Otto Von Bismarck

Riveting!

levi strauss pants

Our current history unit is riveting – or more precisely, it’s about rivets.  We are reading about the blue jeans empire of Levi Strauss & Company, (“Images of America – Levi Strauss & Co.” by historian Lynn Downey).  We’ve learned that Levi Strauss, of San Francisco, teamed with tailor, Jacob Davis, in 1873 to manufacture an extra-hard-wearing work pant – the key to their immense success was their patented rivets-on-the-corners-of-the-pockets design.  But this unit is giving us an opportunity to learn more than just about the jeans: we’ve talked about why Levi Strauss was said to have haled from Bavaria (not Germany) (actually we learned about this from our previous study on Otto von Bismarck), we’ve learned about the devastating San Francisco earthquake of 1906, we’ve learned what “dry goods” are, we’ve looked at print advertising of the early 1900’s AND we’ve learned about rivets.  Another great study unit!

greetings from India postcard      indiana postcard 2

TRAVEL BARGAIN!  13,000 extra miles for $4.00!  I often purchase our books via the “used book associate sellers” on Amazon. (It is amazing how many books I have purchased for 1 penny, plus shipping.)  I usually look to see where the seller is located so I can gauge how long it might take to receive the book.  Last week I ordered a series of “Tom Gates” books from what I thought was a seller in Indiana.  What a surprise to find out that I ordered the series from a seller in INDIA!!!  Crazily, the shipping cost for 7 books was a mere $4.00 and I received the order within a week.  A+ on all levels!  Before we cracked open the first book, we got out the globe, located both Indiana and India, had a small laugh over the 13,000 mile distance, then we traced the route the books may have taken from India to reach us in Texas.

andes mints after eight mints

A mintylicious story problem from Le Fictitious Local Diner – the diner has plans to serve up after-dinner mints with the check at the end of every meal.  The question is, which mints?  The busboys are voting for “Andes Mints” (primarily because one of the busboys is named “Andy”, and wouldn’t that be a riot?).  The waitresses think “After Eight” mints are much classier.  The diner’s accountant told the staff that it is the thought that counts and strongly suggested they purchase the most cost efficient (cheapest) (vocab) mint.  So:
After Eight Mints – each box contains 25 mints.  A package of 6 boxes sells for $22.
Andes Mints – 5 pounds of Andes Mints can be purchased for $34. There are 70 mints in each pound.

A.  How much does a single mint of each type cost (we learned about “rounding up”)?
B.  The diner is going with the least expensive mint.  If  700 hundred dinners are served per week, and each will conclude with a mint, how much will the diner be spending on mints per month? (we are not including tax or shipping costs)(answers at bottom of post)

lute player

“The Lute Player” by Caravaggio, with sheet music by Jacques Arcadelt.  Whoa.

Three Hymns from One – As I have mentioned previously, my son and I listen to music of an ecclesiastical nature on Sunday nights.  This past Sunday night we followed the path of a hymn written in the mid-1500s by Jacques Arcadelt.

First, Arcadelt’s “Ave Maria“.  We are not sure who is singing here, but the acoustics of the Joy Burns Plaza are insanely effective.  A LOT of sound from 4 vocalists:

Next, the finale to Camille Saint-Saens’ “Symphony No. 3 in C minor” (the “Organ Symphony”), composed in 1886. Of this symphony, Saint-Saens wrote “I gave everything to it I was able to give. What I have here accomplished, I will never achieve again.” Doesn’t this make you desperate to have a listen?  Of course, we sort of always like to hear any piece played on a gigantic pipe organ.  We clearly hear Arcadelt’s hymn in this piece:

Finally, we listened to Jean Sibelius’ “Finlandia Hymn”, a small part of his 9-minute “Finlandia” composition.  Again, we hear the influence of Arcadelt’s “Ave Maria”.  “Finlandia” was written in 1899, and words to the hymn portion in 1941.  My son and I are suckers for flashmobs – a train station in Finland is the setting for this wonderful event:

We also wanted to hear the entire “Finlandia” composition.  This recording came from the opening performance of the new music hall in Helsinki, 2011.  The hymn starts about 5 minutes 30 seconds into the piece (alert:  the piece is rather menacing in the beginning – the message is clearly “Don’t Mess with Finland”).  Stirring:

Welcome to the best part of my day.
– Jane BH
Story problem answers:
A. each Andes mint costs approximately 10 cents, each After Eight mint costs approximately 15 cents
B. $272

Tick, Tick, Tick

stopwatch

There has been a rather large time gap since my last post – I was doing the single-parenting thing last week (subsequently couldn’t summon up energy to write) while my husband visited his sweet mom in CA.  But he is back, so I am back.  Here is what my son and I have been learning about –

tick tick books

  • Bison!  Our primary take-away from this mini-mini-study was acknowledging that what we have in the United States are bison NOT buffalo (such a bummer for the “Home on the Range” song).  We would like to know more about bison – regrettably, our book, though chock full of excellent photographs, was not chock full of information.  I will be on the lookout for a more fact filled resource.

bison 2     water buffalo

– Bison to the left, Buffalo to the right –

  • Otto von Bismarck:  very strong personality, probably responsible for unifying Germany during the latter half of 19th century (so that is good), but still, he was a diabolical strategist with a very difficult personality.  Our von Bismarck book was from the “Wicked History” series, and it did not disappoint.  Well researched, well written, well edited.  Excellent reading.
  • Shoe Business!  We are reading our first business book, “Start Something that Matters” by Blake Mycoskie, of the inspiring TOMS (“tomorrow’s shoes”) win-win movement.  We think Mr. Mycoskie has it so right!  To enhance this learning unit, I brought my TOMS shoes to the “Stories and Studies Center” (my son’s large bed) (who wouldn’t want a stack of well worn shoes on their bed?).

TOMS

  • The History of Music in Fifty Instruments“, by Philip Wilkinson:  a good conversation starter book.  We are picking and choosing what we are reading (some stuff is just too mind numbingly technical), but this book is well worth wading through because we have learned about THE UGLIEST MUSICAL INSTRUMENT EVER – the serpent. OH, IT IS SO CREEPY. Take a look and take a listen:

(note to daughter, HKH:  I am just so hoping that we won’t be booking this type of music for your wedding reception.)

New topic – 

Tom Gates books

Here’s what’s fun: the Tom Gates books, written by Liz Pichon; we are in the middle of book 2 (“Tom Gates – Excellent Excuses”). The series is sort of a British take on Jeff Kinney’s “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” (which we also really like) and has got us matching British words with their  American counterpart:  mate=friend, biscuit=cookie, crisps=potato chips,  dodgy=not good, rubbish=the worst.  Tom doodles all over the place, despises his sister, calls his grandparents “the Fossils”, and worships the rock band, “Dude3” (every time I read the band name I laugh).  We like opening this book every night.

Beginning to think about the upcoming summer Olympics – 

rio logo new

Story problem from Le Fictitious Local Diner – the local junior high school is seeking to bolster funds for their foreign language department so the diner has been coerced (vocab) into sponsoring a raffle (vocab), with the first prize being two first-class round-trip (concept) plane tickets to the summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro!  If each plane ticket costs $1,500, and if the diner is hoping to contribute $2,000 to the foreign language department, how many $5 raffle tickets will need to be sold? (answer “A” at bottom of post).

Oh my gosh, there’s more to this story problem: what if the airline can be persuaded to reduce the cost of the plane tickets by 20%, and what if the diner decides to try to up their contribution to $5,000. How many tickets need to be sold now? (answer”B” at bottom of post)

Classical music selections from last night – thinking about Brazil – we decided to cap off a discussion of the upcoming Olympics by listening to “The Little Train of Caipira”, written in 1930 by premiere Brazilian composer, Heitor Villa-Lobos.  My son and I have listened to this delicious 5 minute gem about 75 times.  Yeah, we like this piece.

First we listened to the recording we have on our iPod, from the Heidi Grant Murphy/Aureole “Sueño De Amor” (dreams of love) album.  Soothing, flavorful, filled with yearning:

Then, an OUTSTANDING visual and auditory collage –  music students in Brazil putting together “The Little Train of Caipira”.  Did I say OUTSTANDING?  I think I meant DOUBLE OUTSTANDING.  Such a tribute to Villa-Lobos:

Then, what fun – from the fabulous Los Angeles Guitar Quartet , their version of “I Wanna Be Like You” (from “The Jungle Book”), orchestrated in the manner of Heitor Villa-Lobos:

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(Story Problem A: 1,000)
(Story Problem B: 1,480)

The Liberace Instigation

liberace

This post is not about the man, Liberace, but about a GLARING ERROR he made before treating the TV audience to his take on the classic Strauss “Beautiful Blue Danube Waltz”.  See for yourself:

You saw the problem, right?

Of course, I am referring to the introductory comment: “…I would like to take you back…many hundreds of years ago to that wonderful, romantic night when Johann Strauss first introduced the waltz…”.  Here is the GLARING ERROR:  Johann Strauss II premiered “The Beautiful Blue Danube Waltz” in 1867, just 86 years (NOT many hundreds of years) prior to Liberace’s 1953 TV show.

I sort of want my son to have a more accurate sense of when important musical compositions were written, so I have put together a simple chart of classical pieces that he is familiar with, and paired them with US Presidential administrations. This will give us both a bit of a sense of what was going on in the world when each piece was written, and remind us that many great compositions are not as old as we think (or Liberace thought)(seriously, I suspect a lot of people think classical music was written 500 years ago, in a galaxy far, far away).

The chart works this way:

USA Presidential Administration – 1 orchestral piece composed or premiered during that time period

George Washington  –  Haydn’s “Symphony No. 94” (Surprise Symphony), 1791
John Adams  –  Beethoven’s “Piano Sonata No. 14” (Moonlight Sonata), 1801
Thomas Jefferson  –  Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 5”, 1808
James Madison  –  Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville”, 1816
James Monroe  –  Schubert’s “Marche Militaire”, 1822
John Quincy Adams  –  Rossini’s “William Tell Overture”, 1829
Andrew Jackson  –  Mendelssohn’s “Hebrides Overture”, 1830
Martin Van Buren  –  Chopin’s “Piano Sonata No. 2” (The Funeral March), 1837
William Henry Harrison  –  Wagner’s “The Flying Dutchman”, 1841
John Tyler  –  Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March”, 1842
James Polk  –  Liszt’s “Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2”, 1847
Zachery Taylor  –  Schumann’s “Symphony No. 3” (The Rhenish), 1850
Millard Fillmore  –  Verdi’s “Rigoletto”, 1851
Franklin Pierce  –  Foster’s “Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair”, 1854
James Buchanan  –  Offenbach’s “Orpheus in the Underworld” (the Can-Can!), 1858
Abraham Lincoln  –  Howe’s “Battle Hymn of the Republic”, 1862
Andrew Johnson –  Strauss II’s “Beautiful Blue Danube Waltz”, 1867
Ulysses S. Grant  –  Grieg’s “Peer Gynt Suite”, 1876
Rutherford B. Hayes  –  Gilbert & Sullivan’s “HMS Pinafore”, 1878
James Garfield  –  Bruch’s “Scottish Fantasy”, 1881
Chester A. Arthur  –  Waldteufel’s “The Skater’s Waltz”, 1882
Grover Cleveland  –  Saint-Saens’ “Carnival of the Animals”, 1886
Benjamin Harrison  –  Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker”, 1892
Grover Cleveland  –  Dukas’ “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”, 1897
William McKinley  –  Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumblebee”, 1900
Teddy Roosevelt  –  Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance, No. 1”, 1901
William H. Taft  –  Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring”, 1913
Woodrow Wilson  –  Holst’s “The Planets”, 1916
Warren G. Harding  –  Berlin’s “What’ll I Do”, 1923
Calvin Coolidge  –  Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue”, 1924
Herbert Hoover  –  Grofe’s “Grand Canyon Suite”, 1931
Franklin D. Roosevelt  –  Copland’s “Appalachian Spring”, 1944
Harry S Truman  –  Anderson’s “The Typewriter”, 1950
Dwight Eisenhower – Bernstein’s “West Side Story”, 1957
John F. Kennedy  –  Mancini’s “The Pink Panther Theme”, 1963
Lyndon Johnson  –  The Beatles’ “Yesterday”, 1965
Richard Nixon  –  Weissberg/Mandell’s “Dueling Banjos”, 1973
Gerald Ford  –  Williams’ “Theme from Jaws”, 1975
Jimmy Carter  –  Williams’ “The Imperial March” (Darth Vader’s Theme), 1980
Ronald Reagan  –  Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “The Phantom of the Opera”, 1986
George H.W. Bush  –  George Winston’s “Hummingbird”, 1991
Bill Clinton  –  Doyle’s “Steam Engine” (from “Sense and Sensibility”), 1995
George W. Bush  –  Kirkhope’s “Viva Piñata Soundtrack”, 2006
Barack Obama  –  Williams’ “The Adventures of Tintin”, 2011

(and yes!  My son is quite familiar with all of the above pieces.)

jacques c      otto

BTW, this week we have been ALSO learning about Jacques Cousteau and Otto Von Bismarck.

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