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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]