Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A Word About the Box of "Required Reading"

...in the sidebar on the left. I just want to clarify: I often put links in that box that are a bit irreverent (like P.J. O'Rourke's column reflecting on his cancer diagnosis), or links to articles with which I do not agree but which make for good conversation with my teens. Most of the time, the articles are just interesting to me...the most common categories are music, science, politics (as close as I get to posting on such matters!), and religion, or some combination of all of these topics. Please know that some articles are from sources with advertisements which are offensive, and some of the articles are in fact offensive in themselves. That's why they are left in the box, and not put on display or quoted on the blog proper.

Just wanted to make that clear. Enjoy the afternoon.

Dickensian Post on First Things

In response to the 2007 National Endowment for the Arts report that (shocking!!) teens and young adults don't read (much):

How then should Dickens be taught? As with all of literature, he must be taught with affection, with enthusiasm, with patience, and with a taste for eccentricity. A more fitting introduction for young minds might be found in the reckless youthful energy of Nicholas Nickleby, with its hero who descends to fisticuffs in defense of a downtrodden drudge or attacks strangers in defense of his sister’s virtue. It is perhaps easier to relate to the trials and tribulations of young Oliver Twist than to sympathize with Pip. The death of Nancy is far more dramatically accessible than that of Sydney Carton, and with the former there is the advantage of a cast of colorful, evocative characters—Fagin, Bill Sikes, Nancy, Jack Dawkins, Charlie Bates, and, above all, Bulls-Eye, unite to make the novel one of Dickens’ greatest achievements.

We need to recover the lost art of enjoyment—enjoyment that is not simply mind-numbing intoxication or drooling appreciation of a television hero. Through the classics, a proper appreciation for virtue (classical and moral) may be effectively cultivated.

Read the rest. I, for one, am glad that the story of Dickens being paid by the word is apocryphal.

ETA: Try this link to the First Things article. The other is just not working, for some reason...

Monday, September 29, 2008

Chaminade in the NY Times

UNLIKE most Roman Catholic schools in the New York area, which embrace students regardless of their religion, Chaminade High School here requires a baptismal certificate to register.

“No exception,” said the Rev. James C. Williams, a cherub-faced priest who is the school’s president. “We advertise that pretty clearly because this is who we are. I don’t have room for all the Catholics who want to be here.”

Indeed, more than 1,600 boys from as far as Manhattan and Westchester County applied last year for 425 freshman seats at Chaminade, which many consider one of Long Island’s premier private schools and a relative bargain at $6,660 a year. Chaminade, founded in 1930 and now the Island’s only all-boys Catholic school, has thrived by staying unabashedly Catholic and traditional.

Traditional...Except the music for Mass, apparently. The reporter hears "Here I am, Lord" in the hall--the Glee Club preparing for Mass. Ugh. But overall, it's a positive article about a great school.

Read the article here.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Making an Entrance

Most of the building is still under construction, but the new grand entrance has opened! They really ought to fix that sign above, though.

Most of the building still looks like this:

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

If You Dig a Hole...

Seriously fun mapping tool will let you know where on Earth you'll come out if you dig a hole directly to the opposite side of the Earth. Dig straight, now, y'hear?

Mongolia to Argentina, right through the center of the Earth. Yeah.

A New CCD Class

Twice the size of last year's class! Eek! 18 kids who know nearly nothing about being Catholic! And just to put the pressure on, the DRE had the new priest from Poland sit in on my class. Luckily, my middle kids are my assistants for the year.

The first day of class is typically chaotic. With 18 children in the class, it may take a while to learn all the names, so I gave them an assessment to find out what they know. There's nothing like asking 18 4th graders the name of their parish in front of a priest and having only two students get the answer right. Not one knew the name of our pastor. No one knew the name of the pope. One student insisted that a different pope was at Mass each week. Another student insisted that the Pope stopped by for a CYO volleyball game last week. No one knew the name of our bishop. Father began whispering the answers to the students, and the students loved it! It was actually sweet to see them turn to him for the answers.

On the encouraging side, they all knew what sacraments they had received. Whew.

Next week is the opening Mass for the CCD students. The week after that, the fun really begins. Ahhh!

Jurrasic Beer?

"Sept. 23, 2008 -- Trapped inside a Lebanese weevil covered in ancient Burmese amber, a tiny colony of bacteria and yeast has lain dormant for up to 45 million years. A decade ago Raul Cano, now a scientist at the California Polytechnic State University, drilled a tiny hole into the amber and extracted more than 2,000 different kinds of microscopic creatures.

Activating the ancient yeast, Cano now brews barrels (not bottles) of pale ale and German wheat beer through the Fossil Fuels Brewing Company."

Read more at Discovery.com. I'd love to try this!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Madeline in Rome!

From Publisher's Weekly:

"In 1939, Ludwig Bemelmans’s iconic, feisty French heroine made her debut in Madeline, the first installment of a picture book series that has sold more than 11-million copies worldwide. Now, the author’s grandson, John Bemelmans Marciano, sends the gregarious girl and her 11 fellow convent-school students on holiday in Madeline and the Cats of Rome."

Read more!

I Just Can't Concentrate

Things are crazy here. We had a major incident on a rental property we own (no one injured, thank God!), and now, the new dog is in heat (which is, actually, much more stressful). That was never a problem when I was a kid. But then, we did not have an uneutered male dog in the house. Of all the stupid things...Indy won't stop barking, and we must keep them apart. As an afterthought, I called a local neuter clinic, but they won't touch a 10 year old dog. We cannot have Circe spayed until this whole ordeal is over.

On the other hand, at least this is the first full week of outside-the-house activities! It turns out, though, that when we are not home, Indy stops barking. The good thing is that while he is sequestered in the cellar, no one can hear him...outside the house. If the weather holds, we can do all our school work out there. If it begins to rain, forget it.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Trick Bread Pudding, without Raisins

There are two things I wish to avoid on this blog...politics and recipes. It's not that I don't love and follow both, but there are so many blogs dedicated to one, the other, or both that I would feel superfluous in the blogosphere. But then there's bread pudding.

I first tried bread pudding as a 12 year old. My mother had a new friend at work who invited us over for tennis and bread pudding. I tried it, and I hated it. I suspect my dislike of it was due to disappointment; I liked pudding (chocolate, butterscotch), and I liked bread, but combining them was odd. And then there were raisins, which, for all my life, I have considered rude impostors of real treats (like chocolate chips).

Since then, I have grown not only to like bread pudding, but to be rather good at making it in various forms. Those of you who know that I have very limited cooking facilities available to me won't be surprised to hear that I make a mean toaster-oven bread pudding. And it's easy. I rarely have stale bread, but a bit of cinnamon bread, dried in the toaster, does the trick. The second trick is the cinnamon bread itself. No need to keep fancy spices from the East Indies on hand when there is cinnamon bread available at the bakery outlet. Here's the recipe:

Coat the bottom of a glass baking dish with melted butter, spread cubed bread in the dish...how much? Hmm. Maybe 7 slices, gently torn into rough cubes. Mix 1/4 cup of skim milk with 1/4 cup of light cream...or use 1/2 cup of whole milk, if you like. Warm the milk mixture slightly in the microwave, but don't boil it! Add a bit of vanilla, if you like. Whisk three eggs and 1/3 cup of sugar together, and add to the milk/cream. Pour the entire mixture over the bread, and press bread gently until the mixture is soaked in. Bake at 325 degrees for 70 minutes, or until the top is crisp. Serve hot, with cream.

See? No raisins!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Mathematical Insight

Me: Just pretend your math problems are a puzzle, and it'll be fun!

Paul: Yeah, but it's like the puzzle pieces are all blank, and I have to put it together by matching up the edges.

Me: And interesting challenge, isn't it?

Paul: (smiles) OK!

Math zips right along. Fascinating.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

An Episode of Nature Nearby

I thought those of you studying earth science this year, especially those NYers, might enjoy an episode of this online series.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

My Brother Pete Came By

We met up with him at a pub called "Trinity." Well, at least his girlfriend looks good!

We drove to my brother Tom's house, where Pete played "babaloo" and put his feet on the table. I wonder what great-great-great grandfather Robert Faulkner (pictured in portrait) would have thought. He and Pete seem to have similar hairstyles.

Tom and his lovely wife played music, and we sang.

Annika contemplates bar tending.

Pete plays a round of our favorite game: Make Trip Laugh. (Similar to the long-running game show, Make Joan Baez Smile)

We have a winner! During the "Speed Dial" round, in which the contestant must press a random button on a cell phone that is handed to him, Pete got our mother, who was on her way to Alaska, on the phone (she was sleeping in Seattle). With encouragement from Paul, Pete pretended to be Trip as he asked "Grannie" to come home now and make him a cake. Yes, he made Trip (and the rest of us) laugh!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Osprey...Where Won't They Nest?

Remember way back in the days of DDT, when osprey were threatened and even endangered in certain areas? Well, they're back!

The state provides these wonderful nesting poles, and a smart osprey nests there (click on the photo for a closer look):

The nesting poles provide the osprey pair with great views of the bay (wouldn't you just love to live in that bayhouse?):
And yet they still try and nest on the Exit 10 sign!
(Due to the lack of beach traffic during our brief encounter with Hannah, we were able to pull over and take this photo!)

Derham the Astronomer?

You never know what you might stumble across in the internet. I Just found "Derham's Catalog of 16 Nebulous Stars" online, published in 1733. It turns out that 12 of the 16 objects listed don't exist, but kept Messier looking for a while!! Too funny.

Funnier still, my kids already knew about William Derham the astronomer and Anglican clergyman. "Oh,yeah," said Paul. "He did some work on the speed of sound, too." Ah, the internet.

Of course, there's no evidence at the moment that he is any relation of my dh, but the fact that he was an astronomer, clergyman, physician, and Chaplain to the Prince of Wales is enough to make anyone bearing the name of Derham proud.

Also, what a great beginning to a deep-space astronomy lesson!

Updates...what a Week!

Actually, I was just too lazy to post much.

Let's see. Trip completes his first full week of 11th grade this week, and we met his teachers on Tuesday night. They all seem like good guys, and two, his German and English teachers, he has had before. On a funny note, I was sitting next to a friend during the beginning of P-T night, and we compared the schedules our dear sons had written out for us. Their hand writing was remarkably the same. "Oh, did you use Seton?" she asked. "No. We used nothing." The story of how Trip learned to read and write is still shrouded in mystery.

Annika auditioned for The Tempest at Trip's school and was cast in the ensemble. That's exciting! The directors are the best, and all the school productions are over-the-top and lavishly set. Of course, she is thrilled. We are too! Tickets will be available to the public, and are usually around $5, so bring the family to see The Tempest!! I'll post the dates as soon as I know them.

Paul has spent a good deal of time over the past couple of weeks making sling shots. Inspired by the weapons for sale at the Scottish Games, he imitated the design and added his own touch, experimenting with different woods--walnut, apple, maple--to see which make the best sling-shots. I forgot to tell him that when working with the walnut wood, it is best to leave the bark on, as the juices will stain hands and clothing. He found that out for himself, in the end. He then gave a few of his creations to his friends. Nice, Paul!

Libby has settled into college life. She loves her classes, except the ethics class where the professor expects the students to put aside their personal religious views and evaluate their readings without any faith-informed bias. Even the more liberal students in the class are complaining, and the professor is getting huffy, as Libby put it. The students are planning some kind of insurrection. Frankly, I think the class would be way more interesting and valuable if the answers were faith-informed. That way, the students would get a variety of viewpoints, rather than a bland, homogenized and drearily meaningless "ethical" outlook. The class is well-balanced enough between liberal and conservative students (who are all friends) to provide a wonderful opportunity for debate and discussion. Unfortunately, it sounds as though all will be squelched.

My mother is on her way to Alaska. I hope she takes pictures. She says "hi" to everyone.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

What Happens When the LHC is Acitivated?

Funny thing is, scientists have theories, but they don't really know. It's pretty exciting stuff, at least from a physicist's point of view. Steven Hawking does not think we'll see the so-called "God's (Higgs) particle." I say, Bosons for all!! But what will we really see? We may learn something very new about mass.

Trip, speculating after reading the news, suggested that it was a good thing the collider is under France...and a better thing that the Swiss are involved. I wonder what he means? ;)

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Just Ahead of Hannah, at the Sea

The local fishing fleet is prepared in the bay.

Earth science students inspect erosion.

Paul is about to learn a lesson...


Ever turn your back on the sea!

Meanwhile, up the beach a bit,

Trip decides to fly a kite.

A strong wind pulls the kite away...

But not too far up.

The kite is not "V" shaped, under normal flying conditions.

Uh oh. We lost a piece of the tail.

Damage control.

We'll try and get back tomorrow. Meanwhile, see the rest of the photos here.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Clear the Beach!

Not because of hurricane Hannah, which will reach us on Sunday, most likely as a strong tropical breeze with rain, but because of mosquito spraying. A park worker came around to each person at the beach yesterday to tell us that the beach was closing at 5:30 on Thursday and Friday, so we had to clear out early (this time of year, we usually have until 8pm).

Here at home, the mosquitoes are dreadful. The whole village has complained about them, and since both West Nile and equine encephalitis are problems, I was really hoping for a bit of spray...just a bit. But not at the beach, where we never encounter any mosquitoes.

The latest news: They have canceled tonight's spraying festivities due to possible high winds.

Homeschooling in the UK

And beyond. And the author shares my opinion on field trips:

We had enjoyable educational trips...Instead of learning about the eruptions of Mount Vesuvius from a text book, Alex and I climbed up to the rim and peered into the still-smoking crater. We visited Pompeii and Oplontis to see the parts of Roman civilisation that had been preserved by the most famous of its eruptions.

Read the rest.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Personal Problems in Earth Science

The conversational education method does have some drawbacks.

I asked for input, and both 9th graders decided they'd rather do an in-depth earth science unit before tackling biology. OK. No problem! Their friends are doing earth science, so it'll be a group effort. We began by discussing places we've been with obvious geological learning opportunities.

"Sands Point!"
"That copper mine!"

Then, things turned ugly...

"My copper bracelet broke. It needs a new clasp."
"You know, Libby took my copper earrings and never gave them back..."
"Yeah, well, you borrow stuff of mine all the time..."

At that moment, Trip called for a ride home (he only had one hour of school today). Saved by the bell; I'm going to the beach.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Is Daydreaming in Your Child's Schedule?

Nice article from the Boston Globe, on daydreaming and creativity, that may be a bit of a wake-up call to those raised on TV (with my emphases, bold):

Teresa Belton, a research associate at East Anglia University in England, first got interested in daydreaming while reading a collection of stories written by children in elementary school. Although Belton encouraged the students to write about whatever they wanted, she was startled by just how uninspired most of the stories were.

"The tales tended to be very tedious and unimaginative," Belton says, "as if the children were stuck with this very restricted way of thinking. Even when they were encouraged to think creatively, they didn't really know how."

After monitoring the daily schedule of the children for several months, Belton came to the conclusion that their lack of imagination was, at least in part, caused by the absence of "empty time," or periods without any activity or sensory stimulation.

Sounds creepy, but it gets worse...

She noticed that as soon as these children got even a little bit bored, they simply turned on the television: the moving images kept their minds occupied. "It was a very automatic reaction," she says. "Television was what they did when they didn't know what else to do."

hh! Don't let this happen to your kids! Encourage daydreaming and lose the TV! Go outside! Camp, hike, climb, breathe, dream...and let the kids daydream, too. It's not a waste of time; it's part of a creative life.

Read the whole article here.


A good friend brought some Honest Kids juice pouches to the beach yesterday. Her son poked in his straw, took a long sip, and said in the most honest way imaginable (with a face to match), "This tastes like Tylenol!"

Monday, September 1, 2008

The Last Day of Pool

There is nothing quite as sad as the last day of swimming in the beach club pool. A crowd gathers, the whistle blows, and everyone jumps in for one last swim before the pool is evacuated. Some linger after closing, hoping for one brave lad or lass to jump the fence and hop in (or, "pool hop" as it's called) after the pool is closed...but a new policy and a strong police presence prevents anyone from indulging this year.

P tries to convince T to jump in one last time.

Everybody out!

The saddest face of summer.

A and friend S lament the closing of the pool.

T takes one last look as the sun sets over the pool.

Luckily for the homeschoolers among us, the beach club is open until Columbus Day, and the ocean will be warm, and the sand will remain perfect for sandcastles!