Caw Caw Caw

Bird Watching –  There were only about 500 crows cawing their heads off in one of our trees last week, and what did my son and I know about these screeching black beauties?  Not one thing.  The remedy:  Pamela S. Turner’s book, “Crow Smarts – Inside the Brain of the World’s Brightest Bird” (and HEY! we’ve already learned something from the book title).  Written in casual conversational style, Turner’s readers join a field study on the island of New Caledonia to observe these terrifically astute birds.  So far, the focus for judging crow intelligence is TOOL USE.  So far, the crows are using tools (leaf stems) to “fish” for grubs (beetle larvae) nestled in an old log (and I am once again gagging for the cause of scholarship).

“How Animals Build” A mere sampling of what’s captured our attention from this Lonely Planet Kids book: 

  • on the home front – a few days ago my son and I spotted a rabbit hopping about our backyard.  Thanks to “How Animals Build” we knew this might mean that UNDER our very trees and ivy and general chaos, there could be a RABBIT WARREN – a whole city of activity, complex travel patterns, escape hatches, and HQ for 20 rabbits.  (Since we’ve only seen one rabbit, maybe the warren is under a neighbor’s backyard).  We’re keeping our eyes open.
  • nine thousand miles away (and I am not sorry about this)Termitariums (termite mounds) –  found throughout the African savanna, these massive architectural marvels are constructed by those teeny insects.  Termites must be busy as bees, but where bees have three different work ranks (queen, worker, and drone), termites have SEVEN work ranks that comprise their productive team (oh, the information we are accumulating from “How Animals Build”).  My son and I paused to consider whether we would be interested in being a scientist who studies termites.

Maybe our academic achievement of the year –  OH MY GOSH, we finally finished “The Iliad”.  In our concluding conversation (meaning me talking on and on and my son letting me talk on and on) we agreed that one reason “The Iliad” makes for superior reading is Homer’s surprising fairness in presenting bad and good about both Greeks and Trojans.  First we root for the Greeks, then we root for the Trojans, then the Greeks, the the Trojans – up to the epilogue (vocab) we didn’t know which side Homer favored.  What a long, but instructive read.

tom gates iliad

Antidote for “The Iliad” – After reading about fatal wounds, hatred, sorrow, revenge, and blood thirsty battle after battle after battle, it is a relief to have our attention captured by an old friend (Tom Gates of Liz Pichon’s series) who’s preoccupied with figuring out how to stockpile caramel cookies and avoid doing homework.  We are smiling our way through “Family, Friends, and Furry Creatures”.  

The Cranberry Sauce Story Problem   Early in November, Le Fictitious Local Diner hosted a FREE cranberry sauce class for all local high school students (so they would have SOMETHING to contribute to the holiday meal besides attitude).  180 students showed up to the class.  If each student needed 1 cup of sugar to mix with the cranberries and water, and there are 2.25 cups of sugar to the pound, how many pounds of sugar were needed for the class?  (to be worked without paper and pencil)
A.  80 pounds     B.  180 pounds     C.  225 pounds     D.  360 pounds  (answer at bottom of post)

Classics rather than Classical – the music to bid farewell to November:

  • Scott Joplin’s Maple Leaf Rag of 1899.  My son and I talked about the concept of “royalties”:  for every sheet music copy sold of the super famous Maple Leaf Rag, Joplin earned 1 cent  (apparently this provided a steady if not overwhelming income): 

  • The wildly popular Shine On Harvest Moon written in 1908 by husband and wife team Nora Bayes and Jack Norworth.  Most recorded versions are sung ballad style (which makes me crazy – so dang slow).  So we listened to the full-of-pep vintage 1950’s recording by The Four Aces:

  • The contemplative Thanksgiving by George Winston, composed in 1982.  Perfect for a night’s final listening selection:

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answer:  A.  80 pounds of sugar)

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Ancient History

Are we Ancient Egypt experts yet?   My son and I are mid-way through another Ken Jennings’ Junior Genius book – this one on “ANCIENT EGYPT”.  Of course, we’ve learned A LOT about pyramids, the Nile River, the 2,000+ gods of ancient Egypt (each with an animal head), sacred bees, bugs, hippos, cats,  but last night was THE BEST:  

BECAUSE WE READ ABOUT EMBALMING RITUALS!!! (which we learned were rather like spa days for the deceased).  Pages and pages of unappetizing-yet-can’t-look-away information about removing organs, packing corpses with salt, and wrapping, wrapping, wrapping.  As a surprise bonus, we learned how to make mummy snacks using a tube of dough and hotdogs (awful/awesome/still laughing).

ALSO:  we now know we do not want to encounter THE EYE OF RA in any dark alleyway.  

Ken Jennings’ books never disappoint.

3,000 years old and still spellbinding – Yay Homer! – The Iliad and The Odyssey are the oldest surviving examples of Greek literature and WE are sitting at the edge of our seats enthralled with stories that have enthralled how many generations before us? (generations – discussion topic)   We’ve finished The Odyssey and we’ve started The Iliad.  Last night was just excellent reading:   a fierce battle between Ajax, representing the Greeks, and Hector, representing the Trojans, resulting in a draw (vocab).  The retelling of these stories by Gillian Cross is superb; the complex, really weird illustrations by Neil Packer are perfection.

It was time for another GENERAL KNOWLEDGE QUIZ (based on ANYTHING we have studied in the past)   My son is enthusiastic and focused whenever I present a quiz – I think he likes chance to reveal his super sharp memory:   

Autumn at the Diner story problem – for the months of October and November, the diner is offering dense, spicy gingerbread cake topped with a thick lemon sauce and whipped cream.  The cake can be ordered by the individual square for $4 – OR – an entire cake may be purchased (for taking home) for $15.  For each month, diner management is projecting to sell 500 squares and 80 cakes.  If the cake is so delicious and in such demand that the sales are double the projections, how much money will the diner have grossed on gingerbread cake sales for the two months?  (answer at bottom of post)

The ancient call to the sea – I have no idea why our nightly book stack always seems to include something that transports us to the high seas.  Must be in the DNA.  Crazy.  This week it is Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick.  We are a few chapters into our abridged version of Moby-Dick – we’ve met Ishmael and Queequeg, and we are liking the pace of the book.  I did compare the abridged version with the Melville’s original, which is way, way, way too wordy for my son.

Controversy on the high seas –  

We foolishly thought all sailor type songs came under the umbrella of “sea shanties”.  WELL.  Whoever wrote the Wikipedia entry on Sea Shanties was firm and unwavering:  

  • A shanty is a work song, to establish rhythm for group tasks that involve HEAVING or HAULING (vocab:  not so much the hauling part, but definitely the heaving part).  
  • A sea song is for the general entertainment of sailors after work is done.  GOT THAT?

Now we had to decide if the following were shanties or sea songs:

Jack’s the Lad” aka “The Sailors’ Hornpipe” – the classic SEA SONG – my son knows it from the Disney cartoon staring Goofy as sailor.  It is documented that Captain Cook ordered his sailors to dance the hornpipe to keep fit:

Heave Away” – obviously a SHANTY, said to be sung by Indian Ocean whalers of the 1840s.  We became familiar with “Heave Away” from the current Broadway show, “Come From Away”.  If ever there were a song that makes you want to sing along, this is it:

The Maid of Amsterdam” aka “A’Roving” – a SEA SONG, said to have been sung as early as 1630.  When I attended UCLA in the mid 1970’s, this song was an enthusiastic staple of the Men’s Glee:

Blow the Man Down” – a well known SHANTY from the 1860’s, used to set the rhythm for hauling:

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answer:  $12,800)

Did absence make the heart grow fonder?

Good heavens!  Over six weeks since last I reported in.  Did ya miss me?  My goal is to write and post every other week, but my son and I have been slogging through months of disruptive routines – our stories and studies times have been cut short and I have so much less to write about.  Not happy about this, but there you have it.

odyssey ithaka

The Odyssey – we are coming to the end of Gillian Cross’s superb retelling of Homer’s ancient adventure poem.  As we bid farewell to this book we will discuss C.P. Cavafy’s poem, “Ithaca” and its Odyssey references.  Next up: “The Iliad” (which, if I had been a more aware scholar, we should have read first.  Darn.).

citrus

We are Citrus Savvy – it seems like we always have a book in the nightly line-up about sailors, pirates, the sea and such, and one cannot read about sailors, pirates, the sea and such without reading about the SCOURGE OF SCURVY and the importance of citrus.  So, after reading through the Wikipedia entry on citrus, we got out the pastels.

cat paw and dollar

There is always time for a  story problem   Poor Farmer Brown.  Literally, poor Farmer Brown.  He is spending so much money replacing items that his cats, Olive and Owl (the hissing sisters), have destroyed.  Over the past twelve months, Farmer Brown spent:

– $300:  area rug in kitchen (shredded)
– $150:  winter coat (clawed to death)
– $100 each:  3 farmhand bed quilts (each mistaken for litter box)
– $200:  office blinds (permanently bent from bird watching)
– $100:  large ceramic planter (tipped over so many times that it finally cracked)
– $  78:  small ficus tree (casualty of repeatedly tipped over planter)
– $300:  neighbor’s yarn stash (don’t ask)

Judging the past year to be typical,  how much should Farmer Brown budget per month to replace things Olive and Owl will most likely have their way with in the coming year?  

A).  $59     B).  $79     C).  $99     D).  $119

classical music

Classical Music:  How I am able to act like I know what I am talking about –

  • ClassicFM.com – a hip website that makes you feel like you are sitting at the cool kids’ table at lunch.  The graphics, clever topics, quizzes, surveys, contests, video links – all VERY COOL.  
  • The Great Courses – (college level courses offered on DVD, etc, through thegreatcourses.com) so far, I have taken 17 of 26 music history courses taught by the organized, captivating, and hilarious Dr. Robert Greenberg.  These classes have had enormous influence on the classical music experience I share with my son.
  • Exploring Music with Bill McGlaughlin  – an hour-long radio show broadcast 5 times a week, full of entertaining anecdotes from decades of Mr. McGlaughlin’s music profession memories.  If my son and I are in the drive-thru lane of “In-N-Out” at 7pm we are tuned to “Exploring Music”.
  • Wikipedia – in terms of the 300+ classical music entries I have come across, this resource offers dependable and comprehensive information.  A+.
  • The Secret Lives of the Great Composers”, by Elizabeth Lunday – this is the first book that made me aware that the very finest composers are quirky individuals.  Jarringly quirky.
  • The Really Terrible Orchestra (Edinburgh, Scotland) – I cannot get enough of this ragtag group of enthusiastic musician wannabes who find themselves blatantly unqualified to play with any recognized orchestra.  Just thinking about their performance of “Entry of the Gladiators” makes me collapse in laughter:

  • Mozart in the Jungle, both book and Amazon series are eye-opening and entertaining.  A few pieces that I have shared with my son, after hearing them in various episodes:

– Mozart’s “Oboe Concerto in C major”, movement III (rondo) – composed in 1777.  This is such a proper, almost fussy, piece but it moves right along and my son and I love it:

– José Pablo Moncayo’s “Huapango” – this Mexican folk dance was composed for orchestra in 1941 (which is why we listen to this piece played by orchestra, not by a mariachi band)(even though we LOVE mariachi bands).  Absolutely full of the flavors of Mexico:

– Maurice Ravel’s “Daphnis and Chloe”, suite 2, dawn – composed in 1912 for a ballet based upon the ancient Greek romance between goatherd Daphnis and shepherdess Chloe.  So much to listen for in this 6 minute piece, but when dawn actually breaks we hear nothing but GENIUS!

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answer:  D).  $119.)

Sea Hunt

Sea Hunt – Do you know about the Sargasso Sea?  Located in the Atlantic Ocean, to the east of Bermuda, it is about 2/3 as wide as the continental USA (so it is HUGE), yet there is a glaring shortage of non-fiction books focused upon this important ecosystem.  Surely my son and I are not the only people who want to know more about the turtles and eels of the Sargasso Sea.  We learned a bit by reading through Ruth Heller’s, “A Sea Within a Sea”, a lovely book with information set to rhyme, but we want more.  Attention people who are looking for something to write about: big opportunity here.

Great Beginnings – We are hopeful about two books we began last night: “Ocean” by Ricardo Henriques and Andre Letria (in just the first four pages we enjoyed a richness of information woven into sparse, eye-catching graphics) AND, we started an abridged version of Homer’s “The Odyssey”, by Gillian Cross and Neil Packer (oh my, the illustrations! and of course, oh my, the story!)

What else are we reading?
“Boats Fast & Slow” by Iris Volant and Jarom Vogel (almost a bit too elementary for us. Nonetheless, there are things to learn from this well organized book).
“The War I Finally Won”, by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (a sequel to the excellent “The War that Saved My Life”).
“While Mrs. Coverlet Was Away” by Mary Nash (only our 6th time through) (a plot line that makes us smile through every single re-read) (this book needs to be read during the summer).

Willy Nilly Time Zones – My son and I love opening up a Ken Jennings book – his writing is clever, funny, and informative.  This week, we are in the middle of his “Junior Genius Guide to Maps and Geography” and have spent time twirling our globe while we read about the International Date Line, the Prime Meridian, and time zones.
WE DID NOT KNOW THIS: countries can determine whether they want to follow international time zone designations.  China, which spans 5 time zones, and Greenland, which spans 4 time zones both make do on a single time zone.  We spent a few minutes thinking about what this would mean if you lived at the far east or far west of either country.  Interesting.
When we are feeling rebellious we say THROW AWAY the state approved text books and replace them with anything written by Ken Jennings.

A Farmer Brown Story Problem – Over Labor Day weekend, there is to be a kayak race in the local river and Farmer Brown is anxious for his ranch team to win the competition (good publicity for his farm stand).  He is purchasing 6 kayaks at $250 each for his employees to practice with, and super competitive Farmer Brown has promised to captain the team! (the ranch team will be so glad when the race is over)
After the race, Farmer Brown is going to offer kayak rentals to be used on his ranch pond. If he charges $15 to rent a kayak for an afternoon of paddling fun, and assuming that 6 people want to kayak every single day, how many afternoons will pass before he makes a profit (which will probably go into kayak maintenance)?
A) 17     B) 27     C) 37     D) 47 (answer at bottom of post)
For discussion: Is this a fast way to make money?

Water Water All Around – a classical music theme to compliment all the reading about oceans, seas, and boats:

  • “The Aquarium”, from Camille Saint-Saens’ “The Carnival of the Animals”, composed in 1886.  Saint-Saens congers up an atmosphere of creepy deep sea mystery in this short short two minute piece –

  • “Jeux de Vagues” (“Play of the Waves”), from Debussy’s “La Mer”, composed in 1904.  We haven’t braved listening to this intellectual masterpiece until this very week; a bit too sophisticated for us, I thought.  But this week, my son and I sat back and let Debussy bring us the sounds of waves being pushed around by the wind, currents, and other waves.  Terribly elegant –

  • “Over the Waves”, composed by Juventino Rosas in 1888.  This waltz rhythm is definitely happier listening than the Aquarium or Jeux de Vagues.  However (semi-interesting side-note), we keep getting this confused with Emile Waldteufel’s “The Skaters Waltz” of 1882 (could Rosas have been “more than” inspired by Waldteufel’s piece?) –

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answer:  A)  17 afternoons)(and our discussion topic:  we decided that this actually was a semi-fast way of making money, faster than we thought)

We’ll take that with a side of music –

bat

Going Batty – A few weeks ago, my son and I retrieved a frog from the backyard pool and lifted it to safety.  A few days ago, we again saw something fluttering madly in the water, and assuming it was another frog, we were stunned to find a little bat in our net!  Now we needed to read about bats (the biggest take-away:  bats eat TONS of insects) (yay bats!) and celebrate our successful life-saving effort by listening to a waltz from Johann Strauss’s operetta of 1874, “Die Fledermaus” (“The Bat”) (which is not about bats, but about amusing revenge plotted by a man who one evening wore a bat costume to a party).  (Not much to look at in this video, but we love the conductor, Mariss Jansons.  Beware the LONG 1 minute 20 second introduction):

Teaser!  A few posts back (May 25, 2018, “It’s All about the Triangle”), I mentioned that my son and I learned about Janissary bands, and it seems unfair to leave it at that, so:  Ottoman Janissary Bands, thought to be the oldest type of military band, date back to the 14th century.  (The Janissary were the elite infantry guarding the sultan’s household.)  My son and I speculated as to the type of musical instruments used in the 1300’s in Turkey – certainly pipes and percussion.  The music pretty much sounds exactly as we imagined.  Stirring. Nobody sleeps when a Janissary band plays:

The Body Beautiful –  We are chock full of interesting information from Professor Astro Cat’s HUMAN BODY ODYSSEY, by Walliman and Newman:

  • we know about the most useful joint in the body (the thumb)
  • we know about the speed of a sneeze (100 MPH!)
  • we know about hiccups!

Last night we read about the lymphatic system; tonight, the endocrine system.  Every few days we toast the healthy body by tapping our toes to the Powers/Fischoff/Keith GIANT hit of 1967, “98.6”:

We keep learning:

thesaurus

The Reference Section – After my son and I talked about the difference between a synonym and a definition, we read through the fabulously illustrated “Roget and His Thesaurus” by Jennifer Bryant/Melissa Sweet, and then compared a few words (book, study, snack) from our Roget’s Thesaurus (“treasure house”) and our dictionary.

hatchet alone

A Reread – This is our third time through “Hatchet” by Gary Paulsen, a book found on every  young adult book list, so I don’t need to wax on about the author’s skilled command of great story, poetic pace, and worthy theme (self reliance).  Even the third time through we are leaning forward to hear what happens next.

sand dollar cookie

(Story Problem) Little Picnic Boxes at Le Fictitious Local Diner – To surprise little Miss G and little Miss P, the diner’s favorite mini customers, the chef has added onto the menu a “Mini Mermaid Summer Picnic Box” (teeny tuna sandwiches, sea salt chips, sand dollar cookies, and blue lagoon lemonade).  Priced at $5, the picnic box is such a hit! 

(For my son to compute in his head, no paper)  A local elementary school is purchasing picnic boxes for the final day of summer school.  If there are 85 students enrolled, the school accountant needs to write the diner a check for how much?  (answer at bottom of post)
A.  $225     B.  $325     C.  $425     D.  $525

(For my son to compute in his head, no paper)  Did we mention that the recyclable paper boxes are super cute and are purchased in units of 50?  If the diner projects that they can sell 750 Mini Mermaid Summer Picnic Boxes during the month of August, and they add on the summer school order, how many units need to be ordered?  (answer at bottom of post)
A.  15 units     B.  17 units     C.  20 units     D.  25 units

insect painting

Insects in the Air!   What we were also listening to this past week:

Spring, Movement 1, from Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons” (1721).  For about a half a minute, beginning at 35 seconds into the piece, my son and I can hear a chaotic riot of buzzing cicadas, mosquitoes, dragonflies, and bees.  Wow:

Fireflies, from the solo piano work, “Four Sketches” by Amy Beach, composed in 1892.  We love this piece;  when we lived in Georgia, our backyard was alight with fireflies all summer long and Amy Beach has captured the sparkly magic:  

La Cucaracha – well, this is just so sad.  The original words to this traditional Spanish folk song (composer unknown) tell about a cockroach who has lost one of his legs!  Somebody actually wrote a song about this?????  OH DEAR, the poor thing is hobbling about on 5 legs – and yet – the melody is full of upbeat happiness, encouragement and warmth.  Let this be a lesson!

Welcome to the best part of my day!
Jane BH
story problem answers:  C.  $425, and  B.  17 units

Finishing Touches

Finished:   Lonely Planet’s “The Cities Book”, AKA “The Seven and a Half Pound Book that is also a Weapon”.   Our plan was to tackle two cities a night and we did!  We ended up taking 200 trips around our globe and it was sort of exhilarating to find every single location.

globe and book

A few final observations:

  • really old cities:  
    • Lisbon – since 1,000 BC
    • both Mecca and Jerusalem – since 2,000 BC 
    • Nicosia – since 2,500 BC
    • Dubai – since 3,000 BC
    • Amman – since 3,500 BC 
    • Shanghai – since 3,900 BC
  • altitude sickness possibility:  Lhasa/Tibet, Santa Fe/New Mexico, Cuzco/Peru
  • city built upon coral:  Male, Maldives
  • cities really close to active volcanoes:  Kagoshima/Japan and Arequipa/Peru
  • world’s steepest residential street:  Baldwin Street (with a 35% grade), Dunedin, New Zealand.  (yes, we compared it to San Francisco’s Lombard Street; sorry, only a 27% grade)
  • cities my son and I would like to visit based solely upon the two page spread in the book:
    • Ljubljana, Slovenia (fairy tale charm with early morning fog making the “weakness” list)
    • Muscat, Oman (pristine beauty)

Finished:   Kimberly Brubaker Bradley’s simply excellent book, “The War that Saved My Life”.  I wanted my son to spend a little time reflecting upon how well conceived and well written this book was, so I had him fill out a report card.  I talked about each category before he decided upon a grade.  This book is so deserving of its 2016 Newbery Honor Book award.

report card

Of course, a story problem:  A Vegetable Tasting at Farmer Brown’s:

sugar snap peas

Farmer Brown has put out trays of cauliflower, sugar snap peas, and turnips because he is hosting a vegetable tasting for local school children (specifically, Ms. Becque’s and Ms. Lesh’s picky first graders).  (There are 18 students in each class.)
Results:

Ms. Becque’s class vegetables Ms. Lesh’s class
6 tastes cauliflower chunks 12 tastes
12 tastes sugar snap peas 18 tastes
9 tastes turnip slices with dip 3 tastes

1)  which class had the pickiest eaters?
2)  what percentage of Ms. Becque’s class tried turnips?
3)  what percentage of Ms. Lesh’s class tried cauliflower?
4)  the school district will will have the greatest chance of getting kids to eat vegetables if they purchase which vegetable from Farmer Brown? (answers at bottom of post)

moon

Finishing up the day – we always end each STORIES AND STUDIES session with 3 pieces of classical music.  Unless I have a very specific theme for the evening (like “The Anvil as Musical Instrument” or “Circus Music Classics” – see “Our Music Themes” in title block), I try to promote drowsiness by selecting something soothing for the final selection.  Something like these:

  • Song to the Moon, from the opera “Rusalka” (1901), Antonin Dvorak
  • The Flower Duet, from the opera “Lakmé” (1883), Leo Delibes
  • The Little Train of the Caipira (1930), Heitor Villa-Lobos
  • Scottish Fantasy, movement 1 (1880), Max Bruch
  • Guitar Quintet No. 4 in D major, movement 3, (1798), Luigi Boccherini
  • Sailing By, (1963), Ronald Binge

or these:

  • The Dove, from “The Birds” (1928), Ottorino Respighi.  This is the very recording we’ve been listening to for years on our iPod. The best parts:  the cooing of the dove throughout the piece, and the ending (just splendid):

  • Theme from “Out of Africa” (1986), John Barry.  We listen specifically for distant rolling thunder brought to us by the timpani:

  • Nimrod, from “The Enigma Variations” (1899), Sir Edward Elgar.  Dignified and sobering.  An adaptation of Nimrod was used in the score for the 2017 movie, “Dunkirk”.  No better choice:

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answers:  1)  Ms. Becque’s class,  2)  50%,  3)  66%,  4)  sugar snap peas)

It’s all about the triangle

We played “Quiz Show” last night – last week’s studies were so jam packed with quirky facts, they seemed to beg for a quiz.

Did my son know about Euskara?
Did he know about blackout curtains during WWII?
Did he know about altitude sickness?
Did he know about Robin Goodfellow?
Did he know about monsoons?
Did he know which were the fastest muscles in the human body?

quiz

Yes, yes, yes!  And the prize for getting a correct answer???  Wait for it – wait for it – wait for it:  for every correct answer my son got to ding a triangle:  1) the fun never stops at our house, and 2) who wouldn’t focus more diligently, knowing that the merry ding of a triangle was only one correct answer away?

Current studies and books – 

basque books

The Basque Country – first of all, the few books available on the Basque Country seem to be  oriented toward the angry plight of Basque citizens and grievances against their host countries (France and Spain) (mostly Spain) (Hey! I get it, but that is not the direction I want to head – I try to keep the “man’s inhumanity to man” themes away from our study table – my son has enough to deal with).  So, that left us with hardly any books from which to choose (and most of them were cookbooks).  Nonetheless, we are happily reading, “A Basque Diary” by Alex Hallatt (my son really likes the casual reflections in this small book) and the cookbook, “The Basque Book” by  Alexandra Raij.  Both are giving us a feel for this 8,000 square mile area of the western Pyrenees.  By default, we are learning a LOT about Basque food and we are so not eating periwinkles (cute tiny snails) no matter how well seasoned.

midsummer books

Another Professor Astro Cat book – We LOVE the Professor Astro Cat books.  Every page teams non-boring information with turbo-charged graphics.  This book, “Professor Astro Cat’s Human Body Odyssey”, is the fourth book we’ve read on human anatomy and our attention has finally been captured.  We read two pages a night and end up with more than enough to mull over for the next day.  Last night we had to be grossed out about DEAD SKIN CELLS floating through the air.  Tonight, nose mucus.  Life is good.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream – we are re-reading an adaptation, “The Young Reader’s Shakespeare – A Midsummer Night’s Dream” by Adam McKeown, for one reason only:  to enhance our enjoyment of Felix Mendelssohn’s ridiculously clever “Overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream”.  We can hear the beating of the fairy wings and Bottom with his donkey head braying, what else can we hear?  This piece was composed in 1826 when Mendelssohn was SEVENTEEN – music scholar George Grove wrote of the overture: “the greatest marvel of early maturity that the world has ever seen in music”.  So there.

An outstanding performance of the overture by Leipzig’s Gewandhausorchester – where Felix Mendelssohn served as director from 1835 through 1847:


Dinner time at Farmer Brown’s (story problem) to summon the farm hands to supper, Farmer Brown needs to purchase a new “Cowboy style” triangle dinner bell.

triangle dinner bell

He can purchase a cheapy at a well known discount warehouse for $20 or he can commission the local blacksmith to create a heavy duty hand-forged iron triangle for $60.  The $60 triangle is what percentage more costly than the $20 model?  A)  30%     B)  150%     C)  200%     D)  300%  (answer at bottom of post)

 

roosterethics

Ethics Corner – OK, right after I yammered on about staying away from themes of man’s inhumanity to man, I am ambushed with a variation (man’s inhumanity to animals):  in the excellent Lonely Planet “The Cities Book” (the 7.5 pound tome we are almost through) we came across COCKFIGHTING while reading about Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.  Well.  First I had to explain what cockfighting was to my son.  Did I try to hide my heartsickness from the explanation?  No.  So, question to my son:  what do we think about cockfighting?  Is this an OK thing?  NO!  Are there any circumstances where this would be an OK thing?  NO!  Thank you.

Our music last night – we were so enthused by the the magic of the triangle during our quiz show that we decided to listen to compositions showcasing this simplest of instruments:

triangle

  •   Beethoven’s “Turkish March”, composed in 1809.  This short piece is played at a very fast clip (we LOVE this pace) by the Spanish Radio and Television Symphony Orchestra.  The sound of the triangle is woven throughout the piece to evoke the sound of exotic Ottoman Janissary Bands (oh my gosh we learned what Janissary Bands were!):

  • Brahms’ “Symphony No. 4 in E minor”, movement 3.  This symphony premiered in 1885.  We have listened to this movement several times, enjoying how it alternates between sounding like a wild west theme and a royal fanfare.  The triangle sparkles throughout the piece:

  • “Theme from The Pink Panther”  written in 1963 by Henry Mancini.  Nothing but the sound of the triangle was good enough to introduce this piece:

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
story problem answer:  D) 300%