library staff accomplishes and very thankful for them.

The new electronic age makes the nation’s 15,000 public libraries “more, rather than less, important to the progress of the United States in the 21st Century,” James H. Billington, Librarian of Congress, told Congress.

Dr. Billington testified before the Joint Committee on the Library, chaired by Rep. Charlie Rose (D., N.C.), along with other witnesses, including Dr. Marilyn Miller, president of the American Library Association, on the “state of our nation’s libraries.”

Citing cutbacks in locally financed public libraries, Dr. Billington warned that Americans are “in serious danger of eroding a unique legacy laboriously created by our forebears” even as public demands for modern library services increase and two-thirds of all Americans use a library in the course of a year.

The Library’s Importance in Tough Times

A new discovery by me! – I just learned that I can take my floppy disks to the library and upload to a flash drive.  There is no floppy disk drive on our computer and I have boxes of floppy disks (some not so important – some very important – to me).  I was delighted to learn of this library service and plan to take advantage of it.

Do you know that:
Libraries save lives. In a 1991 study physicians said that information provided by the library contributed to their ability to avoid patient mortality. The physicians also rated the information provided by the library more highly than that provided by other information sources such as diagn
ostic imaging, lab tests, and discussions with colleagues. 

U.S. libraries circulate about the same number of items as FedEx ships each day, i.e., about 5.3 million items.

Numerous studies have confirmed that school libraries staffed by qualified library media specialists do make a measurable difference on student achievement. 

There is now research to support what librarians have always said, i.e., libraries are busier during hard economic times.

Five times more people visit U.S. public libraries each year than attend U.S. professional and college football, basketball, baseball and hockey games combined. (1.1 billion vs. 204 million)
In a 2003 Wisconsin study, one-third of non-users of libraries said that libraries deserve more state financial support.

Public libraries are good for the economy. Studies have shown that public libraries have an economic impact that greatly exceeds their cost, returning somewhere between $4 to $6 to the local economy for every $1 invested. A healthy library system is indicative of a healthy community. A community without a library is unattractive to businesses and individuals looking to locate to a new area.

Libraries play an important role in helping young children develop reading skills. Early childhood literacy and exposure to a book-rich environment are significant predictors of a child’s success in school and in life. The Internet has yet to come anywhere near filling this need.

Libraries are forward- thinking, and play an important role at the cutting edge of information technology. Libraries provide Internet access to many who cannot afford it, or who live in areas where access is unavailable or slow. Librarians are trained to help Internet users winnow out irrelevant information, find specialized Internet resources, and determine the reliability, authority and safety of the information retrieved. In addition, American librarians are lobbying to maintain “net neutrality” to ensure that Internet resources remain available to everyone — not just to those who can afford to pay for them.

A vital and attractive library helps define a community, encourages civic pride, and invests residents with a sense of ownership.

Libraries are the heart and soul of a community and reflect the value residents place on literacy, education, culture, and freedom.

Source: excerpt from 2007 article by Margaret Jakubcin, librarian

Libraries treat every question, every need, every person equally, with the same respect.

buffing the brain

There’s a bright spot. If we work the brain, we can grow new brain cells. “There is a gradual growing awareness that challenging your brain can have positive effects,” says Dr. Gene Cohen, director of the Center on Aging, Health & Humanities at George Washington University. “Every time you challenge your brain, it will actually modify the brain. We can indeed form new brain cells, despite a century of being told it’s impossible.”

Computer programs to improve brain performance are a booming business.

One form of training, however, has been shown to maintain and improve brain health — physical exercise. In humans, exercise improves what scientists call “executive function,” the set of abilities that allows you to select behavior that’s appropriate to the situation, inhibit inappropriate behavior and focus on the job at hand in spite of distractions.

Executive function starts to decline when people reach their 70s. But elderly people who have been athletic all their lives have much better executive function than sedentary people of the same age. This relationship might occur because people who are healthier tend to be more active, but that’s not the whole story. When inactive people get more exercise, even starting in their 70s, their executive function improves, as shown in a recent meta-analysis of 18 studies. One effective training program involves just 30 to 60 minutes of fast walking several times a week.

So instead of spending money on computer games or puzzles to improve your brain’s health, invest in a gym membership. Or just turn off the computer and go for a brisk walk.

[Exercise on the Brain, November 8, 2007, article by Sandra Aamodt and Sam Wang]

“It’s like there is a continent out there . . .”


“It’s like there’s a continent there, and we are nibbling along the shores,’’ said Dr. Van Wedeen, a physicist and radiologist at the Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Neural fibers in the brain are too tiny to image directly, so scientists map them by measuring the diffusion of water molecules along their length. The scientists first break the MRI image into ‘voxels,’ or three-dimensional pixels, and calculate the speed at which water is moving through each voxel in every direction. The researchers can infer the most likely path of the various nerve fibers (red and blue lines) passing through that spot. The result is a detailed diagram like that of the brain stem.” – Emily Singer

support your public library

The public library is the most dangerous place in town.
– John Ciardi, 1916 – 1986

In the face of the ongoing and broad cuts libraries are seeing nationwide, it is vital to illustrate the accomplishments of libraries.





Read Read Read


there are consequences

“Drugs + You = Jail”


Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) is a combined effort of law enforcement officers, educators, students, parents and the community to offer an education program designed to prevent substance abuse and violence by educating children to recognize and resist the pressures that influence them to experiment with alcohol, tobacco and drugs.

How much do you know about religion?

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life Online Quiz

I missed one question (forget which one it was); one of the World Religion questions.

Interesting to learn how little we know . . .

Previous surveys by the Pew Research Center have shown that America is among the most religious of the world’s developed nations. Nearly six-in-ten U.S. adults say that religion is “very important” in their lives, and roughly four-in-ten say they attend worship services at least once a week. But the U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey shows that large numbers of Americans are uninformed about the tenets, practices, history and leading figures of major faith traditions – including their own. Many people also think the constitutional restrictions on religion in public schools are stricter than they really are.

PBS will air a program entitled God in America in October.

God in America examines the potent and complex interaction between religion and democracy, the origins of the American concept of religious liberty, and the controversial evolution of that ideal in the nation’s courts and political arena. The series considers the role religious ideas and institutions have played in social reform movements from abolition to civil rights, examining the impact of religious faith on conflicts from the American Revolution to the Cold War, and how guarantees of religious freedom created a competitive American religious marketplace. It also explores the intersection of political struggle and spiritual experience in the lives of key American historical figures including Franciscan Friars and the Pueblo leader Po’pay, Puritan leader John Winthrop and dissident Anne Hutchinson, Catholic Bishop John Hughes, abolitionist Frederick Douglass, Presidents Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln, reform Rabbi Isaac Meyer Wise, Scopes trial combatants William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow, evangelist Billy Graham, civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Moral Majority’s Jerry Falwell.

growing up

always growing . . .

The day the child realizes that all adults are imperfect,
he becomes an adolescent;
the day he forgives them,
he becomes an adult;
the day he forgives himself,
he becomes wise.

– Alden Nowlan

My word(s)!!

A headline on the blog of the New York Observer read “Defriend Anyone Who Tells You To Chillax About New Words In The Oxford Dictionary.”


1. To chill and relax simultaneously.
2. To loosen or reduce the level of stress by employing a more relaxed and groovy outlook.


1. To remove someone from your Livejournal, MySpace, Facebook, or other social networking site. Doing this is often seen as a passive-aggressive move, telling the person without telling them that you no longer want to be friends. It’s also commonly a response to drama. Defriending someone often causes more drama. There are sometimes valid reasons for doing this. 2. A sarcastic/joking reference to definition.

The head of Oxford University Press, Nigel Portwood, recently caused a stir by openly considering the possibility that the third edition of the Oxford English Dictionary might be published in electronic form only. What prompted those thoughts was the success of the online version of the O.E.D., as it is usually called, and the limited sales of the printed 20-volume edition.

No decision has been reached, nor is one likely soon, since the third edition will not be ready to publish in full for another decade or so. And who is to say what publishing will look like a decade from now?

For Oxford, the decision to go online-only would make a great deal of economic sense. Current subscribers to the online edition pay $295 a year for access. The print edition is selling for $995. Which is the better deal for you depends on how you value shelving and the cost of leaving your desk to look up a word.


Difficult words?


from The Book of Qualities by J. Ruth Gendler

Harmony doesn’t seem extraordinary until you have known him for a while.  He knows how to be gentle, and such gentleness is surprisingly powerful.  The silence around him is lyrical.  If I sit in his kitchen in the late afternoon and drink ginger tea, by the time I am ready to go home the contradictions inside my head are no longer shouting at me and trying to tear each other apart.  He gives me space to be my whole self.

It may be hard to believe it now, but there was a time when Harmony was afraid to leave his house.  I am not sure about the whole story.  In college he was an outstanding athlete, and he won many prizes.  One summer when he was training intensively, he became dissatisfied with the whole set-up.  Torn apart inside, he could no longer keep his balance.  He alienated many of his friends with his tirades about hypocrisy and ugliness.  Frustrated with people, he took long walks through the neighboring countryside.  He found sanity in the geometry of the old buildings and started dreaming about how to organize spaces in which he could feel more comfortable, thus stumbling into the profession of architecture through a back door.  He has learned how to design rooms which evoke different aspects of our selves.  Although he is a meticulous architect, he is no longer fussy and alienated.  He can go anywhere now.  Simply by being himself, he alters the current in the field around him.

Be with Me Today

Richard Taylor video (YouTube)

Excerpt from The Forgetting by David Shenk:

I had a dream three nights after Dad died: The telephone rang and I answered. l Turning around I saw my father–no longer emaciated and ill with cancer; but round, rosy, and healthy.  he put his arms around me and said, “I just want you to know that everything’s all right.”

Strange, but I had no such dream about Mother returning after her death.  Alzheimer’s had taken so much from her and from us that she, literally, didn’t seem to linger here on earth.  As my daughter said, “It’s almost like Grandma said, ‘I’m outta here!'”  Who can blame her?

However, shortly after her death my father returned in a dream, wearing an absolutely terrible red plaid jacket.  (Only mother could have gotten him to wear that thing!  She loved red plaid.)  He said that Mother had sent him to tell me they were together and all was well.

I learned to not be afraid to hurt.  I learned to get all the help I needed in order to heal.  As a result I’m beginning to remember the happier side of Mother

–S.P. Denver, Colorado

David Shenk asks the question:

Why are so many people fascinated by Alzheimer’s disease?  Because it is not only a disease, but also a prism through which we can view life in ways not normally available to us.  Through the Alzheimer’s prism, we can experience life’s constituent parts and understand better its resonances and quirks.  And as the disease relentlessly progresses toward the final dimming of the sufferer, it forces us to experience death in a way that it is rarely otherwise experienced.  What is usually a quick flicker we see in super slow motion, over years.  It is more painful than people can even imagine, but it is also perhaps the most poignant of all reminders of why and how human life is so extraordinary.  It is our best lens on the meaning of loss.

“To be human as we know it today is to experience the cycles of life,
to experience great loss and pain–
not just the pain of tragedy but the pain of inevitability.
The essential joy of life is embedded in our mortality, and our forgetting.”

” One cannot appreciate life’s majesty without experiencing its hardships.”

The W. B. Ball Early Childhood Center

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The W. B. Ball Early Childhood Center is “a place where qualifying three- and four-year-olds will get a jump-start on a successful educational career.  With the opening of the school in August 2010, the halls, classrooms, and playgrounds will be filled with the songs and little voices familiar to a pre-kindergarten environment.”

Instructional leader for the W. B. Ball Early Childhood Center is principal Jennie Hines.  Her teaching staff numbers 19 with 29 support staff members.

Funds for the renovation and repurpose of the Ball campus were approved by Seguin ISD voters in May 2008.  After housing no students during the 2009-2010 school year to allow for the major construction/renovation, the beautifully refurbished historic school will reopen its doors to students in August 2010.

Is Google making me stupid?

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I used to have shelves and shelves of reference books – which I would refer to frequently.  When I needed answers that were not readily at hand, I shuffled off to the library and would pour over the books I couldn’t check out . . . and borrow the ones I could.  I read – to find information.

Now . . . I google.

Is Google making me stupid?

the spelling of words (and the Spanish alphabet)

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How the spelling of words evolve . . . by popular demand!

Everything I learned in school . . . has gone out the window (winder??).

children and books

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Children growing up in homes with many books get 3 years more schooling than children from bookless homes, independent of their parents’ education, occupation, and class. This is as great an advantage as having university educated rather than unschooled parents, and twice the advantage of having a professional rather than an unskilled father. It holds equally in rich nations and in poor; in the past and in the present; under Communism, capitalism, and Apartheid; and most strongly in China. Data are from representative national samples in 27 nations, with over 70,000 cases, analyzed using multi-level linear and probit models with multiple imputation of missing data.

Source: Family scholarly culture and educational success: Books and schooling in 27 nations
I truly can’t remember a time when I didn’t read.  We always had books in our home and at a very young age, my mother enrolled me in a Children’s Book Club – a book mailed to me once a month, which I would immediately unwrap and then devour!
Also can’t recall when I didn’t have a library card; my mother and I would trek to the library almost daily to check out books.
When I became a mother, I think the library was probably one of the first outings for my children.   Board Books,  Cloth Books, and comic books of the 1960s were on every surface of our home from the time the kids could focus their eyes!  [Our oldest son was Latin Student of Texas one year – forget the year – and he mentioned that it was the Classics Comic Books he read as a child that initially piqued his interest in the classics.]
We had a house full of readers!
An aside:  Oldest Son did graduate from comic books to True Classics!  In fact, (much to Dear Husband’s chagrin), he majored in the Classics at the University of Texas.
Our daughter and youngest two sons also had/have a talent for writing and I think that can be attributed to their love of reading.

aprender una segunda lengua

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Mi bisabuela, Maria de los Santos Leal Sammon

Mi bisabuelo, Robert Walker Sammon