The Planets

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)

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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

Working for Peanuts

carver stamp

We begin our botany unit:  “George Washington Carver – Ingenious Inventor”, another “Graphic Library” book, this one by Olson/Tucke.  (These books are pretty fun, formatted comic-book style, including a surprising amount of interesting information.  Not bad, not bad at all).  Anyway, George Washington Carver, FATHER OF THE PEANUT INDUSTRY, has won our hearts:  he was focused, deep thinking, moral (vocab), inventive, industrious, and profoundly generous.  But back to the botany angle: Carver ended up with three patents for peanut oil utilization (hardly representative of his many many many inventions and contributions).  We spent a few minutes wondering what Carver’s scientific response would have been to the present day widespread peanut allergy crisis.  We also decided that we wanted to know more about other botanists (vocab), so books on Gregor Mendel and Luther Burbank have been ordered.

soda sharing

Story problem time – the SUMMERTIME SWEETHEART SODA SPECIAL at Le Fictitious Local Diner:  Hoping to entice the after-movie date crowd, the diner has run a midnight ice-cream soda special (a large-sized soda with two straws and a side of fries) every Friday and Saturday, since June 1st.  Well! This has been so popular that the diner went through two boxes of straws (1000 straws to the box) in June alone!  If the special is priced at $5.00, how much did the diner gross on the special in June?  If the cost per serving works out to $2.00, how much did the diner net from this special in June?  Extraneous question: if a box of 1,000 straws costs $17, what is the price per straw (round up)? (answers at bottom of post)

gabby book

New fiction reading:  We are intrigued by  “Gabby Duran and the Unsittables” by Elise Allen and Daryle Conners.  This book is original and refreshing, with new concepts and vocabulary all over the place.  The introductory adventure involves a movie production (so new words: set, line, soundstage, props);  subsequent adventures involve INTERGALACTICS.  Adding to this, protagonist Gabby Duran, is a high schooler intent on being an orchestra soloist with her French Horn (and consider us admonished via the internet; we’ve learned that this instrument is properly referred to as the HORN, not the French Horn).  So, do you expect us to let it go at that?  Our choice for classical music listening last night focused upon compositions that showcased the HORN.  We wanted to appreciate the deep, comfortable, warm echo-y sound of Gabby’s horn.

Our inspiration for classical music listening last night – Gabby Duran’s French Horn:

– George Frederick Handel’s Water Music, Movement 2, from Water Music Suite No. 2, composed in 1717 to humor King George I, who desired music for a concert on the River Thames.  My son and I love this jaunty full-of-energy fanfare:

– Gustav Holst’s Venus, from The Planets, composed in 1916.  “Venus, the Bringer of Peace”, begins with a horn solo, and the horn provides the backbone for this L O N G dreamy movement (just a teeny touch boring compared to the rest of the planets in the suite) (but very restful, if you need to fall asleep) (and sort of sad, too) (OK! Not our favorite, but still a good “front and center” for the horn):

– Maurice Ravel’s Pavane for a Dead Princess, first written for piano in 1899, then orchestrated by Ravel in 1910.  This is a slow processional dance, with the horn taking center stage for the introduction. An excellent choice for anyone seeking background music for a good hard cry:

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answers: $5,000, $3,000, 2 cents per straw)

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

High Five!

dwarf-planets-121120b-02

FIVE?  Last night we were reading from “Information Graphics – Space”, and my son and I were startled to learn that there are 5 dwarf planets in our solar system.  FIVE????  Of course, we knew about Pluto, but 4 others?  Joining Pluto: Ceres (actually an asteroid, but so large that in 2006 it was designated a “dwarf planet”), Eris, Haumea, and Makemake.  We learned more about these cuties via a Wikipedia search.  And we want this poster!

Bullard book

Required Reading:  We have finished reading “Eugene Bullard, World’s First Black Fighter Pilot” by Larry Greenly, and it deserves another shout out.  Really! What this man (1895 – 1961) couldn’t do well.  He wasn’t just the first black fighter pilot (WWI), he was a prize-winning boxer, an excellent drummer, a night club owner, a spy for the French Underground…he spoke excellent French (once serving as an interpreter for Louis Armstrong when he toured France) and passable German.  Eugene Bullard was an American with a CAN DO attitude – who started from nothing and did everything. (This book also casts a wonderfully positive light on France.  Quite refreshing.)  This should be required reading, or at least an alternative choice for high schoolers struggling through “All Quiet on the Western Front”.   A definite HIGH FIVE in the inspirational/motivational reading catagory.

To honor those who served in THE GREAT WAR, we read “In Flanders Field” by John McCrae, twice. (and I wept) (couldn’t help it) (just think what my kids have had to put up with).

poppies

On the lighter side: Last week we started playing HANGMAN.  I am always looking for “normal” interactive games, and I think we have a hit with hangman.  It was fun, and my son quickly figured out the words I had chosen (rabbit, waffle, dentist, cattle); words selected because one comes upon some of their key letters rapidly, if one is simply selecting letters alphabetically (you do know how to play hangman, right?).  We’re playing again tonight.

Mid-Terms: Last Night my son took a multiple choice “mid-term” quiz and scored 100%!  (I had typed up questions that touched on topics we have covered since January – e.e. cummings, Punxsutawney Phil, the doldrums, Catherine the Great, rodents, the French Foreign Legion, and Cleopatra.)  Best of all, he demonstrated an understanding of how to take a multiple choice test – he no longer needs prompting to select the letter that goes with the correct answer. Yay!  We are making progress!

airplane

Farmer Brown story problem:  Farmer Brown had to travel out of state to attend a lecture on hay, and he traveled on a plane with recently refitted coach seats.  The seats were luxurious and really comfortable for everyone under 5’6” tall.  A large man himself, Farmer Brown noticed that 3/5 of the passengers were well over 5’6” tall.  If there are 180 seats in coach, how many people were desperate to reach their destination, de-sardine their bodies and stretch their legs? (answer under signature at end of this post)

empire state building               burj khalifa

High in the Sky:  we have just finished a study on enormously tall structures, and discussed whether we would be happy finding ourselves at the top of said tall buildings.  My top height is the Empire State Building.  My son indicated that he would be OK going to the top of that frighteningly half-mile-high Burj Khalifa in Dubai (which also boasts the world’s fastest elevator) (NOT A PLUS in my book).  Kudos to those who will go where my genetics cannot.

Beethoven

A High Five to the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, who recently hosted a FREE performance for kids with autism.  The auditorium was filled!  Music Director Jaap van Zweden conducted Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony in C Minor – what a PERFECT choice –  short, grand, majestic, deep (but uncomplicated) and polished from beginning to end.  What a gift.  My son and I decided that we needed to listen to Beethoven’s Fifth again.  For added interest, I selected a different conductor for each of the movements.

Beethoven’s Fifth – movement 1, Leonard Bernstein conducting the Vienna Philharmonic (so, in other words, awesome):

Beethoven’s Fifth – movement 2, Jose Luis Gutierrez conducting the Carlos Chavez Youth Orchestra (good job for a youth orchestra, but excellent job for such a youthful conductor, I swear he looks 18):

Beethoven’s Fifth – movement 3 and 4 (difficult to find these filmed separately because the 4th movement commences without a pause from the conclusion of movement 3), this features conductor Paavo Jarvi conducting the Deutch Kammerphilharmonie Bremen:

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(Farmer Brown story problem answer: 108)

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