Mercury

Perfect Pairings

Perfect Pairings from our current studies.  May we suggest:

Pairing No. 1: The Wednesday Wars” and “The Complete Shakespeare

This is our second time reading Gary D. Schmidt’s “The Wednesday Wars”…I had forgotten what a clever, multi-layered work this is.  So far, the teacher in the book has forced “The Merchant of Venice”, “The Tempest”, “MacBeth”, “Romeo and Juliet”, and “Julius Caesar” onto the protagonist.  And he LOVES them.  Well, how can we not want to see what the excitement is about?  We really lucked out with “The Complete Shakespeare” (an Usborne book, Melbourne/Surducan).  This reference provides a two-page spread at the beginning of each play, identifying characters with a brief description and winsome illustration.  We refer to these pages every night before we continue reading each very thorough play synopsis.  First-rate resource for those of us who would be overwhelmed by the prospect of explaining every line of the original Shakespeare. 

Pairing No. 2: “125 Animals that Changed the World” and “Cat Stories”

Graphically, “Animals that Changed the World” is loud, cluttered, and jarring (nonetheless, we DO like opening this book and cheering for the animal-of-the-night).  The perfect foil for this chaos?  The calm, reflective, soothing chapters of James Herriot’s “Cat Stories”.  Purrrrrr.

Pairing No. 3: My son’s toothbrush and Jason Chin’s “Gravity”

I have been responsible for brushing my son’s teeth FOREVER (no cavities folks, no cavities), then OUT OF NOWHERE, last month, my son grabbed the toothbrush I was holding, took the tube of toothpaste, unscrewed it, spread it on the toothbrush, pressed the button to make it vibrate and dipped it under the faucet! And he has been doing this night and day ever since. ONE TINY THING: when he holds the toothbrush under the faucet, he has the bristles facing downward and guess what happens? So we read through Jason Chin’s beautifully illustrated book on gravity to see if that would rectify the situation. It didn’t. Still, the book is lovely.

Perfect Pairings at the Local Diner – Story Problem

To beef up orders during the pandemic, the local diner is having a “Perfect Pairings TO GO” special: Miss Carolyn’s Chicken Pot Pie teamed with the diner’s famous Super Cinnamon Apple Pie. If each pie has a top and bottom crust, how many crusts need to be rolled out every morning if the diner sells 50 “Perfect Pairing” orders daily?

A. 50 pie crusts B. 100 pie crusts C. 200 pie crusts D. 400 pie crusts (answer at bottom of post)

Classical Music Time – Perfect Pairings: The Expected and The Unexpected

Pairing No. 1 – 

The Expected:  Gustav Holst’s “Country Gardens”, from “Morris Dance Tunes, Set 1”, of 1910.  It is such an expected “let’s make nice” melody.  Don’t be taken in by Percy Grainer’s “Country Gardens” (basically the same melody as Holst’s) composed a full 8 years after Holst’s!  The scoundrel!  This tuneful, sweet, repetitive piece gets a shot in the arm in this particular recording,  speeding along at a faster tempo than usually performed – 

The Unexpected:  Gustav Holst’s “Mercury, the Winged Messenger” from “The Planets”, composed in 1916.  Oh boy, do we love this short, unexpected, erratic piece, and apparently the conductor (Susanna Malkki) in this video footage has caught the fever, too –

Pairing No. 2 –

The Expected:  Luigi Boccherini’s “Minuet”, AKA String Quintet in E Major, movement III, composed in 1771.  Syrupy sweet, but a lively play in this performance – 

The Unexpected:  Luigi Boccherini’s “Fandango” from Guitar Quintet No. 4 in D major, composed in 1798, a far cry from the conservative minuet.  This intricate, warm, romantic (I am not going to say “sexy” in front of my son) piece was inspired by Boccherini’s days as a court musician for the Spanish royal family.  This is the recording we have listened to about 200 times.  We like everything from the LA Guitar Quartet – 

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answer:  C).  200 pie crusts)

 

…and in conclusion

– Farewell 2018 – 

Books that made the biggest impact with my son this past year –

books best 18

  • “The Erie Canal” by Martha E. Kendall  (surprisingly interesting)
  • “The Violin Maker” by John Marchese  (surprisingly interesting)
  • “The Cities Book”, a Lonely Planet book  (the lengthiest book we’ve ever tackled, but worthy of our perseverance)
  • “The War that Saved by Life” by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley  (we learned so much about the daily struggles of British civilians during WWII)
  • “The Right Word (Roget and his Thesaurus)” by Jennifer Bryant and Melissa Sweet  (the most beautifully illustrated book we read this past year)

What we are reading now – 

space book

“Ken Jennings’ Junior Genius Guide to Dinosaurs” – well researched, cleverly organized, hilarious.  And now we know:

  • the complexity of dealing with dinosaur fossils (which we learned have been found on EVERY continent)
  • the main types of dinosaur skeletal structure (lizard hipped and bird hipped)
  • dinosaur IQ (really, really low.  really low)
  • how dinosaurs became extinct (FREAKY HEARTBREAKER)
  • to mull on:  dinosaurs lived on the earth for 150 MILLION YEARS (becoming extinct 65 million years ago), yet the first dinosaur bone was not officially recognized and identified until 1824.  So, it is interesting to consider that (for example) our USA founding fathers had no idea that their world was once anything other than as they experienced it.

“Professor Astro Cat’s SPACE ROCKETS” by Dr. Dominic Walliman and Ben Newman.  My son and I like to keep abreast of current outer space exploration – astronauts, telescopes, space probes – but we have never considered how astronauts, telescopes, space probes actually get into outer space.  This book has the answers  (and who can’t be fascinated by the engineering genius of space rockets?  And we keep laughing about the very first earthly inhabitants to journey by rocket to outer space (FRUIT FLIES) (we actually want more info about the fruit flies – how many did they send?  did they reproduce?  how many came back alive?).  The book’s content is really pared down, but the information comes across clearly (and we haven’t gotten this information anywhere else), so KUDOS Walliman and Newman ONCE AGAIN).  

BTW – the books of Ken Jennings and Walliman/Newman always make a big impact with my son.

dog santa hat

Story Problem – Early in December, Le Fictitious Local Diner cordoned off their parking lot and hosted a Holiday Pet Parade, complete with diner-made treats baked for all participants and a photographer to commemorate the event.  50 families each brought a pet dressed in holiday finery.

  • If 80% brought a dog wearing a Santa hat, how many dogs in Santa hats were in the parade?
  • If one family brought a turtle wearing teeny reindeer antlers, the turtle was what percentage of the parade?  
  • If 8 families brought cats wearing doll sweaters, what percentage of the parade was causing a snarling uproar? 
  • If there were exactly 50 pets in the parade, and the pets were either dogs, cats, turtles or birds, how many parakeets in cages with twinkly lights were in the festive procession? (answers at bottom of post)

Sweet Endings (actually, SUITE endings) – last night’s classical music listening:

My son and I always enjoy a piece of classical music that takes us by surprise with a non-traditional ending –  such as Elgar’s “The Wild Bears”, Smetana’s “The Moldau”, and John Williams’ “The Imperial March”.  To bring 2018 to a sweet ending we chose compositions with quirky conclusions from three different suites:

  • The Dove, from Ottorino Respighi’s orchestral suite, “The Birds” (1828).  A somber, reflective piece with a most delicious, elegant swirl of an ending:

  • Mercury, from Gustav Holst’s suite, “The Planets” (1916).  Mercury, the Messenger God, zooms erratically all over the universe and at the end of the short piece, quietly fades away with an utter lack of fanfare:

  • On the Trail, from Ferde Grofé’s “Grand Canyon Suite” (1931).  We found an excellent recording from the NY Philharmonic that accompanies an engaging video featuring the Grand Canyon MULES.  But back to the music –  the abrupt ending is perfection:

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
Story problem answers:  40 dogs, 2%, 16%, 1 parakeet

Club Gustav

eiffel-tower

And so it begins:  a few nights ago, my son and I started reading, “The Eiffel Tower – Gustave Eiffel’s Spectacular Idea” by Cooper/Bock.  Hmmm; the book’s facts differ slightly (actually markedly) from what the Wikipedia entry has to say about the tower and who’s idea it was.   Regardless, I knew we would be interested in the construction of the Eiffel Tower – all of those triangles – and the fact is, Gustave Eiffel was a brilliant, innovative, experienced architect and engineer.  We also looked at some of his bridges, and his structural plan for supporting the inside of the Statue of Liberty.

Meanwhile, it occurred to me that we had never listened to anything by Gustav Mahler, so I started listening to a LOT of Mahler (a LOT because each and every piece is SO long), selecting compositions to share with my son.  And all of a sudden, I thought: we have two “Gustavs” already, why not have this week be all about spotlighting noteworthy “Gustavs”?  So we added:

gustave-the-croc kiss-klimt planets

  • the art work of Gustav Klimt – we admired 12 of his landscapes (via a large calendar).  We couldn’t stop looking at “Forest of Birch Trees” and “Island in the Attersee” (both 1902).  We also spent time looking at every detail of his most well known painting, the shimmering richly patterned, gold-leafed “The Kiss” (1907).
  • a review of the music of Gustav Holst, a composer we are familiar with.  We listened to a few movements from “The Planets”, his Morris Dance Tunes, and the march from his “First Suite in E flat for Military Band” (we like listening for the monarch reviewing the troops).
  • then, HOLY CATS, a short study of Gustave the Crocodile of Burundi (we located teeny Burundi on the globe).  Oh, this is so sad: according to Wikipedia, “The World Happiness Report 2016 Update ranked Burundi as the world’s least happy nation”.  Well, I am sure Gustave is not helping.  So far, this 60 year old, 25 foot-long, bullet-proof baddest croc of them all, has killed 300 people.  He is THE WORST.  He is INFAMOUS (vocab word of the night).

Our music theme last night: what else? Gustav, Gustav, Gustave and Gustavo –

mahler dudamel holst

Mahler, Dudamel, and Holst

  • we listened to Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 in C minor, movement III, composed about 1890.  There are a lot of moods and themes in this 10 minute movement – lush harmonies, frenetic rhythms, the lure of the exotic melody, and do we hear birdsong?  Conducted by the sizzling Gustavo Dudamel:

  • we can hear Gustav Holst’s messenger god flitting willy-nilly all over the universe.  We have probably listened to the “Mercury” movement  from The Planets (composed in 1916) about 45 times.  It just doesn’t get old.

  • and for Gustave the Crocodile we listened to, “Never Smile at a Crocodile” from Disney’s 1953 movie “Peter Pan”.  Music by Frank Churchill, words by Jack Lawrence.  What’s not to like?

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

Ranch Report

IMG_1535

Ranch Report – this past week I spent two remarkably interesting days at the most wonderful gigantic cattle ranch smack in the middle of Texas (thanx to LynxAC: hostess/friend extraordinaire).  I brought back photos and observations to share with my son:
–  first of all, the calves are so so cute.
–  the responsibilities of running a ranch are endless – purchasing, transporting, weighing, feeding, watering, and branding the cattle, keeping animals healthy, keeping the calves with their moms – it just doesn’t end.  Good thing the scenery is so spectacular.
–  the speed limit in mid-Texas is 75 MPH.  Not that any self-respecting ranch truck is going that slowly. “Thundering down the road” sort of says it.
–  there are no bushes growing around ranch buildings, because shrubbery provides places for snakes to hang out.  We never stepped outside before scouting for snakes.
–  internet connections are not to be counted on…like there is any time for internet meandering.
–  this visit gave us a new appreciation of everything Farmer Brown (of the Farmer Brown story problems) does to maintain his farm.
–  YES! The stars at night are big and bright, deep in the heart of the Lone Star State.

math shark

When the cat’s away – when I am gone, my husband takes over the studies and stories hour.  He and my son concentrate on math activities and this past week they enjoyed measured success using a “Math Shark”, which can ask questions about decimals, fractions, and percentages, as well as basic computations.

Cleopatra

But now that I am back – topics that are keeping us captivated:
–  Eugene Bullard (Larry Greenly’s book: A+)
–  Cleopatra (Diane Stanley/Peter Vennema’s book: A+)
–  Animal eyes and vision (“Eye to Eye” by Steve Jenkins) (too early to give it a grade, but so far, we are learning a lot!)
–  book concepts: the preface and the epilogue. (vocab)
–  new science concept “breaking the sound barrier”.

Story Problem Answers!  Finally!  Thanx to a request from attentive reader FDB, answers to story problems will be posted at the bottom of each post, underneath my signature. Starting today!

lantern

Speaking of Farmer Brown – a story problem from this past week: For an upcoming evening gathering, Farmer Brown is going to light his long driveway with lanterns. If he places a lantern on both sides of the drive every 20 feet, and his driveway is a quarter of a mile long, how many lanterns will he need?  If each lantern costs $8.00 (including tax and shipping), how much will Farmer Brown be spending? (Don’t forget!  The answer is at the bottom of this posting!)

March Madness follow-up (see our previous post, “The Business of March”) – my son’s final two march favorites were:
–  “Colonel Bogey March”, composed in 1914 by Lieutenant F.J. Ricketts
–  “The Imperial March” (Darth Vader’s theme), composed in 1980 by John Williams for “Star Wars, Episode V”
with the winning nod given to “The Imperial March”.  Great footage:  John Williams conducts the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, complete with appearance by Darth Vader:

stars at night

Background music for star gazing in the Lone Star State  

–  “Mercury” from Gustav Holst’s suite, “The Planets”, composed in 1916.  Mercury, the messenger god, flits all over the place and the music flits all over the place.  This is probably one of our top twenty favorite pieces.  It is just so different.

–  “Clair de Lune” from Claude Debussy’s “Suite Bergamasque”, published in 1905.  This clip features the great pianist Claudio Arrau, who was 88 when this was recorded!

Now here is something fun!

–  “The Star Trek Theme” straight from the late ’60’s TV show.  Composed by Alexander Courage, the minute-long theme was originally titled, “Where No Man has Gone Before”. Deliciously eerie.

–  Then we listened to a fully orchestrated version (“Star Trek in Concert”) performed by the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra in 2013.  Gorgeous!  We wonder if composer Alexander Courage ever dreamed that his short quirky piece would be performed by such an esteemed orchestra.  Whoa.

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
Story Problem answers:  132 and $1,056.00

Messenger Service

mercury head

Best Messenger Ever – Oh!  The brainpower that sent space probe Messenger on its successful-beyond-all-measures mission to planet Mercury!  My son and I learned that Messenger was launched from earth in 2004 and started orbiting Mercury in 2011.  The plan: Messenger was to orbit for a year and send back 2,500 images.  But the space probe was so well built, that it circled the tiny planet for 4 years and sent back 270,000 images!  WHOA.  On April 30, dear Messenger ran out of propellant, was pulled out of orbit by Mercury’s gravity, and sent one final photo before it crashed into the planet.

messenger's final photo

Messenger’s final image of Mercury

We paid homage to the team that constructed Messenger by listening to Gustav Holst’s “Mercury” from his orchestral work, “The Planets”.

More academics from last week –

  • Napoleon – as we learn more about Napoleon we are struck by how his brilliant ideas were dwarfed by his all-around awfulness.  This man belonged permanently in time-out, and of course, that is exactly where he ended up (we found the little island of St. Helena, where Napoleon was exiled for the final six years of his life, on the globe). Vocab from our Napoleon unit: artillery, boycott, emperor, strategy, and trench.  BTW, our book, “A Wicked History – Napoleon, Emperor and Conqueror”, by Kimberley Heuston, is EXCELLENT.
  • Shakespeare – we finished “Romeo and Juliet”, and we have started “Twelfth Night”.  Love it!  We do prefer the mixed-up craziness of Shakespeare’s comedies to his gruesome tragedies.
  • Exponents – we gave the Mathtoon’s “Exponents and Radicals” iPad app another try. Much more fun this time. This app is splendid!  Cool, in-your-face, badboy graphics.  And the app is free!

peacock

Last week’s best Farmer Brown story problem – Farmer Brown has a muster (or ostentation, if you will) of peafowl on his property.  Vocab time: we had to learn the difference between peafowl, peacocks, peahens, and peachicks. Seriously, what is cuter than the word, “peachick”?

OK, the story problem:  Farmer Brown has a large muster of peafowl on his property. He collects the peacock’s discarded long tail feathers to sell to a local interior designer, for $3.50 each. If the designer paid Farmer Brown $140 last month, how many feathers were handed over? If the designer sells each feather for $15, and all feathers are sold, what is the profit, once Farmer Brown has been paid?

dental tools   Ugh.

Last night’s music theme: “Music for a Dental Procedure” – my son and I take meticulous (vast overstatement) care of his teeth (so far no cavities, so that is something), but we thought soothing music could bring such relief if Novocain loomed.  Here is what we selected:

  • Beethoven’s 6th Symphony “The Pastoral” (1808), movement 1.  Any of the movements would work, and may we suggest the entire 5-movement symphony (about 45 minutes) for lengthy oral surgery.  Such life affirming music.

  • Jacques Offenbach’s “Barcarolle”, from his “Tales of Hoffman” (1881).  All you have to do is lie back and imagine yourself floating in a gondola around the Venetian waterways.  Soothing to the extreme.

  • “The Moldau” by Bedrich Smetana, (1875) from his larger orchestral work, “Ma Vlast”. Relax and let the dentist do the work as you follow the Moldau (a river in Smetana’s native Bohemia, now the Czech Republic) from its source past woods, meadows, a farmer’s wedding, and ending as the Moldau flows into the Elbe River. Piece lasts about 12 minutes. Fantastic ending.  This is a superb video, filmed in Smetana Hall in Prague.

Welcome to the best part of my day!

– Jane BH