Novels

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)

Advertisements

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.)

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

Meanwhile…

city book

Around the world in perhaps 150 days – my son and I are working our way through Lonely Planet’s “The Cities Book” (thoughtful Christmas gift from sister –  Lonely Planet books are so A+).  There is a two page spread for each of the 200 cities showcased , and we are managing one or two destinations per evening.  Ten categories define each city, but alas, most are of little interest to my son, so here is how we are using this book:
1- we find the city on the globe.  I am dismayed to report that there are several cities of significant population that I have previously never heard of, like Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (5 million) or Lahore, Pakistan (almost 9 million).  For shame!  So I learn along with my son and I just keep appreciating the opportunity.

globe

2- we find out how old the city is.  (eye-opener)
3- we read about the location’s “weaknesses” (beastly hot/spotty electricity/toxic smog levels)(always worth a side conversation).
4- we read about the city’s exports.  If the city produces enough of something to supply the city residents and the product is good enough to export, like coffee, oil, silks, and Siamese cats (!!!), we want to know about it.
And lastly, I should mention this book is quite large and weighs a lot.  I let my son guess how much it weighed.  He guessed 10 pounds, my husband guessed 2 pounds, I guessed 40 pounds (and ta-da! the book weighed in at 7.5 pounds on the cooking scale).  “The Cities Book” can be our new go-to device for pressing flowers or flattening out a curled document.

president book

Meanwhile, back in the USA – we are pretty much loving every page of Ken Jennings’ “Junior Genius Guide to U.S. Presidents”.  Frankly, we are planning on reading everything this super clever author publishes (we have read “Maphead” and his “Junior Genius Guide to Greek Mythology”).  We like to know quirky info like:
– James K. Polk accomplished all of his campaign goals in his first term!  Commendable, but at what cost?  (He quit after one term and died three months later.)  Jennings suggests that Polk’s time was spent “working, not having fun, working more”.  (It would be so interesting to get a glimpse of the family dynamics of his childhood.) (It looks like mirth and relaxation were not encouraged.)
– James Garfield came from the most economically deprived upbringing. He was 19 before he ever heard a piano!  He was 23 before he tasted a banana!
– Woodrow Wilson was the only president (so far) to earn a PhD.

herbs

Meanwhile, back at the ranch – Farmer Brown has all the seed catalogs out, anticipating planting a large herb garden once the winter frosts have passed.  He wants to purchase 40 heirloom seed packets at $4 per packet from the “It’s About Thyme” company and 25 seed packets at $5 each from the “To Bee or Not To Bee Heirloom Seed Company”.  If Farmer Brown budgeted $250 for his herb garden, will he have enough money buy all the seed packets? (answer at bottom of post)

NY Phil

Well, listen to this!   I have recently enlisted the assistance of personal trainer “Brute” (not his real name – smirk).  Brute promised that I could work out to my choice of music.  Yay!  So I said, “classical” and was met with the most puzzled expression.  (Seriously?)  To make it simple, I said I would be happy to listen to any recordings by the New York Philharmonic, to which Brute responded, “Hmmm, I have never heard of that band.”. (Seriously?) AAAAAAACK.  See? This is what happens when school systems are forced to cut funding from the music curriculum.  My son selected three pieces that he decided even a new classical music listener could love, and I found a recording of each by the New York Philharmonic:

  • “Mars”, from “The Planets” by Gustav Holst, composed around 1916.  The standard by which all scary aggressive music must be judged:

  • “The Radetzky March” , composed by Johann Strauss, Sr, in 1848, commissioned to commemorate Field Marshal Joseph Radetzky von Radetz’s victory at the Battle of Custoza (Oh yeah, the Battle of Custoza)(?????).  This is just the dandiest of marches, maybe THE BEST MARCH EVER:

  • “Masquerade”, a waltz composed  in 1941 by Aram Khachaturian (as incidental music for a play of the same name).  Delicious, dark, depraved.  Yikes, it is all here:

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answer: NO)

All Hail the Engineer

engineer pocket 3

PROTOTYPE – Prototype, prototype, prototype (vocab).

aerospace – biomedical – chemical – mechanical – electrical – civil
geomatics (that was a new one for us) – computer – environmental – industrial

No matter what type of engineering we are learning about, we keep coming across the word PROTOTYPE.  We’ve talked about how a prototype for an engineer is like a rough draft for a writer and we’ve read about MANY successful engineering projects that needed prototype after prototype after prototype to test theories and refine specifics.

erie canal map

You had us at “America’s First Great Public Works Project” (we LOVE knowing stuff like this) – So what was America’s first public works project?  My son knows, and now I know: THE ERIE CANAL. (Previous to our study, I thought the Erie Canal was in Pennsylvania. PITIFUL.)  We learned that this engineering triumph was first imagined in 1807, completed in 1825, and stretched 363 miles from Albany NY to Buffalo NY.  Our A+ resource:  Martha E. Kendall’s “The Erie Canal”, which delivers organized and surprisingly interesting facts regarding –
*canal politics (ugh)
*engineering –  the trench,  the 83 locks
*the labor force (primarily Irish immigrants)
*financing
*the resulting commerce
*canal maintenance

We wrapped up our Erie Canal study by listening to Thomas S. Allen’s all-the-rage-of-the-early-1900’sLow Bridge, Everybody Down”.  And what was the deal with the low bridges?  My son and I learned that bridges were built for farmers whose land was crossed by the canal.  Due to budget (vocab) constraints, the almost-300 bridges were built small and low – which was not a problem for the farmers, but was a huge deal for people sitting atop the canal boats.  Plop.

More engineering?  We are reading “Mr. Ferris and His Wheel” by Kathryn Gibbs Davis.  It’s about the super skilled and fabulously imaginative engineer, George Ferris, creator of the dazzling showpiece of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.  His inspirations – the water wheel and the bicycle wheel.

ferris wheel

And even more engineering?  We can’t escape it.  For our fiction selection, we are revisiting for the third time, “Cheaper By the Dozen”, Frank B. Gilbreth, Jr’s and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey’s adorably hysterical remembrance of their over-the-top father (we had forgotten that father AND mother were internationally recognized industrial engineers).

french friesfrench friesfrench fries

Prototypes at Le Fictitious Local Diner (story problem) – The diner is trying out some new ways with french fries and presented 3 prototypes to Ms. Martinovich’s first grade class (a rambunctious group of 20, known for their pickiness).  Here are the results (the students could vote more than once):
– 4 liked “fries with fried pickles”
– 15 liked “fries with maple-BBQ sauce”
– 10 liked “fries with onion dip”
What percentage of Ms. Martinovich’s class liked each of the prototypes? (answers at bottom of post)

Music for engineers (this time, locomotive engineers) –

train engineer

  • Take the “A” Train” – signature tune of the Duke Ellington Orchestra, composed by Billy Strayhorn in 1931.  Would you just look at the toe tapping in this vid clip:

  • The Little Train of the Caipira” – composed in 1934 by Heitor Villa-Lobos. My son has chosen to listen to this piece at least twice a month for the past 6 years (it is THAT interesting). A simply superb performance by the National Children’s Orchestra of Great Britain’s Main Orchestra.  Wow:

  • Orange Blossom Special” – this piece of Americana is considered to be the fiddle players’ national anthem. Composed in 1938 by Ervin and Gordon Rouse:

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(Story Problem answers: fried pickles – 20%, maple-BBQ sauce – 75%, onion dip – 50%)

What We Want

We want a GRAND SLAM – Go Dodgers World Series 2017!

Dodgers

We always want THE GRAND SLAM (our version) setting the scene:  I am reading to my son, finishing a chapter and am starting to close the book, and out of nowhere his hand comes slamming down on the page, clearly communicating DO NOT EVEN THINK OF CLOSING THIS GREAT BOOK.  KEEP READING.  It happened again last night.

Animal orchestra

Last night we started reading “The Great Animal Orchestra – Finding the Origins of Music in the World’s Wild Places” by musician/naturalist Dr. Bernie Krause.  When we begin a new book, we read only a few paragraphs to get a sense of what awaits us, but I was so pleasantly surprised with this book – the writing, bright and observant – that I was half way through the 8-page prologue before deciding to close the book for the evening.  This was met with a decided difference of opinion from my son – his hand came crashing down onto the page.  It was the GRAND SLAM once again.  YES.

crusoe 3

We didn’t want to cheat on Robinson Crusoe – I hate to admit this, but we just finished an abridged version (A REALLY ABRIDGED VERSION) of Daniel Dafoe’s classic.  We read through the first chapter of the original, and there was so much explaining necessary at the end of every paragraph, I could see that it would take us forever to plow through the book.  But we still wanted to know about the story inspired by pirate Alexander Selkirk, who lived alone on Juan Fernandez Island (off the coast of Chile) for 4 years, so we found a cartoony version “Robinson Crusoe (Graphic Revolve: Common Core Editions)”, which gave us the basics.  I think we are still hungry to read the real story, but ALAS, I cannot face the work of explaining Dafoe’s work just yet.

cousin tree

We wanted to see where we fit in – COUSIN CITY!  Cousin Caitlin is getting married soon!  Did my son understand the concept of cousin (vocab)?  Did he know where she fit into the family tree?  Did he know where HE fit into the family tree?  Out came the big drawing paper and the pastels and we worked together to create a cousin-centric family tree.

paint 3

(Story Problem) Farmer Brown wants to gussy up his roadside stand – Farmer Brown has plans to paint the inside of his roadside produce stand, as soon as his roadside-stand cashiers (vocab) decide on the color.  So far, 4 quarts of sample paints have been tried out to no one’s satisfaction.  If each quart of sample paint costs $6, and there are plans to try out 3 more colors, but – OH NO – they end up purchasing 5 more samples after the 3, how much will have been spent on sample paint?  A)  $30    B)  $42    C)  $60    D)  $72

After a color is finally agreed upon (YAY), 6 gallons (at $30 each) will be required to complete the paint job.  How much will have been spent on the gallons and sample quarts?  A) $180     B) $252     C) $72     D) $600  (story problem answers at bottom of post)

tango poster

We want to be Tango-ologists – My son and I concluded our South America unit this past week, absolutely loving our guide book: “Not for Parents South America – Lonely Planet Kids”.  This past week we read about:
– the importance of the coffee industry to the Brazil economy
– Columbian emeralds
– the navy of land-locked Bolivia
– AND WE READ ABOUT THE TANGO OF ARGENTINA.  We had no idea how much we were going to love the tango music!  Our toes have been tapping non-stop.

  • “Por una Cabeza” – this true Argentine tango, composed in 1935 by Alfredo Le Pera and Carlos Gardel, tells the story of a man comparing his horse race gambling addiction with his attraction to women.  Whoa.  The music: anguished, gorgeous, yearning – the perfect selection for the tango scenes in “The Scent of a Woman” (1992) and “Easy Virtue” (2008) (shown here):

  • “Hernando’s Hideaway” – if I had more friends that were more musically aware, and I asked them to hum a tango, this is the one they would probably come up with – it is from the 1954 musical, “The Pajama Game”. (The Pajama Game centers around labor troubles at a pajama manufacturing plant in Cedar Rapids, Iowa…Hernando’s Hideway is the local dive bar).  Great fun, a most aggressive tango with no pretensions toward subtleties:

  • “Blue Tango” – Leroy Anderson’s contribution to the tango genre, composed in 1951. My son and I have been tapping our toes to “Blue Tango” for a few years. Every time we listen to this we feel sorry for the snare drum player (mind numbing repetition).  Interesting: in searching for a “Blue Tango” video footage I think I came across more terrible filmed versions of this than of any other music I have researched:

  • MORE????? “Doc Martin Theme Song” – my son has heard this melody so often, as I have watched every episode of this favorite British TV series.  The theme was composed by Colin Towns in 2004, and is indeed a tango.  What a metaphor for the on again-off again relationship between the doctor and of the citizens of Portwenn:

Welcome to the best part of my day!
Jane BH
(story problem answers: part 1 -D)  $72 and part 2-B) $252)

JUMBLE!

jumble 2

Jumble! – we have been playing our own version of the popular-since-1954 newspaper word game, “Jumble”.  I mix up the letters of a word, and my son unscrambles the letters. My son LOVES this challenge!  As opposed to this:  I thought my son might be interested in watching a plant grow from seed, so a few nights ago I brought up a packet of radish seeds to the STORIES AND STUDIES CENTER and was met with (in Victorian terms) “the cut direct”.  Well, bummer.  But at least I can tell when my son is engaged and when he is not.  And whether he likes it or not, we are going to be serving up home grown radishes in a few short weeks.

radish

Farmer Brown grows radishes (story problem) – (oh my, this one is so easy) It is rather late in the growing season, but Farmer Brown is laying in another crop of radishes – Le Fictitious Local Diner will buy all that he has to sell, and the radishes grow so fast.  If Farmer Brown plants 1,000 radish seeds and is able to harvest 800 radishes, what percentage of the seeds transformed into an edible (vocab) vegetable?  If rabbits ate half of the unharvested radishes, how many did they consume?  If the local diner garnishes every salad with two sliced-up radishes, how many radishes do they need for a PTA luncheon of 150 attendees and a bowling league dinner of 20 team members? (answers at bottom of post)

Cixi

“Cixi – Evil Empress of China?” – we are half-way through yet another book from the “A Wicked History” series.  These books NEVER disappoint.  So: China in the 1800s – we thought the book would be about inner-court intrigues or friction between royalty and peasants.  But no.  So far, the lead story is about the most preposterous foreign invasions. China had a centuries-long tradition of NOT welcoming foreign trade, so GET THIS – during the 1800s, Britain and France (I am sorry to say), using vastly superior military might, forced China to trade.  How upside-down is this?  My son and I seem to have this small discussion every night: does a country with any sense at all go to war to force a clearly reluctant other country to engage in COMMERCE?  Suffice it to say, we open this book every night hoping we will start to understand, and in the meantime learn more about Empress Cixi.  We are sort of hoping that her evilness doesn’t disappoint…tonight is promising – we will be reading a short essay that appears to infer that Cixi poisoned her enemies. Yikes!

greek quiz

Greek Mythology a la Ken Jennings – The fact is this: my son and I are still loving “Ken Jennings Junior Genius Guide to Greek Mythology”.  The fact is this:  the Greek mythology family tree is hilariously confusing.  There is a dizzying quantity gods, goddesses, muses, nymphs, and super-strength mortals.  Just to make sure my son had a grasp of the basics, I gave him two quizzes – one that matched Greek gods with Roman gods and a multiple choice quiz that covered mythology vocabulary.  I also gave the quizzes to my husband. They both did so well!  (And if you are looking closely at the photo above – my son selected correctly – researchers now say that Pandora had a JAR, not a BOX!)

“Penny from Heaven” – we’ve just finished this fun fiction read by Jennifer L. Holm.  As we found from another of her books, “The 14th Goldfish”, Holm excels in characterizing family dynamics – in this case we ended up wanting to be a part of the protagonist’s father’s extended Italian family.  For us, this was a captivating book with a handful of serious discussion topics.  Tonight we start on another Holm novel, “Turtle in Paradise”.

cake with sparkler

Bohemian Birthday – Classical music listening – Last Friday (September 8th) was the birthdate of composer Antonin Dvorak. So, after finding his birth country on our globe (Bohemia – now the Czech Republic), and a few basic arithmetic questions (Dvorak was born in 1841, how old would he be if he were still alive to celebrate this birthday?  Dvorak died in 1904, how long did he live?), we enjoyed three favorite recordings.

Sidebar notes –
1) For no particular reason at all, we selected Dvorak recordings conducted by international treasure Seiji Ozawa. (Not to be jerky, but it is hard not to take notice of Mr. Ozawa’s hair.)
2) Two of our selected compositions were recorded by the acclaimed Vienna Philharmonic – and if the music were just not SO great, we would have been preoccupied by trying to find women musicians in the orchestra.

Slavonic Dance No. 1 – composed in 1878, under full encouragement of Johannes Brahms.  We think if we were musicians we would like playing this sweetly rambunctious folk dance, and we would definitely like to be somewhere in the orchestra hall if only to gaze upon Ozawa’s CRAZY cartoon-style coiffure.  Nonetheless, superbly conducted:

Humoresque – It has been written that Dvorak’s “Humoresque” (referring to the seventh of his eight “Humoresques”, composed in 1894) is probably the most famous small piano work ever written (after Beethoven’s “Fur Elise”).  We first listened to this as it was written (for piano), and our thought was, “yeah, yeah, yeah – this sounds familiar – sort of boring”.  THEN we listened to to a recording of Seiji Ozawa conducting the Boston Orchestra, showcasing Itzhak Perlman and Yo Yo Ma: GAME CHANGER.  Who knew “Humoresque” was a heartbreaker???  This is proof of the power of a conductor’s vision:

“The Largo Movement” from Symphony No. 9 (“From the New World Symphony”, movement 2) – composed in 1892. Majestic loneliness. Ozawa’s hair under control:

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answers: 80%, 100 radishes, 340 radishes)