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.
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)