Royal Canadian Mounted Police

The Last Dog’s Tail

dog tail

– Our final post for 2017 –

Ben best of blog 2017

– Here is what my son and I learned a LOT about in 2017 –
Africa – bees – Buffalo Bill – Canada – Cixi – crime science – grammar – Greek mythology – Jim Thorpe – maps – Native North Americans – Roy Lichtenstein – Royal Canadian Mounted Police – salients – South America – the Loch Ness Monster – the NATO phonetic alphabet – whale fall

My son’s favorite topic?  WHALE FALL, from the July 21st post, “Whale Fall and other Water Wonders

– Our most memorable story problem themes for 2017 –
an outdoor deck renovation – box lunches – Canadian geese – cider – doilies at the diner – donating books – donuts – frying pans – live music at the diner – macaroni – nail polish – painting Farmer Brown’s roadside stand – radishes – the diner’s summer give-away – work gloves

My son’s favorite story problem?  FARMER BROWN AND THE CANADIAN GEESE, from the April 24th post, “Looking North

– Our coolest music themes for 2017 –
circus classics – Dvorak’s birthday – minuets – music for the Narcisse Snake Pits – rootin’ tootin’ music – suite music – the Brandenburg Concertos – the crescendo – the fugue and canon controversy – the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra – the saxophone – the snare drum – the tango

My son’s favorite music theme?  MUSIC FOR THE NARCISSE SNAKE PITS, from the April 24th post, “Looking North”.  I have to agree, the music selections for the Narcisse Snake Pits, are hilarious.  A definite favorite theme for me.

christmas tree

So that brings us to December (so difficult to post a blog when one is a mom in charge of Christmas) – our engineering unit!

engineering books

Seriously, I can’t believe that we are loving three books ABOUT ENGINEERING!  But, now it is sort of like, if we cannot be an engineer (thanx to our DNA), at least we can be thrilled and inspired by the awesome achievements of engineers.

– “The Erie Canal” – oh my gosh, this resource by Martha E. Kendall is SUPERB.
– “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind” – authors William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer have captivated our hearts.
– “Engineered! Engineering Design at Work” – by Shannon Hunt and James Gulliver Hancock – we’ve just started this. So far, “YAY!”.

grimms book

And a classical music theme focus for December – Fairy Tales:

– “The Sleeping Beauty Waltz”, from The Sleeping Beauty Ballet (1889) by Tchaikovsky, played by the Russian State Symphony Orchestra, featuring the largest bass drum I have ever seen.  Just a perfect performance.

-“Cinderella’s Waltz”, from the Cinderella Ballet (1944) by Sergei Prokofiev – with a darkness and edge so typical of Prokofiev.  The Dutch National Ballet brings a superbly choreographed performance, full of bounce and humor (bounce and humor marrying well with the Prokofiev music?  YES!).

– “The Children’s Prayer” (or Evening Prayer), from the Hansel and Gretel opera (1892), by Engelbert Humperdinck (not the pop star from the 1970’s).  Very soothing, somber, hopeful.  Beautifully played by Leipzig’s very famous Gewandhausorchester, conducted by a very thoughtful, if not super confident, Bobby McFerrin.  Interesting note:  the idea AND libretto (vocab) for this opera came from the composer’s sister, Adelheid Wette. YOU GO GIRL!

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
P.S. Most of my blog writing has been done at my local Starbucks, where they start preparing my “grande peppermint hot chocolate made with soy no whip” as I walk through their door.  Thank you Starbucks!  Au revoir Starbucks!  Beginning in just a few days (January 2018) I get to work in a real office.  It is teeny, but it has a window and I am très excited!

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Foxtrot – Uniform – November!

Heh!  This week my son and I are having F-U-N with the “The International Radiotelephony Spelling Alphabet” also known as the “NATO Phonetic Alphabet”.  We listed letters that could be confused over radio waves or telephone (B, C, D, E, G, P, T, V, Z – or how about F and S?) and understood how the phonetic alphabet could be a life-saver.  I have been presenting my son with short words like “Delta-Alpha-Delta” and “Sierra-Mike-India-Lima-Echo” and he is deciphering.  Fully engaged, BTW.  We are also continuing with our hangman games; both sneaky ways to work in handwriting practice.

Every Paragraph Fascinates – Wow. We are loving our book stack this week:

mounted police books

  • We have just finished the absolutely inspiring “Royal Canadian Mounted Police”, by Richard L. Neuberger. True story after true story electrifying us with whatsoever things that are upright, brave, dependable, reasonable, and heroic.  As was written about the RCMP in a Montana newspaper in 1877, “…what a comfort to the law abiding citizen.”  We concluded this study with a quiz to reinforce what we had been reading about.

RCMP quiz larger

  • “Maphead”, by Ken Jennings – A+A+A+!  This book is so well organized, the research and personal observations are first rate, and the author certainly takes us places we have never thought to go – like the Library of Congress map collection and the map sale at the Royal Geographic Society.  Last night we read about some unscrupulous (vocab) map dealers who replenished their stock by cutting maps out of library books! (We followed this reading with a discussion of the 10 Commandments).
  • Fiction – “Olivia Bean, Trivia Queen”, by Donna Gephart – we finished this book last night.  Excellent from start to finish – the author writes about a young teen’s determination to get onto Kids Week on Jeopardy, deal with divorce in the family, and come to terms with the estranged father’s gambling issues.
  • Fiction – We have started, “The Not Just Anybody Family”, by Betsy Byars, and OH MY this book is a riot! This book hooked us from page 1.

wedding banquet

Story Problem from Le Fictitious Local Diner – The diner is gussying up their back deck (that overlooks a duck pond), so it can be used for summertime banquets, like graduation parties and wedding rehearsal dinners.  They are adding a sound system ($1,000), 3 long tables (at $200 each),  20 strands of lights (at $20 per strand), and 10 potted small trees (at $50 per tree).
– If the diner has budgeted $3,000 for the renovation, is this enough money?
– If the diner makes a profit of approximately $500 with each banquet and has already booked 15 parties for the summer, will it recoup (vocab) the money spent on renovations?
(answers at bottom of post)

100 clouds

Wait for it – Wait for it – Wait for it – the next post will be my 100th post! Instead of a round up of what my son and I have been learning, this post will be a bit more personal than usual, in a Q&A format.

It’s Cliburn Piano Competition season in Fort Worth!  My husband and I attended a quarter finals session last night, so I was inspired to share some of our Van Cliburn recordings with my son when I got home.

cliburn time mag

– from the May 19, 1958 issue –

 We listened to:

  • “Winter Wind”, otherwise unmemorably known as “Etude in A minor”, composed by Frederic Chopin in 1836. Played by Van Cliburn, this piece sends chills down our spines:

  • “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini”, composed by Sergei Rachmaninoff in 1934.  I first heard this in the 1980’s movie, “Somewhere in Time” and was so enraptured with the music that I spent a LOT of time, pre-internet, trying to figure out what it was, who wrote it, and where I could get it. (BTW, there are 24 variations of this theme in the composition, Variation 18 – from minute 15:40 to 18:30 – is so utterly romantic):

  • Tchaikovsky’s “Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat major”.  This is one of the final pieces that Van Cliburn played to win the 1958 International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in Moscow!  The opening notes of movement 1 are so recognizable and so powerful.  This video was filmed when Cliburn made return visit to Moscow, in 1960:

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answers: yes and yes)

Dial “M” for –

Dial “M” for the Mounties – My son and I have been augmenting our study of Canada by learning about the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.  We are going back and forth between Richard L. Neuberger’s book of 1953, “Royal Canadian Mounted Police” and the current RCMP website.  There have been so many HR-type changes since 1953 (personnel numbers, duties, salaries, women in service, etc.) but the Mounties still stand for “Upholding the Right”.  We are fans.
– We cannot ignore the obvious: my son and I love the spiffy scarlet jacketed outfits of the RCMP.  These certainly set the standard for completely awesome uniforms, claiming second only to the dashing apparel worn by Vatican Swiss Guards.

– Author Neuberger was an American who encountered, and was tremendously impressed by, the RCMP while working on the Alaska Highway with the US Army Engineers in the 1940s.  Speaking of the Alaska Highway – what a monumental feat!  We  had to break away from reading about the Mounties to read about the construction and trace the route of this 1,700 mile highway.

Two Entries from the Coincidences Files –

maphead books

1) We purchased “Olivia Bean – Trivia Queen”, a teen novel by Donna Gephart, because we are always looking for fiction that emphasizes brain power vs. “coming of age” themes.  We purchased “Maphead”, a geography biography by Ken Jennings, to further our knowledge of longitude and latitude.  We were surprised to discover a common bond:  JEOPARDY!  While Olivia dreams of being part of Kids Week on Jeopardy (and even mentions her hero:  Ken Jennings!), “Maphead” author Ken Jennings has the distinction of being the Jeopardy contestant with the longest winning streak! (74 games, total earnings over $3,000,000!)
BTW, we are enjoying both books, but how in the world did we end up reading “Olivia Bean” and “Maphead” at the same time? Serendipity (vocab)! We toasted the coincidence (vocab) by listening to the Jeopardy theme song:

2) What could the great big Northwest Territories (519,000 square miles) in Canada have in common with the teeny city of Idaho Falls, Idaho (22 square miles) (where our family lived from 1995 through 1999)?  Both have the same population (around 41,000 people)! Gee, we thought Idaho Falls was pretty spacious; we really cannot imagine the elbow room (vocab) of 519,000 square miles.  After we considered this coincidence we calculated the percentage of area that Idaho Falls would take up in the Northwest Territories.  Guess?
A. .004%    B. 1%    C. 10%    D. 40% (answer at bottom of post)

bad music

Dial “M” for Music at Le Fictitious Local Diner – Friday nights at the diner are now live music nights!  Four local bands have signed up to perform: Farmer Brown’s “Amazing Fiddle Assembly”, “The Loco Ladies’ Flute and Lute Society”, the junior high’s “Fusion of Confusion”, and the local doctors’ jazz band, “Musical Emergency”.
– The diner is pleading with other talented musicians to sign up, but if no other groups join in, and these four take turns performing, how many times will each band get to perform over the course of a year?
A. 4 times    B. 12 times    C. 13 times    D. 52 times
– Each band is to receive $50 per night for playing; how much will the diner spend during the course of a year on live music?
A. $50    B. $1,000    C. $1,300    D. $2,600
– If the diner realizes that live music is driving customers away, and they stop the program after six weeks, how much will they have spent for music?
A. $150    B. $300    C. $450    D. $600 (answers at bottom of post)

Dial “M” for Minuet – 

len dancing

Oh my gosh!  Isn’t this Len from “Dancing with the Stars”, in full minuet regalia???

What a happy coincidence that Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, and Paderewski each composed a short melody entitled, “Minuet in G”!   We reviewed the concept of a minuet: a slow, stately dance in waltz rhythm; the rage of 17th and 18th century France.  We hadn’t listened to these for years, and we like them all:

Mozart, “Minuet in G”, mid 1700’s – one of Mozart’s first published works,  written when he was about six years old!  Whoa:

Bach, “Minuet in G”, 1725 – Well, wouldn’t you just know it. Even though we would like to think that Bach composed this piece, scholars give credit to one Christian Petzold.  Christian!!!!  Where ever you are, you done good – this is a piece my son and I have listened to several times – we love it!  Note about the video:  kudos to the very patient conductor who was charged with leading what looks like thousands of sullen teenagers:

Beethoven, “Minuet in G”, 1796 – Originally written for orchestra, the score was lost, but the piano version remains.  This is the piece that was used by Professor Harold Hill (of “The Music Man”) for his “think system”:

Paderewski, “Minuet in G”, 1887 – My, my, Paderewski had his finger in many pies – in addition to being an accomplished musician, he was active in Polish politics, even serving as the second prime minster to the Republic of Poland (his term seems a bit short – he served from January 1919 to November 1919).  We are loving this film clip: Paderewski playing himself, playing his Minuet in G, in the (not classic) movie, “Moonlight Sonata” (1937):

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
Math problem answers:
(Idaho Falls: A. .004% the size of Canada’s Northwest Territories)
(Diner math: opportunities – C. 13; live music cost – D. $2,600; music for 6 weeks – B. $300)

Looking North

Our Canadian Unit: the 49th parallel propels us into action – While reading about Canadian provinces, and we came across this:  British Colombia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba border the United States along the 49th parallel north. WHAT???????? It was like our alarm clock clanged!  It was obviously time to learn about parallels, longitude, latitude and the like.  So, two books to the rescue:  we’re reading through the scholarly and quite fascinating “Longitude” by Dava Sobel, and “Maphead” by Ken Jennings is on deck.  BTW, “Wow Canada!” by Vivien Bowers is proving to be an excellent resource.

olivia 3

Fiction Fun – We were sorry to finish two entertaining books this past week: our 10th Tom Gates book, “Top of the Class (nearly)” by the utterly imaginative Liz Pichon (gosh we love those Tom Gates books) and a revisit read of Gordon Korman’s insightful “Schooled” (important read).  We’ve just begun “Olivia Bean Trivia Queen”, written by Donna Gephart, a new author for us. So far: YAY!

Reporting in on our Buffalo Bill unit:
– We have just finished “Presenting Buffalo Bill” –  We’ve impressed ourselves by absorbing the material of Candace Fleming’s long, brilliantly researched book.  We probably learned EVERYTHING about this over-the-top man,  a LOT about the myth of the “wild west”, and a BIT about some unsettling American government policies of the late 18th century.
– A side note:  Buffalo Bill fits the profile –  My son and I have studied many “larger than life” individuals whose impact has been significant.  To a person, the greater the achievement, the more glaring the personal deficit(s) (vocab).  William Cody fits the profile.  Poor Bill – literally POOR BILL – had no concept of money management.  Although this is a comparatively benign (vocab) deficit, how could his friends and family not shudder in horror as he plunged unthinkable quantities of money into one ill-advised investment after another.  Oh Bill!

canadian geese

Farmer Brown and the Canadian Geese story problem – Farmer Brown loves the honking sound of Canadian Geese as they fly over his ranch, migrating south for the winter or back north for the summer.  He was interested to read that a town in Kansas counted 1,800 geese as year-round residents, their number increasing to 18,000 every winter.  A percentage increase of what?  A. 10%      B. 100%      C. 1,000%  (answer at bottom of post)

Back to our Canada studies:  WE DID NOT SEE THIS COMING – Here we are knee deep into our unit on the Canadian provinces, learning about the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Calgary Stampede, the Canadian Shield, poutine, puffins, prairie dogs – lovely, lovely, lovely and then, WHOA: smack in the middle of Canada, in the province of Manitoba: THE NARCISSE SNAKE DENS.  SNAKE DENS!!!!  We had to drop everything, find out more and look at GROSS WRIGGLING PHOTOS.  OK, here is the deal: every spring and fall, thousands and thousands of red-sided garter snakes congregate for a three week mating frenzy.

narcisse snake dens

Last night’s music:  A HISSY FIT – we pretended that the director of the Narcisse Snake Dens phoned and pleaded with us to plan a program of background music for the slithering sweethearts:

snakes

  • “Dance of the Seven Veils” from Richard Strauss’ one act opera, “Salome”, which premiered in 1905 (but was banned in London until 1907 for being WAY too steamy) (my son doesn’t need to know this).  This piece masterfully scores the out of control fever of the snake pits (thank you timpani) with the sinuous gliding of the snakes over and under each other (thank you snake charmy oboes).  This performance by the Philharmonic Orchestra of Santiago, conducted by Paolo Bortolameolli is SUPERB. TONS of energy:

  • “Blue Tango” by Leroy Anderson, composed in 1951.  We just laugh and laugh through this whole piece.  This is the go-to sassy music for a garter snake meet and greet:

  • We anthropomorphized (vocab) the snakes and imagined two snakes eyeing each other from opposite sides of the crowded and heaving den – and their hearts connect (we are laughing so hard) to “Some Enchanted Evening” from Rogers and Hammerstein’s 1949 “South Pacific” production:

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answer: C. 1,000% increase)