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  • Jan 09 / 2009
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Because any technology we use functions as an extension of our acting selves, we have to comprehend the technology of cyberspace in terms of persons extending themselves to one another, an idea that can be called “the personalization principle.” It is this principle that makes us consciously aware that our interacting with websites, blogs, videos, and other online endeavors is a personal encounter with another. Without this understanding, it is too easy for us to view the persons whom we encounter in cyberspace as merely a means to our own ends without responding to them properly through love. — Sebastian Mahfood, Assoc. Professor of Intercultural Studies, Kenrick-Glennon Seminary

cidSebastian Mahfood is an authority on “cyberethics,” which involves the application of moral standards to the internet and other virtual reality arenas. Along with my wife, Evann, and me, he’s also a founding member of Catholic Internet Developers (CiD), a networking and support group we established for St. Louis writers, artists, and programmers who provide content for the internet. On Thursday, February 19th, Sebastian will give a lecture on cyberethics at the St. Louis Archdiocese’s Rigali Center. More info on our CiD website.

  • Jan 08 / 2009
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Happy Birthday, Ned!

dragonflyToday is my brother Ned’s birthday. He’s 47, and one of the last of the great dragonfly racers — my other brother, Cro, and I being his sole remaining rivals. The dragonfly desk mobile pictured at right, which I picked up at a curio shop in downtown St. Louis, is the present I sent him for his birthday, in memory of our historic contests 40 years ago.

We lived one house off the levee on Moss Lane in suburban New Orleans, and every summer our half-acre backyard was full of dragonflies — or, mosquito hawks, as we also called them — though not as full as the Morehisers’ overgrown three-acre lot at the end of the street after a bush-hogging. One place or the other, we’d find all the dragonflies we could possibly want, soon learning which colors were the hardest to catch — and, later, which were the speediest.

One day, one of the dragonflies we’d caught and brought inside escaped from its jar and flew directly toward the light in the one small window in our bedroom. “Eureka!” we exclaimed, in unison. “Dragonfly races!” (Hardly anyone exclaims anymore, but, back then, it was pretty common.)

And so they began: the dragonfly races. Ned, Cro, and I would catch a flagonful of dragonflies, bring them inside, choose our winged steeds, and begin the race. With the room lights turned off, we’d all stand with our backs to the wall, across the room from the window, each holding his hawk of a different color. At the agreed-upon signal, we’d release the dragonflies simultaneously and see which would make it to the window first.

As it happened, the speed of the dragonflies correlated consistently with their colors — so much so, that we all soon wanted the same hue and were obliged to abandon the races.

Which color is the fastest? I’m not sure my brothers and I remember anymore, but I’ll tell you what: we’ll be happy to race all comers, so long as we get to pick first.

  • Jan 07 / 2009
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Site of the Week

Homeschool Goodies

Their parents won’t be overruled,
Nor their personal values retooled.
Their minds will grow strong
As they learn right from wrong,
‘Cause these children are being homeschooled.

My wife, Evann, and I have homeschooled our kids from the beginning. That’s six kids and 17 years now. Our youngest daughter, Audrey, is 8; our two oldest, Maria and Ida, 21 and 18, respectively, have graduated and have good jobs. Isabel, 16, graduates this year. Evann’s the teacher and I’m the principal. If you’ve always wondered what it is exactly that a principal does, I can tell you: nothing. So, when I say, “Evann and I homeschool,” I really mean, “Evann homeschools.”

Before all the homeschooling dads out there have conniption fits and start writing me nasty letters, let me hasten to explain that, by “nothing,” I really mean “almost nothing,” and even that’s not completely true. My wife and kids often take advantage of my background as an editor to clarify grey areas of grammar: like the difference between bring and take. (Please note that the commas I placed before and after Evann, in the first sentence of the preceding paragraph, indicate a restrictive clause (or is it nonrestrictive?) and are fraught with meaning, confirming — assuming I’ve used them properly — that I have only one wife.)

The burden of homeschooling, however, does generally fall almost entirely on the mother, and that has certainly been the case for us. My burden is primarily a financial one: the inadequacy of my single income. Because Evann is a full-time mother and homeschooler, the second income that so many families take for granted nowadays is not available to us. I’ve never been able to afford a late-model car or take my family to Disney World, for instance. I have promised Evann a 2009 minivan, however (to be purchased in 2015), and we both hate Mickey Mouse, so the burden has been relatively light.

The benefits of homeschooling, on the other hand, and of parenthood in general, are enormous.

As a homeschooling mom with a background in graphic design, Evann is probably the single best person in the world to establish and maintain a blog called Homeschool Goodies. If you’re a homeschooling mom, or dad, it would behoove you to visit this site on a regular basis.

If you think you’re not a homeschooling mom or dad, think again. All parents are homeschoolers, if perhaps only part-time, because all parents help their children with their schoolwork — and the most important things kids ever learn are the things they learn at home, whether they’re “homeschooled” or not.

  • Jan 06 / 2009
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This Week’s List

Drawbacks to Homeschooling*

  1. No snow days
  2. You can’t miss the bus
  3. You can’t be suspended and sent home
  4. You can’t hide the vegetables you don’t like in a milk carton
  5. Mom always sides with the teacher
  6. Dad always sides with the principal
  7. You can’t intercept your report card and “fix” it before your parents see it
  8. You can’t transfer to another school
  9. The nightmare of showing up at school in your pyjamas is a daily reality
  10. The good-looking boy/girl in the desk next to you is your brother/sister (gross!)


See next week’s list: Benefits of Homeschooling

*from a kid’s perspective

  • Jan 05 / 2009
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Diversity & Social Justice

. . . Northerners can be forgiven for not realizing where this road will lead, but Southerners have no excuse, for they have seen the future and should know that the Reconstruction planned for America as a whole will bear a striking resemblance to the barbarism visited upon the South. . . . — “Tomorrow Is Another Day,” F.R. Duplantier

Diversity and social justice, properly defined, are good things. It is simply a matter of charity and courtesy to accept natural differences and try to get along with others, to identify genuine injustices and use honest means to rectify them. Accommodating contrived differences and bewailing imaginary grievances, however, are abuses of charity and courtesy. As false banners for a radical left-wing agenda and weapons for demonizing decent, good-hearted people, “diversity” and “social justice” are consummate evils. Beware of people who invoke these seemingly innocent terms to justify their proposals or to stifle the dissent of their opponents; there’s a good chance they’re up to no good and are seeking neither diversity nor social justice, but the power to enslave us all.

  • Jan 04 / 2009
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Your Weekly Politickle

Feel free to publish, post, or pass on Your Weekly Politickle by F.R. Duplantier:

I sure hope that it isn’t a sign
Of accelerating mental decline
When I know it’s too late
To write 2008
But forget to write 2009.

Last week’s limerick:

I’m a victim of non-circumstance,
Having gone through the year in a trance.
Maybe 2008
Didn’t turn out so great,
But I’ll soon have another new chance.

  • Jan 03 / 2009
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The House of Shock

Dear Friend of Science,

Today, January 3rd, marks the 50th anniversary of the debut on New Orleans television of House of Shock, hosted by Dr. Momus Alexander Morgus. . . . I’m happy to report that the Doctor is alive & well, and still tinkering in the Old City Ice House. And I know that he’d be tickled if you could show your support and appreciation by helping him celebrate this special day by logging into the website and sending him a special 50th anniversary greeting in the Guestbook. . . . — Dr. Chuck Brillowsky, webmaster

morgusThe House of Shock was a weekly television program that we watched as kids in New Orleans, featuring a horror movie hosted by a mad scientist named Morgus the Magnificent (created and played by Sid Noel). Morgus would introduce the movie and do wrap-arounds, returning before and after commercial breaks to continue his “experiments.” I never cared for horror movies, but I did love Morgus. I’d get up, leave the room, and find something else to do during the movie, but hurry back during the breaks to catch Morgus’ antics.

Everybody in New Orleans loved Morgus. One of my mother’s prized possessions was a lock from Morgus’ fright wig that Sid Noel had bestowed upon her at a party for local media people in the 1960s. In the early ’90s, I had the pleasure of meeting Sid Noel myself, when I created a television campaign for the local cable company starring mad-scientist Morgus trying to invent a machine to steal cable programming.

Noel subsequently dropped by the house to visit with my wife and me, bringing along autographed photos of Morgus for the kids. Believe it or not, the man behind the mad scientist had developed a comprehensive character education program that he hoped to sell to the public schools, and we helped him prepare some promotional materials for it.

  • Jan 02 / 2009
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Are We Getting Older?

January 2, 2008 — I mean, 2009.

My daughter Maxine commented the other day on how much trouble she has every January trying to remember to write the new year’s date, instead of last year’s. That’s nothing, I thought. I’m still stuck in the 20th Century, and so are a lot of other people my age.

Last week, an equally aged friend of mine reflected on the passing of 1998. He meant 2008, of course, but he said 1998.

Remember when the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey first came out in 1968? 2001 seemed so far into the future, then. Now, it’s eight years behind us. (Co-author Arthur Clarke died just last year.)

Heck, even 1984 seemed distant at one point, and that’s 25 years ago.

I’ll celebrate my 23rd wedding anniversary this year, and my eldest daughter will be 22. My youngest daughter will be 9.

What can it mean?

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