Archive for April 2009


April 30, 2009

As you’ll see on my reading list for April, I recently read the book Know Your Declaration of Independence and the 56 Signers by George E. Ross.  I can trace my interest in the Declaration of Independence to the Summer of 1994.  My best friend at the time was technical assistant with Music Theater Louisville.  That summer they were doing the musical 1776, and my high school drama director had the role of Edward Rutledge, representative from the colony of South Carolina.

My parents actually had the movie version of 1776 on VHS which my friend and watched one Friday night with his mom.  We fell in love.  When it was over, we found ourselves looking up facts about the different representatives of the Second Continental Congress in the encyclopedia.  I saw the show twice with gratis tickets, and each time my drama director mesmerized the audience with his breath-taking performance of “Molasses to Rum to Slaves”.  My friend and I spent the summer walking around Kentucky Kingdom singing “Sit Down, John” and “He Plays the Violin” at the top of our lungs.  I know–we were wild and crazy teens.

After that John and Abigail Adams definitely topped my list of five dead people I would want to have dinner with.  When I read David McCullough’s biography of John Adams I was excited to realize how much of the musical came from his letters to and from Abigail.  It also made me realize how his contributions to this country are vastly under-appreciated.  And I think I sympathize with Adams’ low b.s. tolerance, which made him less than popular with his peers even though they highly respected his ability and intellect.

As I read through Know Your Declaration… I could hear the lines and songs from the musical/movie running through my head.  Certain quotes even made more sense;  I didn’t realize that when Benjamin Franklin mocks extending the olive branch that he was referring to the Olive Branch Petition.  There were a few factoids that I wasn’t sure if the book or the musical was more correct, and I did find some discrepancies in the musical/movie script.  But then again, it’s just a musical.

One thing that I loved about the book was that it listed the educational background of each signer.  Seventeen of the 56 are labeled as “self-taught” or “taught at home”.  That doesn’t even include the ones marked as having attended college but who probably received their basic education at home.  Of course, modern day advocates of public schooling like to say that people had less to learn back then.  It’s true that science and technology have blossomed in the past 230 years, but our founding fathers had an amazing depth of knowledge as a attested by their accomplishments.  For instance, Benjamin Franklin learned “grammar and logic, algebra and geometry, the principles of science and fundamentals of Latin, French, German, and Italian” through an educational program of his own design, as well as learning how to be a printer through an apprenticeship (p. 44).

I would really like to add Know Your Declaration of Independence and the 56 Signers to our personal library, but I’ll have to track down a used copy.  The book is part of series from the sixties which is now out of print.  It is great for its snapshot portraits, even though it completely omits any reference to the anti-slavery portion that was removed from the original Declaration draft.  And like most history books produced for children, character flaws of the signers are mostly over-looked.  I keep getting  these great homeschooling visions, though, of compare/contrast projects involving this book and the musical 1776.


The Many Facets of Honesty

April 26, 2009

Every season on Survivor there is usually at least one contestant who makes a big deal about what an “honest game” they plan to play.  They swear on their loved ones graves that they are telling the truth about this or that.  They go on ad nauseum to the camera about how they have too much integrity to lie to anyone, even for a million dollars.  Of course, they are usually the biggest liar of all, and the person they are lying to the most is their self.

This season (Tocantins) the award goes to Coach.  Never mind that his fellow survivors think he’s full of it from his stories of being kidnapped and beaten by natives in the Amazon among other things.  Coach keeps swearing up and down that he is not going to tell a single lie to get ahead in this game.  Never mind that two weeks ago he was behind the eviction of a major player while leading that player to believe someone else was getting ousted.  The blind side has become a kind of art form on Survivor that the audience relishes as much as the constestants (except for the one blind-sided, of course).  This has got me pondering the many facets of honesty exhibited on the show.

1.  The Honest Liar:  Usually there are one or two of these each season.  They proudly proclaim to the camera that they will lie, steal, or cheat to get to the end with no regrets.  You’ve got to admire that kind of honesty in a sad kind of way.

2.  The Surrogate Liar:  This is the person who won’t actually lie directly to a person, but they get someone else in their alliance to do it for them.  They try to get off of a technicality.  It’s like the Catholic spouse that let’s the non-Catholic spouse use the contraception.

3.  The Justified Liar:  “He lied to me first.”  “He was conspiring to vote me out first.”  “He hurt my itty bitty feelings.”  The Justified Liar will be honest with you until you annoy him somehow.  These are usually the most sanctimonious and hypocritical and whiny of the bunch.  If you vote for them without informing them first then you’re dishonest and must die.  But if I conspire to have you voted out behind your back, I am still honest as long as I don’t say “I am not voting for you”.

4.  The Omissive Liar:  Omissive Liars just kind of avoid whoever they know is being voted out so that said person can never corner them and ask them straight out who they are voting for.  When their alliance members are having a dishonest discussion with said victim, the Omissive Liar just keeps their mouth shut or goes MIA.  Purposely misleading someone is called a “lie of omission”, and it is just as dishonest as straight-out lying.

5.  The Human Liar:  Human Liars are just like you and me.  They go into the game well-intentioned.  They are good people trying to be good, but the temptations of the game are just too much for them.  They worry about people in their alliance turning on them or hurting someone’s feelings, or when they actually make it to the merge and realize that they actually do have a chance of winning, the truth suddenly becomes much more subjective.

That children concludes our lesson on Honesty according to the microcosm that is Survivor.  The only thing that annoys me worse than all of the people claiming that they are uber-honest is when two rival alliances allow a person for which neither one cares about to be a swing vote between them.  I don’t understand why the two rival alliances give that one person so much power over their fates in the game.  Why don’t they just come together to vote out that swing person and then duke it out in a fire-making challenge at the next tribal council?  Maybe because they realize that deep down they are all a bunch of liars and they can’t trust that the other team will actually vote out the swing person.

Happy Easter!!

April 12, 2009

Happy, Happy Easter!!!

And it’s a glorious one at that.  When I ran out to pick up some donuts, I realized the van was in desperate need  of some gas.  I was pleasantly surprised not to completely freeze to death at the pump, considering I had gone out in my house shoes with no socks and was absent my long johns as well.  Maybe spring is finally coming to Chi-town.

The girls woke early this morning (except 11-month-old #3) to discover what the Easter Bunny had brought them.  Unfortunately, my oldest isn’t feeling the best.  But DD#2 is on her way to a major sugar over-load between the chocolate from her basket and the doughnuts.

The most exciting thing about this Easter is that it is our first as a Catholic family.  Last night my husband received his Confirmation and his First Holy Eucharist, becoming a full-fledged member of the Catholic Church.  It was a very long, but beautiful, bilingual (quad-lingual if you count the Greek and Latin) service last night.  And since he hasn’t showered yet this morning, his forehead still smells like the Holy Oil.

If you had told me, or him, last Easter that in a year’s time he would become Catholic, neither one of us would have believed you.  But here we are celebrating our family’s new life in Christ.  Well, I better start getting everyone dressed for the day, so we can go have a celebratory steakhouse lunch.

Peace Be With You, and Happy Easter!!

It’s Not a Cocoon!!

April 10, 2009

Who doesn’t love the classic children’s book The Very Hungry Caterpillar?  Ok, so maybe my oldest daughter never did.  She used to get really upset when the caterpillar got a stomache ache.    After two read-throughs, she wanted no more of it.  DD#2 really enjoys the book, though.  It’s been her favorite bedtime book this week.  It helps that she is really into butterflies right now, too.

Two years ago we made our own butterfly habitat, got a hold of some caterpillars, and watched them pupate and fly away.  As supplementary research to our little science project we read several books about butterflies in which we learned a very important distinction.  A butterfly emerges from a chrysalis, NOT a cocoon!!  Cocoons are for moths.

So, everytime I read The Very Hungry Caterpillar I feel the need to change the word “cocoon” to chrysalis.  The book is 40 years old.  You would think at some point in 40 years someone would have clued the publisher in to the error and they would have fixed it.  Yes, I understand it’s a fictional story about a caterpillar eating tons of stuff that caterpillars don’t normally eat, and it’s really good for teaching numbers and days of the week.  But, It’s Not a Cocoon!!