Technology

2016 – Gone, but not forgotten

2016-quiz

2016:  the year we learned more about –  the California Gold Rush, the insanely brilliant architecture of Gaudi, the work of bees, Eugene Bullard, homonyms, Hannibal, dwarf planets, George Washington Carver, patents, rodents, Rube Goldberg, computation involving triangles, etc, etc, etc.  Last night, my son took matching quiz that reviewed our academic studies from the past year, and earned an A+.  Good year.

macaulay-book

New book!  For Christmas, a special aunt and uncle sent my son David Macaulay’s classic, “The Way Things Work”.  This is obviously a mechanical engineering book lurking behind precise illustrations and hilarious examples.  This past week, we became experts on “the inclined plane” and “the lever”.  (In 2016, we learned a lot from Macauley’s books on “The Toilet” and “The Mill”, so we should emerge MENSA-worthy if we can absorb everything this comprehensive book offers.)

electricity

Story Problem from Le Fictitious Local Diner – The diner spent a lot of money on electricity in 2016; management is reviewing usage to see if they can cut back (perhaps a weekly “dining by candle-light” event might make a teeny dent in the diner’s electrical consumption).  To make decisions, management needs some facts:  if the diner was open 6 days a week, how many days in 2016 were they using electricity?  If the cooks were at the diner from 6 a.m. until 11 p.m., how many hours last year was the diner using electricity? (story problem answers at bottom of post)

2016

Music Listening in 2016 – My son and I welcomed an additional 85 classical (in the broadest sense) pieces into our iPod library this past year.  Last night, I presented a list of our fave 10 of these compositions and then my son picked his top three for listening.

10 pieces we first listened to in 2016 –

Ave Maria – Arcadelt
Banjoland Buffoonery – Kirkhope
Brandenberg Concerto No. 3 – Bach
Harp Concerto in A major – Dittersdorf
Organ Symphony, finale – Saint-Saens
Persian March – Strauss
Sailing By – Binge
String Quartet No. 2, scherzo – Borodin
The Anvil Chorus (Il Trovatore) – Verdi
Toccata in A major – Paradisi

music-faves-2016

My son’s selections for last night’s listening –

“Banjoland Buffoonery”, composed in 1998 by Grant Kirkhope for the Nintendo 64 video game, “Banjo-Kazooie”.  A short piece, packed with rollicking fun, AND an excellent (and accessible for the likes of my son and myself) example of theme and variation:

“Persian March”, composed by Johann Strauss II, in 1864.   My son cannot stop his toes from tapping to this marvelously exotic march (expertly played by a Polish youth orchestra) (SO heartening to witness excellence in youth):

“Sailing By”, written by Ronald Binge in 1963 and used by BBC Radio to introduce the late shipping forcast.  This sweet,  slumberous waltz gets our vote for most soothing lullaby.  When we just cannot deal with one more thing, THIS is our music:

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answers: 1) 312 days 2) 5,304 hours)

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Miners and Minors

miners     little boys

Homonyms, homographs, and homophones:  the craziness of the English language!  Miners and Minors.  Wail, Wale, and Whale.  Watch (look) and Watch (timepiece).  Bark (dog talk) and Bark (on the tree).  Homonyms are the life of the party at our language arts gatherings.  My son and I had a great time going through a long list of these words last night, and it all started with “miners”.

gold rush books

The 49ers were miners:  a few nights ago we completed our second book about the California Gold Rush of 1849.  We are still thinking about –

  • how would we have traveled to California from the east coast;  all choices were dreadful.  Would we have taken a ship around the tip of South America (hideous seasickness/horrible food)?  Would we have taken a ship, disembarked (vocab) in Panama, hiked the 60 miles through the jungle (bugs and disease) and hoped we were able to find a ship to take us the rest of the way?  Would we have traveled over land in a covered wagon (we learned that the most dangerous part of covered wagon travel was the CROSSING OF RIVERS.  We would not have guessed that.)?
  • PAY DIRT – this is what happy prospector’s called finding gold dust in their pan of dirt.
  • those who profited the most for the gold rush: the store owners who sold supplies to the miners, Levi Strauss and his jeans, the Wells and Fargo mail delivery service, and women who cooked, washed, and mended the miners’ clothing.

hangtown fry

Hangtown Fry on the menu at Le Fictitious Local Diner (story problem) One of the diner’s cook’s kids was studying about the California Gold Rush, so the cook put a traditional 49er feast on the menu: Hangtown Fry, which he decided to serve with a side of sourdough bread.  Hangtown Fry is an omelette (vocab) made of eggs, oysters, and bacon.  The meal has been so popular that the chef has had to bake 10 loaves of sourdough every day.  If one loaf provides 12 slices of bread, and each Hangtown Fry order comes with 2 slices of bread, how many orders does the diner sell in a week? (answer at bottom of post)

Rounding out our homonym theme, in music:  After learning about the gold rush MINERS, we listened to three classical compositions in MINOR keys (in this case, each in the key of B minor).  We talked about the difference in sound between a major and minor key, we talked about why each of the chosen pieces needed to be written in a minor key, and then we sat back and enjoyed:

  • The Hebrides Overture, composed by Felix Mendelssohn in 1830 –  the minor key essential for evoking the mystery and might of nature.  Wonderfully conducted by the etherial Nathalie Stutzman in this video:

  • In the Hall of the Mountain King, from the incidental music Edvard Grieg composed in 1876 for Henrik Ibsen’s play, Peer Gynt.  Furtive (vocab), stealthy (vocab), secretive and aggressive – brought to us only by the minor key.  Excellent presentation:

  • Ride of the Valkyries, from Richard Wagner’s opera, The Valkyrie, which premiered in 1870.  The minor key brands the women warriors as fierce and relentless in their duties.  This piece performed by the Berlin Philharmonic is masterfully and energetically conducted by a young Daniel Barenboim. Oh my, the tempo is FANTASTIC:

Welcome to the best part of my day!
Jane BH
(story problem answer: 420 orders)

Working for Peanuts

carver stamp

We begin our botany unit:  “George Washington Carver – Ingenious Inventor”, another “Graphic Library” book, this one by Olson/Tucke.  (These books are pretty fun, formatted comic-book style, including a surprising amount of interesting information.  Not bad, not bad at all).  Anyway, George Washington Carver, FATHER OF THE PEANUT INDUSTRY, has won our hearts:  he was focused, deep thinking, moral (vocab), inventive, industrious, and profoundly generous.  But back to the botany angle: Carver ended up with three patents for peanut oil utilization (hardly representative of his many many many inventions and contributions).  We spent a few minutes wondering what Carver’s scientific response would have been to the present day widespread peanut allergy crisis.  We also decided that we wanted to know more about other botanists (vocab), so books on Gregor Mendel and Luther Burbank have been ordered.

soda sharing

Story problem time – the SUMMERTIME SWEETHEART SODA SPECIAL at Le Fictitious Local Diner:  Hoping to entice the after-movie date crowd, the diner has run a midnight ice-cream soda special (a large-sized soda with two straws and a side of fries) every Friday and Saturday, since June 1st.  Well! This has been so popular that the diner went through two boxes of straws (1000 straws to the box) in June alone!  If the special is priced at $5.00, how much did the diner gross on the special in June?  If the cost per serving works out to $2.00, how much did the diner net from this special in June?  Extraneous question: if a box of 1,000 straws costs $17, what is the price per straw (round up)? (answers at bottom of post)

gabby book

New fiction reading:  We are intrigued by  “Gabby Duran and the Unsittables” by Elise Allen and Daryle Conners.  This book is original and refreshing, with new concepts and vocabulary all over the place.  The introductory adventure involves a movie production (so new words: set, line, soundstage, props);  subsequent adventures involve INTERGALACTICS.  Adding to this, protagonist Gabby Duran, is a high schooler intent on being an orchestra soloist with her French Horn (and consider us admonished via the internet; we’ve learned that this instrument is properly referred to as the HORN, not the French Horn).  So, do you expect us to let it go at that?  Our choice for classical music listening last night focused upon compositions that showcased the HORN.  We wanted to appreciate the deep, comfortable, warm echo-y sound of Gabby’s horn.

Our inspiration for classical music listening last night – Gabby Duran’s French Horn:

– George Frederick Handel’s Water Music, Movement 2, from Water Music Suite No. 2, composed in 1717 to humor King George I, who desired music for a concert on the River Thames.  My son and I love this jaunty full-of-energy fanfare:

– Gustav Holst’s Venus, from The Planets, composed in 1916.  “Venus, the Bringer of Peace”, begins with a horn solo, and the horn provides the backbone for this L O N G dreamy movement (just a teeny touch boring compared to the rest of the planets in the suite) (but very restful, if you need to fall asleep) (and sort of sad, too) (OK! Not our favorite, but still a good “front and center” for the horn):

– Maurice Ravel’s Pavane for a Dead Princess, first written for piano in 1899, then orchestrated by Ravel in 1910.  This is a slow processional dance, with the horn taking center stage for the introduction. An excellent choice for anyone seeking background music for a good hard cry:

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answers: $5,000, $3,000, 2 cents per straw)

Inventors Invent

rube goldberg

Patents and Inventions – every night for the past few weeks my son and I have looked forward to opening Travis Brown’s book, “Popular Patents”.  We’ve read about patents issued for the adding machine, barbed wire, the moveable-frame beehive, billiard balls, bottle caps, cannons, the safety elevator, fertilizer, frozen foods, glass bottles, helicopters, and the zipper.  What we love is that each story has some crazy angle (like how zippers were called “hookless fasteners” until an order for 150,000 units were  placed by the Goodrich Company for their “Zipper Boots”).  And we continue to notice how EVERY single story reveals inventors that carry patents for MULTIPLE non-related items.  They cannot seem to stop: inventors invent!

patent books and toilet

Speaking of Fertilizer (first US patent for artificial fertilizer granted in 1859) – we read through (OH MY GOSH) “TOILET – How It Works”, meticulously illustrated by David Macaulay.  This is a quick little book that can give EVERYBODY a basic knowledge of their toilet and a HUGE appreciation for every city’s wastewater treatment plant (on behalf of all clueless citizenry, thank you wastewater treatment plant workers) (possibly a type of employment that might be worse than being a middle-school bus driver).

AA006323

Yoohoo!  Vikings!  We are reading through another Graphic Library (think glorified comic book) offering, this one about the Vikings, “Lords of the Sea – the Vikings Explore the North Atlantic”.  My, these were a hardy people.  We are finding it interesting to put the Viking explorations to North America in timeline context with the likes of Christopher Columbus and the Mayflower Pilgrims.  And BTW, we’ve learned that Vikings never wore helmets with horns.

falcon book

Reading for fun – My husband and I enjoy the screenwriting of Anthony Horowitz (think “Foyle’s War”), so when I found out that he wrote for the young adult level, I knew my son and I would want to give this a try.  We have started his book, “The Falcon’s Malteser”.  Lots of things to explain to my son as we read along (starting with the title), but this is a very fun, very clever detective novel. Perfect level for my son.

chef hatchef hatchef hat

Who’s Cooking at Le Fictitious Local Diner? (story problem) – in August, the diner is offering two week-long (Monday through Friday) cooking camps; one for 7th and 8th graders and one for high school students.  The class fee is $200 per student and includes lunch every day and a chef hat. There is room for 10 students in each camp.  If it costs the diner $4 for each lunch, and $50 for cooking materials for each student for a week, and a chef’s hat costs $6 each, how much will the diner spend on each camper?  At the end of camp, how much will the diner have netted? (answer at bottom of post)

Only Fun Music Allowed (our classical music theme last night) –

  • “Dance of the Hours” (note:  this piece has a LONG 2 minute intro –  the high voltage fun begins about 7.5 minutes into piece), from the opera “La Gioconda” (1880) by Amilcare Ponchielli.  Even though this music was hilariously and successfully used in Disney’s “Fantasia” and Allen Sherman’s “Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah”, we were sorry to learn that “La Gioconda” is actually a heart-wrenching tragedy.  But anyway:

  • “Chicken Reel”, written in 1910 by Joseph Daly (and used in several animated cartoons to depict rollicking farm life), and arranged for orchestra by LeRoy Anderson in 1946.  Anderson had so much fun with this – beginning with the ridiculously grand aggressive Paso Doble introduction. Great piece:

  • “The Pink Panther”, the iconic Henry Mancini piece composed in 1963. (My son and I love the triangle action.) This short film clip showcases Henry Mancini as conductor, as well as bits of Pink Panther cartoon magic:

Welcome to the best part of my day!
Jane BH
(story problem answers:  $76, $2,480)

Sunday School

gutenberg stamp

The Good Book – Last week my son and I read through Graphic Library’s “Johann Gutenberg and the Printing Press”.  Excellent!  Just enough information about Bibles and print reproduction methods of the 1400s.  My son was engaged with every single comic-book-style page, so I am looking at other topics covered by Graphic Library.

New information for us:
– we learned that before 1455 (pre-Gutenberg’s printing press), monks who worked on Bibles had to use sunlight to illuminate their work stations; candles were not used in the manuscript shop because of the fire threat
– we learned that the path from the idea of movable type to the actual printing of a Bible was a LONG path:  more than 25 years of continual work – the letters, the ink, the press, the relentless search for financial backing
– we learned that Gutenberg stored his metal letters in cases. The capital letters in the “UPPER CASE” and the smaller letters in the “LOWER CASE”.  Thus, the terms!
– 200 Gutenberg Bibles were printed and 48 remain (we talked about the current $$$ value, oh my gosh)

gutenberg patents

Also studying“Popular Patents – America’s first Inventions from the Airplane to the Zipper” by Travis Brown.  This book is so well researched and so interesting, including patent number details (we sort of skip all of that), and chronological order of “what came before what” in regards to each patented invention.  So far we have read about barbed wire and the bottle cap, and we are coming to realize that:  1)  the type of person that invents, does so over and over and over – the inventors we’ve read about hold MANY patents, and 2), as we learned this from our study of Thomas Edison, successful inventors protect their ideas with a patent.  Poor Gutenberg, how he could have used patent protection.

Story Problems for Sun Days – It is so hot this summer at Farmer Brown’s:

fan

Farmer Brown’s cool farm hands: Farmer Brown knows that a cool farm hand is a productive farm hand, so he is installing 6 new fans in the farm hands’ bunkhouse.  He is planning to purchase 4 traditional type large fans for $48 each and 2 state-of-the-art Dyson pedestal fans for $450 each. Farmer Brown’s accountant says this is certainly a business expense and needs to know the total spent.  Without calculating on paper or with calculator, what is most likely the total of the 6 fans?
A: $4,800      B: $948      C: $1,092      D: $2,000    (answer at bottom of post)

corn maze

Farmer Brown’s corn maze:  Farmer Brown decided to join the corn maze craze.  His angle: the state’s smallest maze (for those that freak out at the thought of becoming lost amid the acreage of a typical corn maze)!  Farmer Brown’s maze is going to be 15 feet by 15 feet.  At the end of the maze, Farmer Brown will serve up complimentary corn on the cob.  The attraction will be open July and August.  If an entrance fee of $3 is charged, and on an average 200 people go through the maze each month, and Farmer Brown spends 50 cents for each ear of corn/butter/salt and pepper, how much money will Farmer Brown net by the end of August? (answer at bottom of post)

angel with harp

Music for a Sunday night – Sunday nights are church-type music nights for us, so what better than the sound of a harp to put us in mind of angels?  The three ultra-soothing pieces we listened to last Sunday night were all composed in the 1700s.

First, George Frederick Handel’s “Harp Concerto in B flat Major”, movement 1, written in 1736. This movement is beautifully presented by an orchestra in Istanbul, Turkey (sorry, I couldn’t decipher any more information, it was effort enough to figure out the city) (harpists’ ruffled dresses = adorable):

Second, “Harp Concerto in A Major”, movement 3, composed in the late 1700s (best we could do in terms of a date) by (here comes awesome name of the month):  Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf.  Such a FUN name to say.  Every single time.  This particular video features a VERY young and most talented harpist:

Finally, Mozart’s “Concerto for Flute and Harp”, movement 2, composed in 1778.  This is such a gorgeous yearning melody, presented by a most accomplished student orchestra in Russia and featuring another very young harpist:

Welcome to the best part of my day!
Jane BH
(story problem answer – Farmer Brown’s cool farm hands – C: $1,092)
(story problem answer – Farmer Brown’s corn maze – $1,000)

High Five!

dwarf-planets-121120b-02

FIVE?  Last night we were reading from “Information Graphics – Space”, and my son and I were startled to learn that there are 5 dwarf planets in our solar system.  FIVE????  Of course, we knew about Pluto, but 4 others?  Joining Pluto: Ceres (actually an asteroid, but so large that in 2006 it was designated a “dwarf planet”), Eris, Haumea, and Makemake.  We learned more about these cuties via a Wikipedia search.  And we want this poster!

Bullard book

Required Reading:  We have finished reading “Eugene Bullard, World’s First Black Fighter Pilot” by Larry Greenly, and it deserves another shout out.  Really! What this man (1895 – 1961) couldn’t do well.  He wasn’t just the first black fighter pilot (WWI), he was a prize-winning boxer, an excellent drummer, a night club owner, a spy for the French Underground…he spoke excellent French (once serving as an interpreter for Louis Armstrong when he toured France) and passable German.  Eugene Bullard was an American with a CAN DO attitude – who started from nothing and did everything. (This book also casts a wonderfully positive light on France.  Quite refreshing.)  This should be required reading, or at least an alternative choice for high schoolers struggling through “All Quiet on the Western Front”.   A definite HIGH FIVE in the inspirational/motivational reading catagory.

To honor those who served in THE GREAT WAR, we read “In Flanders Field” by John McCrae, twice. (and I wept) (couldn’t help it) (just think what my kids have had to put up with).

poppies

On the lighter side: Last week we started playing HANGMAN.  I am always looking for “normal” interactive games, and I think we have a hit with hangman.  It was fun, and my son quickly figured out the words I had chosen (rabbit, waffle, dentist, cattle); words selected because one comes upon some of their key letters rapidly, if one is simply selecting letters alphabetically (you do know how to play hangman, right?).  We’re playing again tonight.

Mid-Terms: Last Night my son took a multiple choice “mid-term” quiz and scored 100%!  (I had typed up questions that touched on topics we have covered since January – e.e. cummings, Punxsutawney Phil, the doldrums, Catherine the Great, rodents, the French Foreign Legion, and Cleopatra.)  Best of all, he demonstrated an understanding of how to take a multiple choice test – he no longer needs prompting to select the letter that goes with the correct answer. Yay!  We are making progress!

airplane

Farmer Brown story problem:  Farmer Brown had to travel out of state to attend a lecture on hay, and he traveled on a plane with recently refitted coach seats.  The seats were luxurious and really comfortable for everyone under 5’6” tall.  A large man himself, Farmer Brown noticed that 3/5 of the passengers were well over 5’6” tall.  If there are 180 seats in coach, how many people were desperate to reach their destination, de-sardine their bodies and stretch their legs? (answer under signature at end of this post)

empire state building               burj khalifa

High in the Sky:  we have just finished a study on enormously tall structures, and discussed whether we would be happy finding ourselves at the top of said tall buildings.  My top height is the Empire State Building.  My son indicated that he would be OK going to the top of that frighteningly half-mile-high Burj Khalifa in Dubai (which also boasts the world’s fastest elevator) (NOT A PLUS in my book).  Kudos to those who will go where my genetics cannot.

Beethoven

A High Five to the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, who recently hosted a FREE performance for kids with autism.  The auditorium was filled!  Music Director Jaap van Zweden conducted Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony in C Minor – what a PERFECT choice –  short, grand, majestic, deep (but uncomplicated) and polished from beginning to end.  What a gift.  My son and I decided that we needed to listen to Beethoven’s Fifth again.  For added interest, I selected a different conductor for each of the movements.

Beethoven’s Fifth – movement 1, Leonard Bernstein conducting the Vienna Philharmonic (so, in other words, awesome):

Beethoven’s Fifth – movement 2, Jose Luis Gutierrez conducting the Carlos Chavez Youth Orchestra (good job for a youth orchestra, but excellent job for such a youthful conductor, I swear he looks 18):

Beethoven’s Fifth – movement 3 and 4 (difficult to find these filmed separately because the 4th movement commences without a pause from the conclusion of movement 3), this features conductor Paavo Jarvi conducting the Deutch Kammerphilharmonie Bremen:

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(Farmer Brown story problem answer: 108)

Lights! Camera! Edison!

Edison

Creativity AND Business Skills – We just completed a unit on Thomas Edison and his brainy brilliance that brought the world incandescent light bulbs, phonographs, movie cameras, etc.  The DK Readers book we read is entitled, “Thomas Edison: The Great Inventor”, but the underlying message is “Inventor? Yes, but this man ALSO possessed extraordinary business skills that were more than a match for his relentless inventing”.  Wow.  My son and I had as many conversations about Edison’s unerring business sense as we did about his creations.

drake better

Good books about bad people – so far we have learned about Napoleon, King George III, Rasputin, and Alexander the Great via the outstanding Scholastic “A Wicked History” series.  The books are well researched and written to our level of comprehension, meaning NOT juvenile, but not mind-numbingly erudite.  The only negative: the photos are always so small, in grey tones/very hard to decipher.  We are currently learning about a really awful person (from a really awful family chock full of bullies, thugs and thieves), Sir Francis Drake.  I had NO idea he was so reprehensible.  AWFUL.

Greetings book

“Greetings from Nowhere” – our new novel, by Barbara O’Connor is an original, entertaining book, just the type we look for (young adult themes my son can understand without the awkward “coming of age” element), with lots of concepts for us to discuss: motel, kitchenette, adoption, and for heavens sakes, last night we had to Google Image CHARM BRACELETS.

hands

Art at the Vatican – to prepare ourselves for a Vatican art survey, we are reading “Michelangelo” by Diane Stanley. Excellent resource.

Dogs playing poker

Art at Le Fictitious Local Diner – this story problem revolves around the diner gussying up the place with selected pieces of what some might call art. Of course, they are installing the classic “A Friend in Need” (the rest of us know it as “Dogs Playing Poker”) by Cassius Marcellus Coolidge, purchased for $45.  A portrait of Elvis on black velvet has also been purchased for $90.  Posters of Batman, Superman, and Marilyn Monroe round out the collection, the lot acquired at a garage sale for $10.  How much has the diner spent on “artwork”? (Heh, heh, the answer is not “zero”.)  Money to purchase the exciting wall decor came from the diner’s tabletop jukeboxes.  At 25 cents per song, how many songs had to be played before the art could be purchased?

Inventions for Inventions: our classical music theme last night – we celebrated the inventions of Thomas Edison by listening to a few inventions by Johann Sebastian Bach.  First, we needed to understand what a Bach invention is.  For this, we viewed a superb 7-minute video starring killer pianist Simone Dinnerstein.  This video is a jewel!  Just watch her flying fingers!

Bach’s 15 inventions were composed as keyboard exercises in 1723.  We listened to:

  • Invention No. 8 in F major”, played by Simone Dinnerstein.  Seriously, we love her!  We want to know where to get our SD Fan Club badges.

  • Invention No. 13 in A minor”, played by little mighty mite, Annie Zhou, an 8 year old, competing in the Canadian Music Competition a few years back.  Watch her attack this piece.

  • Invention No. 6 in E major” played by a banjo and double bass.  We watched this for comic relief, but were so pleasantly surprised by the high quality of the performance! Kudos!

Welcome to the best part of my day!

– Jane BH