So Cool


A three-chapters-a-night book!  Ordinarily, I read one chapter a night from our academic resource du jour, but my son is having none of that for “Jim Thorpe – Original All-American” by Joseph Bruchac.  This biography of the Native American/Olympic medalist has captured his attention and he will accept nothing less than multiple chapters at each reading.  We are currently reading about Jim’s high school years; certainly my son did not know about the US government-imposed boarding-school system for Native Americans one hundred years ago, and neither did I.  (Some ideas were good, some were so misguided…a LOT to think about.  How would we have managed this differently?)  The book was written as if an autobiography (vocab), so my son has now learned to distinguish between a story told in the 1st person, 2nd person, and 3rd person “voice”.  As per usual, zig-zag learning.


App Happy – About once a week, we spend time with the FIRST RATE “Professor Astro Cat’s Solar System” app on our iPad.  Graphics: elegant and hip.  Material covered: EXTENSIVE.  (This is a GREAT app for anybody looking for quirky conversation starters.)  For my son, the information presented and even the quizzes:  ENGROSSING.  The merest sampling of what we’ve learned:
– what an AU is (astronomical until – the approximate length between the sun and earth)
– how old my son would be on Mercury
– about the largest mountain in the solar system (on Mars)
– about the planet with diamonds (!!!)


Bringing out the Christmas lights: story problem from Le Fictitious Local Diner – The diner is hauling out their old Christmas decorations and the plan is to edge the roof with their retro strings of larger bulbs.  It takes 12 strands of lights to do the job.  Each strand has 25 bulbs.  4 strands have no malfunctioning bulbs, 4 strands have 5 malfunctioning bulbs, and 4 strands have 10 malfunctioning bulbs.

1)  What is the average number of malfunctioning bulbs on each strand?   2)  How many bulbs need to be replaced?   3)  If a new colorful bulb costs 50 cents, how much will it cost to replace all the burnt out bulbs?   4)  To be prepared for future bulb burn out emergencies, how many extras bulbs should be purchased if the diner wants to have 10% extra bulbs in storage?   5)  How will the diner look when all the lights are put up?


Bringing out the sleigh bells: our music theme last night –  Hey!  It is getting cool here – in the past week, we plummeted from 70 degrees to the high 30’s.  Time to bring out the sleigh ride music (with jingling bells a must):

  • We started with Mozart’s “German Dance No. 3 in C” (referred to as “Sleigh Ride”), K. 605, composed in 1791.  For some reason, it is difficult to find outstanding orchestral performance video footage of this piece…but it is the melody that we are after:

  • Next, “Troika” (vocab: troika – a three-horse open sleigh), from Prokofiev’s “Lieutenant Kije Suite”, movement 4 (BTW, I really slow down every time I have to write LIEUTENANT…such an unreasonably difficult word to spell).  This was composed in 1933 and was part of Prokofiev’s first film score.  Such a delightful piece, but we especially listen for the iconic Prokofiev discordant “edge”.  You can tell this was filmed in the ’70’s – check the conductor’s (Andre Previn) hair-style and glasses:

  • Finally, the obvious choice, Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride”, written during a heat wave in July, 1946.  Adorable performance:

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answers:  1) 5 bulbs    2) 60 bulbs    3) $30    4) 30 bulbs   5) So cool!)


  1. Love the variety in every post. By the way, I agree, lieutenant is difficult to spell…if you break it apart in French (its origin), it means ‘place taker’…might not make it easier to spell, but at least it’s fun to know.


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