Lonely Planet

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)

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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%

April, at last

welcome mat

March was really a long month, full of planned and abrupt schedule changes.  A beloved grandmother, “The Peach” passed on (so many tears) – a cousin got married (adorable) – an iPad got lost in the TSA security screening at LAX (oh no, oh no, oh no) – and there was the daylight-savings time switch (ugh).  Not a dream month for an autism family, but STUDIES AND STORIES times were a constant, and that helped.

happy faceTSAhappy face

The “Lost and Found” department – this was a new concept for my son. (What? Hotels, schools, grocery stores, gas stations and the like are equipped to deal with people losing things?????  This is so handy!)  And happy, happy day!  The lost iPad turned up within 24 hours in the TSA “Lost and Found” office, and with a minimum of paperwork, was in a box on its way to our home in Texas.  Cheers cheers cheers TSA!  Their lost and found system really works!  Excellent!

geography books.jpg

Reporting from “The Cities Book” (a Lonely Planet publication) – reading about two cities per night, we are one third of the way through this book – the locations are presented in alphabetical order and we are just about through the “K’s”.  We scamper all over our globe finding each night’s destinations (this is actually kind of fun).  We are also interested in each city’s:

Primary Exports – some of the better conversation starters:
– Asmara, Eritrea – salt
– Baku, Azerbaijan – pomegranate juice
– Hamburg, Germany – Steinway pianos
– all cities on the equator – coffee

Observed Weaknesses – again, some of the better conversation starters:
– Ashgabat, Turkmenistan – bugged hotel rooms (yikes)
– Dhaka, Bangladesh – polluted waterways (yikes)
– Christchurch, New Zealand – situated on a major tectonic fault line (yikes)
– Florence, Italy – pigeons everywhere (yikes)

More geography – “The Philippines, Islands of Enchantment”, by Yuson and Tapan.  Side story:  It would be impossible to find a kinder heart, a more dedicated worker, a more mechanically adept young man than the super fantastic Ogie M, who cared for “The Peach” (grandmother supreme) for the final 10 years of her life.  Upon her recent passing, Ogie returned to his family in the Philippines.  So this has propelled my son and I to begin a Philippines unit with a book filled with beautiful photographs and decided opinions (this is not a “let’s pretend everything is perfect” book).  We are getting our first glimpse of this tropical paradise of 80 dialects (vocab) and 7,000 islands.

violin book

We thought we knew about violins.  We knew NOTHING.  This is changing:  we are reading “The Violin Maker”, by John Marchese.  Every night we get smarter and smarter, learning about:

Cremona, Italy, home to Stradivari and Guarneri, rival luthiers (vocab) of the early 1700’s who produced stringed instruments of astounding quality that remain highly sought after and extremely valuable to this day.
Sam Zygmuntowicz, recognized expert violin maker and stringed instrument historian extraordinaire.
The Emerson String Quartet (or “ The Emerson”), and specifically, quartet member Eugene Drucker for whom Sam Z has been commissioned to create a violin.
Bach’s compositions for the violin – and most emphatically stressed, the final movement of the Partita No. 2 in D minor, “the Chaconne” (composed around 1720).  This piece is the gold standard for the crushing relentlessness of loss, despair, and grief – I think my son and I are a bit too immature for this, but we did give it a try (and we listened to the best):    

 

Classical Music Time – well, duh, we had to listen to more music that showcased the violin:

From The Emerson String Quartet   we always like listening to The Emerson’s (we are so in-the-know now) recording of Alexander Borodin’s “String Quartet No. 2 in D”, composed in 1881 (perhaps better known as music used in the 1953 American musical, “Kismet”, for which Borodin won a Tony, posthumously (vocab)):

The perfection of a performance by Itzhak Perlman – when we are tired, Max Bruch’s “Scottish Fantasy” (1880), movement 1, soothes us:

Thank you good friend Amy S for suggesting that my son and I would love “Song to the Moon” from Dvorak’s “Rusalka” (1900).  The performance by Joshua Bell clutches our hearts:

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH

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)

The “C” Side

– we were finding the letter “C” all over the place last week –

CANDY – “Turtle in Paradise”, our third Jennifer L. Holm book, is giving my son a glimpse of life in the Florida Keys during the great depression (concept vocab).  No money.  No money at all.  What to do?  With the current emphasis on “Girl Power”, it is almost refreshing to see what a troop of young boys did to earn – well, not money, but CANDY – they banded together to form an exclusive club that tended to BABIES!  Babies????  This group of street-wise boys knew how to calm screaming babies and expertly change (cloth and safety pin) diapers – they even had a secret formula for soothing diaper rash.  AND it was considered an HONOR to be asked to be in the Diaper Gang.  There is so much more to the story than this amusing side theme.  Holm’s books make us glad to be immersed into her world.

lonely planet plus books

CIXI – We’ve recently finished “Cixi – Evil Empress of China?”, another excellent study from the “A Wicked History” series.  Cixi, oh my word – her multitudinous (vocab) self-centered ways provided the final nail in the coffin for the the end of the Qing dynasty (example – all public officials were expected to “donate” – GET THIS – 25% of their annual income to honor her 60th birthday!) (we stopped for a math problem).  While Cixi rebuilt her summer palace, China’s military budget was depleted – leaving the country vulnerable to outside forces.  At the end, my son and I were not completely certain she was EVIL (although there was that “poisoning her enemies” speculation).  OK, she was evil… but evil or not, she certainly was not the right person for the job – she was not interested in being  the leader that China needed.  This book provoked many side conversations.

CHILE – My son and I are in the middle of our South America unit – a DK book about the Amazon rain forest served as an introduction. We are now reading our first Lonely Planet book: “Not-For-Parents:  South America – Everything You Ever Wanted to Know”.  We’ve read about the fancy lady wrestlers of Bolivia, Panama hats (a product of  Ecuador – but used to be shipped to Europe from the Panama canal area. We looked at a map to figure out why these hats were being shipped from Panama), (it is sort of therapeutic to spend a bit of time focusing on hats), the driest place on earth (the Atacama Desert in Chile), and Alexander Selkirk who jumped ship and spent over 4 years on an island off the coast of Chile (inspiring Daniel Dafoe’s story “Robinson Crusoe”).  OF COURSE we have ordered a copy of Robinson Crusoe (duh).

cinnamon sticks

CIDER – Story Problem from Le Fictitious Local Diner – The diner is gearing up for their booth at the town’s “Autumn Daze Festival”.  The diner will be selling cups of hot cider, each garnished with a cinnamon stick. The facts:

– each gallon of fresh-pressed apple cider will cost the diner $5
– the diner will purchase 50 gallons of cider
– there are 15 servings of cider per gallon
– the diner will purchase cinnamon sticks at a cost of $15 for 100 sticks
– each bio-degradable (vocab) cup will cost the diner 10 cents

1)  If the diner sells out of cider, how many cups will they have sold?
2)  How much will the diner have spent for cider, cinnamon, and cups?
3)  If the diner sells each cup for $2, what will be the profit? (answers at bottom of post)

 

bach concerto

(Bach’s actual handwriting – Concerto No. 5)

You say “Concertos”, I say “Concerti” – All of a sudden, I felt my son needed to be exposed to the full scope of JS Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos.  We had listened to No. 3 several times, but was that enough?  My son already knew the definition of a concerto (for those like my mom, “The Peach”, who have no idea: a concerto is an orchestral work, usually consisting of 3 movements, showcasing ONE particular instrument) (OK, sometimes more than one, but no need to confuse The Peach).  Here is what my son learned:

  •  “concertos” or “concerti” are both acceptable terms for the plural of “concerto”.
  •  the Brandenburg Concertos each showcase SEVERAL instruments. This type of set-up is referred to as a “Concerto Grosso”.  Very popular in Baroque times.
  •  HEART-BREAKING:  in 1721, Bach sent the set of 6 concertos to the Margrave of Brandenburg, as sort of a job application…there is no record of the Margrave acknowledging the music.  FOR SHAME.  The music was simply archived in his library, forgotten, and FINALLY found 128 years later (1849).  Felix Mendelssohn, then conductor of Leipzig’s Gewandhaus Orchestra, understood the significance of the discovery and brought the Brandenburg Concertos to world wide attention.  OMG, thank heavens.
  •  these concertos are DIFFICULT to perform.  Jeanette Sorrel, from the Cleveland Baroque Orchestra writes, “The featured solo instruments(s) in each piece requires a level of playing that is literally athletic”.

We listened to all six concertos over and over.  These three selections are so noteworthy:

Brandenburg Concerto No. 2, movement 3 – this is the concerto that puts the spotlight on the trumpet soloist.  Due to the abundance of high notes and the speedy tempo, this is regarded as perhaps the most difficult music to play in the classical trumpet repertoire (vocab):

Brandenburg Concerto No. 3, movement 3 – our fave:

Brandenburg Concerto No. 5, movement 1 – this concerto exhibits the skill of the harpsichordist, in this case, the great, great, great Karl Richter.  I do not see how anyone can watch this man play this piece without thinking THIS IS INSANELY RIDICULOUS.  The solo part is simply exhausting:

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answers: 1) 750 cups, 2) $445, 3) $1, 055)