Thursday, December 30, 2010
Monday, December 27, 2010
Meanwhile, I was inside fixing a beef stew for the shovelers' dinner. And since today is St. John's I opened a bottle of wine--a glass for the stew, and a glass for the cook. Tonight we drink slàinte mhòr and St. John!
Last night, a friend came over from his house, three blocks in the direction in the photo, during the snowfall. Somewhere between there and here, he dropped his iPhone. We have yet to find it. St. Anthony?
So, Christmas is lovely here in NY, just outside the City, and all the kids are home, at least for now.
Saturday, December 25, 2010
Saturday, December 18, 2010
When a new mom asks for a book recommendation, the first book I think of is Goodnight Moon. But it has come to my attention lately that some people just don't appreciate a literary bowl full of mush the way I do.
Of course, I like it because of the science: The room darkens as night takes over (astronomy), a fire burns in the hearth and dries the mittens (chemistry and physics), there is a telephone (electricity and acoustics), a comb and a brush are potential sources of static (electricity), the colors red and green are part of the visible spectrum (see how they fade as the room grows dark!), kittens romp (animal behavior) and the old lady sits in a rocking chair (momentum). And how long can that bowl full of mush endure (mycology)?
Well. Not really.
Actually, there are plenty of reasons for me to dislike Goodnight Moon. It has all of the annoying problems that I frequently bemoan when I read children's books. For one thing, the poetry doesn't quite work, and the lack of scheme makes the occasional rhyme more of a surprise in this book than in a poem with measurable meter. It has a miserable commonplace vocabulary. And it really doesn't go anywhere, but rambles on sleepily in a stream of bedtime consciousness. And yet...I love it.
Perhaps I love it most for the bedtime routine. There is the usual going to bed ritual, including the obligatory goodnights. The rabbit child (for it is not a human child living in that room with kittens and mice--something I never noticed in my youth!) delays sleep by wishing goodnight to everything in the room, even, in a last sleepy effort to delay the inevitable, "goodnight nobody!" which was always my favorite line when I was a child. (In fact, the concept of a lapine nobody reappears with gleeful charm in the character of A. A. Milne's Rabbit, as he attempts to fool visitors by pretending to be nobody at home.) Now, the occasional rhyme gallops excitedly, making one think that there might be a reprieve from the inevitable sleep, but, alas, the old lady always whispers, "Hush." Then, even the world quietens.
The room in the book resembles, in my mind, the room we stayed in when we visited my grandparents' house, though that room was neither great nor green. When I was a child, the idea of a bedroom with a phone was unusual, but my grandparents had a phone in that spare room, and we children thought that was a marvel, playing with the dial, receiver in cradle, for hours. There we had no fireplace, and no kitten; balloons were reserved for special occasions. We had mittens, of course, and they were dried on racks like the one in the book. If we had a mouse, it was usually dead in a trap. The was a doll house, and a rocking chair, and my grandmother was always whispering Hush! At night, that room became very, very dark.
I suppose, then, that my affection for the book may be as unique as it is personal. And perhaps, readers of my age, with similar memories and taste, might purchase the book for young mothers, who, confused by the abundant accolades for Goodnight Moon might wonder, upon a first reading, "what's so great about this book?" and turn instead to the latest Elmo pablum. But I hope not, for, as I recall, a bowl full of mush is so much more substantial.
Thursday, December 16, 2010
Finally, released for your reading pleasure!
Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of your Child.
Anthony Esolen's new book describes the ways in which society and schooling are harming our children. Yes, I know you have heard that before. So have I, and I have seen it both as a student and a teacher. But of the many, many books, magazine articles and lectures on the matter with which I have become familiar, this book sums up my thoughts most completely, and rather more eloquently (he even shares my distaste for the term "play date"). It's one of those books that I fill with scrappy bookmarks and quickly scribbled margin comments. Professor Esolen's playful reversal--like Lewis' Screwtape, the author expounds upon the worst of imagination-killers as though they were the most worthy methods--reminds us of our own complacency, of how the unnatural has become the norm and the natural the enemy, unnoticed. Read this and see if you agree. (I suspect I have much more to say about this, and I may discuss this in depth here at a later date. Stay tuned!)
Even if you have no children, don't miss Professor Esolen's wonderful Ironies of Faith. I think it would be an excellent guide for a small book club reading group. Ah, to have the time and company!
Also, fans, new and old, of Professor Esolen's work may also enjoy the quite wonderful Touchstone magazine, and the companion blog, Mere Comments.
More published anecdotal thoughts on raising children:
Saving Childhood by movie critic Michael Medved
Weapons of Mass Instruction by education critic John Taylor Gatto
Why Gender Matters by Dr. Sacks (I don't agree with everything here, especially his ideas on giving "mature" teens birth control, but overall his observations on gender differences are sound).
And for the young man, grown and introspective: The Compleat Gentleman by The Catholic Thing (website) editor Brad Miner.
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Clean and plentiful, the jars were there for the taking, and during grasshopper season, we took quite a few. We had to find the correct lid, but it only took a minute or two. One of us--my brothers and cousins and I spent hours outside in the summer heat--would sit on the hill along the side of the house, holding a prized grasshopper between gently pinched fingers, watching it make a drop of "tobacco juice" between its mandibles, while waiting for the others to return with the jar. We would run out of the house with a glass jar in hand and stuff a few tufts of grass into the jar before releasing the insect into its new habitat. For one unlucky grasshopper, there would be a bit of soapy water left in the jar from its last washing, and the poor thing would adhere, hopelessly struggling, to the inside of the jar, and we children would learn a lesson about checking the jars for moisture. But now, a luckier grasshopper would find a dry bottom, and plenty of food (we thought). Then, someone would point out that without air, the grasshopper would surely suffocate.
"They breathe through their legs," someone would say, and we would all nod knowingly. (This is not true; but it seemed plausible at the time. The truth is nearly as fun--they breath through spiracles (openings) in the thorax and abdomen.) We needed to do something to let the air into the jar, or our merciful natures would force us to release our captive.
So we would do what most children did at that time: We sought a hammer (a large stone would do) and an awl (a screwdriver would do) and began to pound holes through the lid. The lid, of course, would be on the jar, and only great skill prevented us from breaking the glass while venting the lid. The holes could never be so big that the grasshopper would escape, so we would make many small holes.
Then, in the warm afternoon sun, lying on the hill, we would admire our new pet while chewing on the "sugar tips" of grass ourselves. If it was good enough food for the grasshopper, it was good enough food for us.
Today, if one can find a glass jar, the lids are often plastic, and they crack when one tries to punch a hole. But never fear. Rather than build a habitat for a pet with what-you-can-find-around-the-house, you can buy an insect house, plain or fancy, but risk free, and keep your pet safely. I laughed when I saw that one does not even have to touch the insects one finds. With a bug vacuum, one may catch small arthropods safely, which I guess is fine if you wish to catch and observe scorpions or hornets or black widows; but most insects are quite harmless.
Which brings me to the point: Have we lost something? Is there some value in finding an insect by accident, tracking and hunting it in tall grass, holding it in a bare hand and feeling it tickle ones palm as it walks, or seeing it squirm as it struggles to escape, all while one is scrounging for a creative place to keep the bug-de-jour? If instead we give the child the box and instruct him to take the bug vacuum and find something, are we not taking away that tiny creative moment and replacing it with ready-made purpose, precise instructions and a right way to do it? Is it any wonder that, surrounded by pretty plastic things with switches and lights, the child cries boredom? When we remove a step--e.g.: figuring out where to put the bug after one has caught, it as it sits in ones hands--we remove a creative purpose that stimulates the intellect and stretches the imagination. Egads. What have we done?
So save some jars; if you fear your young entomologists might handle something dangerous, suggest he figures out a way to make a net or a trap. Let him find things spontaneously, and scrounge for the right materials. Some interesting specimens will escape, but let that strengthen the resolve of the child to solve the problem in his own way.
Saturday, December 4, 2010
OK. Not the best headline (that honor goes to blogger Michael at Deeps of Time, surely!), but with more interesting goals moved to the back burner, and the burden of being a government entity, a NASA press conference on astrobiology (a field, my astronomy professor told me, that was a bit limited, when I expressed an interest) caused a good deal of speculation on the 'net. Just google for some of the speculations...life on Titan, life on Mars (there is legitimate research going on to study both environments), and, of course, there are folks like this (youtube link) who know they are out there.
But it turns out that a bacterium in a lake on earth can use arsenic instead of phosphorus when it needs to do so. That's interesting. As a biologist with an interest in exobiology, I love this sort of thing. But I also feel a bit cheated by NASA. I mean, they let the rumors fly; it just seems a bit unprofessional.
Do read the synopsis at Deeps of Time. It's a Catholic blog worth a book mark.
Can I possibly post on this without a few book recommendations (just for fun)? Not likely. ;)
Out of the Silent Planet
Rendezvous with Rama
Thursday, December 2, 2010
Procedure:Take a bit of fresh snow and place it on a coffee filter inside a cup (cone filters work best). Allow the snow to melt away, and let the filter dry (you may use a warm oven to aid this process). Examine any dust left behind.How much is there? Can you see any large "dust?" Use a magnifying glass of a microscope to examine the specks. Space dust is roughly spherical, having melted on its journey through the atmosphere. Sometimes, space dust has a tiny "tail." Sometimes, especially if the dust contains nickel, it looks like Mickey Mouse--a tiny sphere with "ears." Use a magnet on the dust to determine if it contains iron.Older students may wish to quantify the observation, by weighing the dust collected (use a fine, digital scale, available from Science Kit). Even earth dust is heavy, and while snow is naturally dusty, sitting snow will have an increased volume of dust. How much more concentrated does the dust sample become in one-day-old, two-day-old or week old snow? Cover some snow to protect it from gathering "new" dust. Does the volume of dust increase as the volume of snow decreases? Why?
Hike a beach, lakeshore, or river bank (carefully!)
Visit the forest right after a snowBe the first to hike a field after a snow
Make snow angelsLook for tracks near water sources
Try Nordic skiing
Go bird-watching early in the morning
Take an evening hike
Take a "listening" hike--what do you hear?
Examine snow flakes (take your microscope outside so the flakes stay frozen)
Look for the "skeletons" of last summer's plants
Dig for tubers and roots:Jerusalem artichokes wild carrot (caution! must be positively identified), leeks, evening primrose, wild potato, chicory, onions, field garlic, ground nuts, anise root, sassafras, wild ginger, curly dock...
Taste fresh snow
Winter orienteering is a challenge! Try it!
Play "fox and geese," a game like "tag," on a circular, spoked track in the snow (directions in A Prairie Boy's Winter)
Make snow-shoes, and walk with them!
Look for winter berries--who eats them? Which berries are eaten last?
Look for last summer's nests
Cook outside and eat there too!
Learn fire building (read London's To Build a Fire)
Step outside during a blizzard (step inside quickly!)
Identify local trees by bark aloneTurn over your compost pile
Take the temperature of your yard--near the house, away from the house, the soil surface, under the soil, in the compost pile...Hang different bird-seed types in different places--who likes what?
Hang suet for birds, too!
Provide shelter from elements for wildlife--bird houses, bat houses, brush piles, old logs, etc.
Keep a record of the weather
Tap maple trees in late winter--boil the watery sap into thick sugary syrup, and pour it on ice cream, pancakes, or even snow!
Updated: And let's not forget Owl Moon (as I did!)
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
|Help him get used to a new place.|
You can leave the stroller behind (or push it, empty) and let the toddler roam through wild places, learning the sensations of the seasons, the feel of fall, the sound of birdsongs, the sweet scent of autumnal decay, the lift of the atmospheric pressure just before rain, the chill of the air at sunset...I could go on, but I think you get it.
|Walking is a new thing for this toddler! His cousins help out.|
|Don't worry! Mom won't let you fall!|
|Toddlers like to touch things as you hike. Let them!|
|Even a handful of rough sand...|
|is exciting to a toddler!|
|You can make sure they feel secure in any new environment.|
|Introduce new things--like this reed--gently, letting her smell as well as feel it.|
Monday, November 29, 2010
Fifty Dangerous Things (you should let your children do) is full of suggestions to help you overcome the paranoid instincts of modern parenthood.
Backyard Ballistics is a guide to launching things and blowing stuff up. 'Cause you know they want to.
The Book of Totally Irresponsible Science (with a title as bad as this, buying the book is your first step to letting go). Simple stuff, and mostly fun.
Feeling more relaxed? Try Ransome's Pigeon Post for inspiration--read it aloud to the children. It's not a "how to" book, but a story of children who camp by themselves, mine for (what they hope is) gold and try to refine what they find, deal with drought, battle fires, and have wonderful conversations with total strangers. Check out Ransome's other books, too.
PS: Don't forget Forbidden LEGO!!
Saturday, November 20, 2010
Friday, November 19, 2010
At the Sea-Side
BY ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON
Saturday, October 30, 2010
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Monday, September 27, 2010
It was also Webb Family Weekend, so most of us spent our time on the gorgeous Webb campus on the LI Sound, with great food, and fun events. A new Model Cutter was dedicated. (I must admit that I thought they were dedicating a model cutter; it was actually a device that cuts models--a model cutter--I kept laughing to myself about the mistake as the machine was demonstrated). And thanks to a couple of seniors, Grannie got to see a demonstration of a propeller in the 90ft model tank! We took a video, but she does not know how to get it off her camera. ;) A fascinating article (with photos) featuring Webb's unique marine engineering facility is here.
But this was the highlight of the weekend (click on the picasa symbol to view the complete slideshow in full screen format)
The main event was the Freshman Wind Powered Design Challenge. The freshmen were divided into 5 teams (there are 19 students) and challenged to build a sailboat that actually sails using plywood, a tarp, duct tape, an aluminum pole, zip ties, and up to 10 tubes of caulk. This was their first design project, and, after only 4 weeks of naval architecture classes, they had one week to design and build their boats, putting what they have learned to practical use.
On Sunday, at 10:30 am, with all our family members present, the boats were launched on the sound. The canon sounded the start of the race, and the boats were off. There was a fine wind, but a strong incoming tide, and several boats were swept away to the west side of the quay, never to recover. One boat sank, but the crew were expertly rescued (there was, of course, little danger in calm seas so close to shore) T's team had the advantage of the windward starting position, and two very good sailors as crew. After 21 minutes of very difficult sailing (and bailing) the good ship Felicia came back to shore, victorious; in fact Felicia was the only ship that finished the course. It was a true Swallows and Amazons day!
An outstanding brunch followed.
L was there for the race, but missed the previous day because she was performing in the season opener of the New Juilliard Ensemble. The NY Times has a review today, and a photo of the ensemble (L is under the bassist's elbow). We were disappointed that we missed the performance, but we figured there would only be one opportunity to participate in Webb Family Weekend while T is a Freshman...but there will be many more concerts. (Many, many more concerts!)
Sunday, September 12, 2010
We were blessed to be invited to Great Vespers at a Russian Orthodox church last evening. We were actually enjoying the good food at the church fair, when Don struck up a conversation with the deacon, and he invited us to stay for the service. It was just beautiful. Of course, the church was decorated with icons in the Orthodox tradition, and there were real lit candles and incense. The music was subtly glorious, with the priest and deacon chanting the prayers, and a small but well-practiced choir singing the responses in polyphony.
Friday, September 10, 2010
The lowly Jerusalem artichoke, neither an artichoke, nor from Jerusalem, is a great native plant to grow in the northeast. It is actuallya cousin of the sunflower, and often grows just as tall, but with several small flowers on each stalk. That might be the beauty of the JA, but the real value of growing them lies underground. Beneath the tall flowering stems lie the tubers, uglier than potatoes, but delicious, with a hint of the flavor of artichokes (thus, the name). Best of all, for those with diabetes, they may be used in lieu of potatoes as the starch breaks down into fructose rather than glucose.
Recipes and more info are here: http://www.specialtyproduce.com/index.php?item=2023
I look forward to harvesting these tasty tubers after the first frost. Right now, I am cutting off their little flower heads. Unfortuantely, they make a poor cut flower, killing themselves off by acidifying thier own water very quickly. Annika, having studied biology and begining chemistry, suggested that we find a way to neutralize the acid. We tried baking soda in the water, and it workd rather well; the flowers kept for several days. This is an easy demonstration for the kids to try--one vase (use a clear bottle or vase for best viewing) with baking soda, and one without. The water without the baking soda turns a nasty, acidic brown very quickly. The one with baking soda remains clear. If you do not stir the water after adding the baking soda, the acid forms a brown layer over the clear water. Make sure the stems are in the clear part for longest lasting blooms. The acidic water, after a few days, begins to small like a marsh--lots of decay going on in there!
We cut the flowers off so that the energy produced by the plant is stored in tubers rather than spent on flower production. We discard most of the flowers, but thanks to Annika's good idea, we now decorate the house with these lovely Jerusalem artichoke flowers!
Monday, August 23, 2010
Friday, August 20, 2010
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Students may list their names, or remain anonymous. Ages or grade levels would be helpful to our readers.
You can email your answers to me at macbeth at optonline dot net ! Thanks!!
Age/Grade level at the time of the program:
Name of college or institution and summer program:
Day or overnight:
How far did you travel for the program?:
How long was the program?:
Please list/describe all classes you took:
Please rate the following using numbers 1-5, with 1 as "poor" and 5 as "excellent":
Quality of instruction:
Housing (if applicable):
Staff or Counselors:
Security (did you feel safe?):
Please add anything you'd like to say about the program (favorite part, what you'd improve, or whatever you think might be helpful for a student looking for a program like the one you attended).
Sunday, August 15, 2010
Not that he's going far, but he will be living away from home. T begins his freshman year at The Webb Institute tomorrow. I guess we'll kind of miss him, but his school is only a few miles away--closer than L's, and she is close enough to commute.
So today we are deciding what he will take with him. Since the students live in an old Gold Coast mansion--The Braes--in large rooms (unlike the tiny rooms at L's school), he can bring more than she did. So, his recliner? Probably. Computer, books, his cello...sure. Somehow, he just does not seem to have as much "stuff" as she did. Laundry, laundry, laundry. That's pretty much it. Oh, and some safety items, including protective eye-wear, steel-toed boots, and a hardhat. Odd equipment for most college freshmen, but Webb is a different sort of college.
Somehow, it seems easier with the second one. I'll post photos, and let you know how it goes tomorrow. Maybe it'll be awful, but I doubt it. He has been ready to go for a while.
Update: He just packed his baseball mitt...I might cry.
Saturday, July 31, 2010
I love it that L was able to play the duet with him but it is a chore--and I seem to have failed to successfully complete that chore--to get the settings correct so I can see them both... so please click through for a better view!
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Road cut with geological reference marker (note that ubiquitous Red Bed layer in the rock common to this era)
Sulfur on the cave ceiling
Cave with molybdenum deposits
A long way from Sagamore Hill
Paul hides the "E" in Butte--haha.
Park rangers share fossil digging tips
Petrified sand dunes
Learning about "big" by the Snake River
Another national park full of geology
Getting to know the former locals
Samples on display
The Great Salt Lake
Lava beds in Idaho