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!




Salients and Peninsulas – We are a fifth of the way through our “Where is That?” states-in-the-USA activity, and my son is learning more than just the location of the states.  Two nights ago we learned about salients – and SURPRISE, we have lived in three of nine salient states:  Texas, Oklahoma, Florida, West Virginia, Connecticut, Idaho, Nebraska, Maryland, and Alaska.  We learned that SALIENT is the correct geographical term for a PANHANDLE (side learning excursion – I had to show my son a real pan handle).  We learned that a panhandle is surrounded by land, and a peninsula (where Big Peaches – star grandmother – lives) is surrounded by water.  We also considered the customary definition of salient (meaning “most important”, “most noticeable”) (vocab).  And my son also learned that panhandling (vocab) has nothing to do with pans or geography.


Story Problem from Le Fictitious Local Diner – speaking of panhandles, the diner management team decided it is time to replace all frying pans.  The chefs are delighted!  8 small-sized skillets are to be ordered at a cost of $25 each, and 8 larger fry pans are to be ordered at a cost of $75 each.  How much will the diner spend for shipping (if shipping is 15% of the total order)?
A. $25      B. $80      C. $120      D. $200 (answer at bottom of post)

History is coming alive – Yay! Candace Fleming’s “Presenting Buffalo Bill – The Man who Invented the Wild West” has us on the edge of our seats.  We are currently reading about Will Cody’s pre-teen years in the Kansas territory, where his family was caught in the territory’s “slavery/no slavery” struggle (a shameful blot on the pages of American history – teams of pro-slavery thugs from Missouri terrorized homesteaders who did not want Kansas to be a slavery state).  As Will’s father was an object of death threats from the pro-slavery faction, and was often out of state, in hiding, a very young Will Cody had to provide the primary financial support for his large family.   Working for a shipping company that delivered goods to military posts in Colorado and Utah, Will had his full share of wild west adventures (stampedes, shoot-outs, starvation).  What’s going to happen next???

better-tokyo-sculpture           better-blue-brushtstroke

Roy Lichtenstein – two take-aways from Susan Goldman Rubin’s excellent book, “Whaam! The Art and Life of Roy Lichtenstein”:

1)  What is a win-win situation?  How about when a corporation commissions (vocab) artwork that will be accessible to the general public?  We love Lichtenstein’s sculpture, “Tokyo Brushstroke II” commissioned by an architectural firm in Japan, and the crazy-gigantic-five-stories high mural, “Blue Brushstroke” commissioned by The Equitable Life Assurance Society in Manhattan.  The win-win?
– thousands and thousands and thousands of people get to enjoy the artwork
– excellent PR (vocab) for the corporation
– the artist gets paid!
2)  We are never too old to try something new:  Roy Lichtenstein learned to play the saxophone in his mid 60’s! OF COURSE, we were enthusiastic about devoting an evening to a sampling of saxophone sounds:

  • Harlem Nocturne, composed by Earle Hagen and Dick Rogers in 1939, played to perfection by the Duke Ellington Orchestra. The saxophone brings the sultry:

  • The Pink Panther Theme, composed by Henri Mancini in 1963.  This is OLD footage, with Henry Mancini conducting.  The saxophone brings the relentlessly sneaky:

  • The Prologue to West Side Story, composed by Leonard Bernstein for the 1957 Broadway production. The saxophone doesn’t take center stage in this piece, but does set the tone for a collage of NYC sounds and rhythms:

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answer:  C. $120)