Thursday, September 18, 2014

Another Thursday

BONEYARD:  This morning, the kids got right on their science homework, constructing a boxy, cardstock skeleton.

There were lots of pieces to cut out and holes to punch.
Happily, their specimens came together as prescribed. Now, they're having fun posing them around the house. 

We listened to the  Delta Rhythm Boys perform "Dem Bones" while doing some of the constructing.

BREATHE DEEP:  We're back to weekly yoga for the kids with the amazing Nicole of Next Generation Yoga. This series of classes is conveniently (for us) located in Ballard. 
While the kids were in class, Christian and I wandered Ballard Avenue and would up going in a place called Macleod's, a Scottish pub. We thought that a fitting stop given the voting that went on today in Scotland. 
They had a really cool map of Scotland painted on their ceiling, and lots of other Scotland-related decor. 
They had Scottish election coverage on the television, which was interesting. When we picked the kids up, we talked a bit about what the election means for England and Scotland.

GAMEY: I should have included this photo yesterday. It's of Annabelle's super cute, original game she created in art class on Wednesday morning. 
I love the unicorn game pieces. ::

ANOTHER WAY:  I watched a video this morning explaining the "box multiplication" method

We've always done it the 'normal' way here at MPA.
I thought it would be good to introduce the kids to another way to skin the cat, so to speak. 
To me, the approach makes lots of sense. In fact, I think it does a better job of helping kids visualize what they're doing and see the big picture, instead of just computing as fast as they can.

Not gonna lie, though, the kids struggled with this 'easier' approach, because it was new and different. We're going to hit it up again tomorrow and see if it maybe sunk in a bit overnight.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Dem Bones

SKELETAL:  Wednesday is our 'school' day, where we actually go to a bricks and mortar place for some learnin'.  Annabelle created a board game in her art class this morning, and this afternoon in science, the kids continued learning about the skeletal system. 

Last week, they learned there are 206 bones in the human body. For my kids, that number is easy to remember, as 206 is the area code for Seattle. :)

Today, they worked on assembling skeletons. Mercifully, there were not 206 parts; it was significantly simplified. 
It was fun watching the students use logic to figure out which bones went where. Of course, there were some comical mistakes along the way, but that's how we learn!

In the end, they all got the hip bone connected to the thigh bone, etc.

HISTORY LESSON: We started our morning with Emmett Sullivan of the University of London and professor of our "The Camera Never Lies," a class we're taking via Coursera.

More specifically, we listened to Emmett interview Julio Etchart. Born in Uruguay, Etchart has an impressive body of work, including his images from the 1980s in Chile, during the uprising and struggle for freedom from the Pinochet dictatorship.

From an artistic standpoint, this class has been fascinating. And today, listening to Etchart, we learned so much about the composition of a compelling photograph, especially in a tense situation. But this class has been so much more than an art lesson. Via the photos we've been compelled to study for our homework we've learned volumes about the Korean War, the Chilean uprising, the U.S. Intervention in Somalia in the early 1990s, and so much more. 

It might not be the typical curriculum for fourth and sixth graders, but in the grand scheme of things, I think it all evens out.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Stars and Diamonds

DIAMOND DANCE: I have been sitting on these photos since the weekend, when we went to a Mariners' game. 

Saturday was billed as a special event: "Night Court."  Every time Felix Hernandez pitches, there is a "King's court" section in the ballpark where everyone wears a gold shirt and roots for the former Cy Young winner.  Well Saturday night, they passed out 35,000 "King Felix" shirts in hopes of revving up the crowd as the Mariners chase a play off spot.
Felix pitched his heart out, but to no avail. The Mariners' bats were cold as ice.
One of the bright spots (literally) of the night was that it was salute to Latin America Beisbol night, so we were treated to some great music and dancers in colorful costumes. 

STAR TALK:  We spent some time today reviewing last night's enthralling evening - attending an event with Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson. Without further ado, I'll just let the kids tell you what they thought of the program. Annabelle's up first. ... 
On September 15, 2014, I went to see a very famous scientist, Neil deGrasse Tyson, in the Paramount Theater. My family and I sat in the very back of the theater, but we had a great view. I enjoyed sitting there. 
He showed us many things, including which countries discovered which elements, a little speck of pale blue on a photo of Saturn that we call "Earth," and why he shouldn't get the blame for Pluto being demoted from planetary status (he told people to GET OVER IT). 
He made lots of jokes, including a time where one of his images was loading, and the projection was black. He joked about how it was the first color photo of a black hole ever. Most everyone in the theater laughed at one point.
So many people came to the show it was sold out! There were absolutely tons of people watching deGrasse Tyson, and the crowd was very patient and quiet. At points, you couldn't even hear a single person talking!
He also showed things such as the earth in TV shows before we went to the moon- such as in the Star Trek intro- had NO CLOUDS! He also joked about say, an alien visiting our planet, and being like: "Hey there! What are you guys using for energy these days? We're using solar energy from a bunch of the stars in our universe!" And humans would say, "Um, well, we're kind of drilling into the ground and using oil that ISN'T REPLACEABLE," and how the aliens would laugh and laugh and LAUGH!
Near the end, there was a Q&A section, in which people asked questions, such as if he had any tips for starting teachers. One 6-year-old asked what the smallest particle in the world was, and Neil Tyson admitted that he didn't know, like a good scientist would. He even gave a woman that said he inspired her a hug!
Overall, the show was fun, entertaining, and cool. I really liked hearing Neil deGrasse Tyson talk about how many countries have science heroes on their bills and such. For instance, our country has Ben Franklin.  However, he was put there as a founding father instead of a scientist.

I loved being there to see the show.

And here are CJ's impressions ...

Yesterday, on September 15th, we went to see Neil deGrasse Tyson at the Paramount Theatre, a 2,807-seat performing arts venue at 9th Avenue and Pine Street in Downtown Seattle. Neil deGrasse Tyson is known for being an astrophysicist, being the current Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the Rose Center for Earth and Space, a research associate in the department of astrophysics at the American Museum of Natural History, and having recently hosted the primetime show “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey,” the sequel to Carl Sagan's 1980 thirteen-part television series “Cosmos: A Personal Voyage”.
We arrived at the Paramount at about 6:30 P.M, but the show started about an hour later. A lady walked on the stage and introduced Neil, even though presumably the entire audience knew who he is. When Neil deGrasse Tyson actually came on stage, one of the first things he talked about was Pluto, and how he has a entire cabinet full of hate mail thanks to the fact that Pluto isn't a legit planet anymore.  Children who probably aren't even in fourth grade yet and have a bizzare sense of logic sent him letters, including one child who I presume was in, at tops, second grade. That student addressed Neil as "ScIEtEst" and told him that people "might" live on Pluto and that if Pluto isn't a full planet now, they wouldn't exist. News flash: Something that once was a planet being reclassified as a dwarf planet wouldn't just suddenly wipe out all life on it.
Another thing Neil talked about was the periodic table of elements, but let's get more specific about it. Neil deGrasse Tyson had a chart of the periodic table that had a slider on it that showed how complete the table was over the years. Elements that were colored blue on his chart were known to the ancients, things like sulfur. The slider went on a scale from white to dark green, I think white was in the 1660s, while the shade of green on the right was 2003. The color an element had on his chart represented when it was discovered. In the beginning, in the 1660s, our periodic table just has a little more than what the ancients had discovered, making it pretty wimpy by today's standards. However, as Neil moved the slider along, you could see that more and more elements were getting discovered until we got to the periodic table that we use today. 
Why don't we remember something that Carl Sagan said from his iconic Pale Blue Dot speech? 
"The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner. How frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of pale light."
Think about that statement for a moment. One thing Neil deGrasse Tyson brought up were the infamous events of September 11th, 2001. On that day, Al Qaeda became infamous for crashing some planes in a terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, an event that would forever change our nation. Neil deGrasse Tyson showed us some photographs of the event that he took on his camcorder on the screen in the theatre, and I think I know the point Neil was trying to make: Humans kill. Humans are bloodthirsty. Humans have killed more living creatures on this planet than any other creature ever known to mankind, and often that is because they're looking for two things: Attention and fear of them. Carl Sagan was right when he said that “we spill so many rivers of blood just so we could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a tiny dot.”
One of the last things Neil did was say that he would read from "The book of Sagan" and he recited the entirety of Carl Sagan's Pale Blue Dot speech right in front of us.
Overall, I think Neil deGrasse Tyson's presentation at the Paramount Theatre was very fascinating.

And what did I think of our evening? It was, quite simply, fabulous. Seriously, I don't think I've ever seen an audience that size so rapt. Picture 2,800-plus people enthralled by a PowerPoint presentation about the periodic table!! :) And who said nerds don't know how to have a good time?! 

There was only thing that bothered me about the whole thing was the lack of children in the audience.  As CJ noted, we got to the venue early, so hung out awhile pre-show, and in the hundreds upon hundreds of people we saw, I only saw two other kids, both boys, and ZERO girls.  Seems to me there should have been more than a handful of kids in an audience of 2,800!  We need kids to get excited about science, and no one today makes science seem any cooler than Neil deGrasse Tyson, that's for sure!

BIG BANG:   Months ago, the kids both completed a short history course via Big History Project. I like them on Facebook, and today, I saw a post from them about a comic book all about the Big Bang. Cool! We spent some time together this afternoon reading it. It was a nice follow up to last night's presentation.

MUSIC MATTERS: We started our morning by listening to Caspar Babypants (Chris Ballew of The Presidents of the United States of America) perform a live set in studio at KEXP. Ballew is always entertaining.

This afternoon the kids worked on learning the Barenaked Ladies' song "If I Had a Million Dollars." The chords are easy enough, but there are lots of words, which means lots of opportunities for train wrecks. They muddled through, however. 

During dinner this evening, we enjoyed a bunch of T-Rex songs.  Lead singer Marc Bolan was killed in a car wreck 37 years ago today. I have to say, the music he made still sounds so sweet.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Dr. Tyson

STELLAR:  Monday evening we had the enormous pleasure of spending three hours with Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson at the historic Paramount theater in Seattle.

We had "cheap" seats, but that didn't matter. He was challenging and inspiring and compelling from first word to last, and we'll post a full report tomorrow, as the hour is late now.
To end his presentation he read "from the book of Carl" (to quote him), reciting Sagan's "Pale Blue Dot" .

KHAAAAN!:  This morning's math lesson was all about finding the area of a triangle. First, we talked about a triangle's base and height, and then we watched a Khan Academy video about calculating the area.

The video was great, and when the kids went to their workbooks to complete some exercises, CJ said, "This is easy!"

Friday, September 12, 2014

Still Summer

LOOPY: We're in mid September and summer seems to be doing its best to hang on, so we felt compelled to get out in it. 

We've walked on the trail next to Green Lake many a time, but we've never walked all the way around the lake, until today.

We parked on the lake's west side, not too far north of the rowing center, and then we were off! There are always a bazillion or so people walking the path around the lake (one reason we stay away, frankly), and today was no exception. 

We saw signs all around the lake warning people not to come in contact with the water due to algae bloom. That mean CJ and Annabelle didn't have a whole lot to worry about when they pulled lifeguard duty. Above they're watching the east shore, and below, they're on watch on the west beach. 
Our 3-mile circuit gave us views of lovely trees, shorelines, ducks, and heron. 
Here, the kids enjoy gently bobbing on a dock near the rowing center. 

MUSIC: We are are enjoying the heck out of our History of Rock Pt. 2 class via Coursera. It 'forces' us to listen to great music on a daily basis. That's my kind of homework! You know things are good when your 9-year-old asks, "Can we listen to some Tower of Power?"

As always, Annabelle is taking lecture notes in doodle form. Here, she contemplates the fact that I admitted (apologetically), I really REALLY don't like Creedence Clearwater Revival.
 And here is a sketch of the battle between disco, the hippie aesthetic and punk rock music.
 And here's a sketch from the lecture on theatrical rock (think Alice Cooper, KISS and David Bowie).

Thursday, September 11, 2014


DAY OF REMEMBRANCE: Here we are again. Another 9/11.

Last year on this day, we were in New York. 

It's hard to describe the palpable mood of New Yorkers on that day. "Smothering sadness" comes to mind. Clearly, when it comes to 9/11, they are still the walking wounded. With good reason.

Riding the subway, everyone was silent, eyes downcast, except for nervous glances about the cars, wondering if some idiot copycat had any ideas. NYPD were on the subway cars we rode. Their presence was both reassuring and a painful reminder of how vulnerable we all are.
Speaking of which, today I about had a heart attack. The kids and I were coming home from a run to Renton, south of town. As we headed back up I-5 there's one part on the freeway where it curves and suddenly Seattle is laid out in front of you. It's usually stunningly beautiful, but today it horrified me, as a growing TOWER of black smoke hung over the city. Clearly there was a large fire in progress. My heart started pounding and I immediately thought it might be a 9/11 copycat. I wonder how many other drivers around me were thinking the same thing. I dove for the radio dial to change it to an all news station. Within a couple of minutes I found out it was "only" a five-story apartment building on Capitol Hill on fire - not a terrorist attack. Relief (no one was hurt in the fire, thankfully), but, darn it, it also drove home how that day of terrorist attacks was a paradigm shift. 
Last year, we visited the State of Liberty and the 9/11 memorial on 9/10. Our recollections and photos are here:
THE BASEBALL PROJECT:  Thanks to a Facebook post by Seattle radio station KEXP, we learned about a live, streaming concert on the radio this afternoon by a group called The Baseball Project. Intrigued by anything baseball, we tuned in online.  Turns out it's a super group of baseball loving musicians (including Peter Buck and Mike Mills, formerly of REM), and all of their songs are about the nation's pastime. Baseball + rock 'n' roll?! Squee!!!

Their lead off song was was "Box Scores," which delightfully captures the allure of poring over box scores in the morning paper.

The second song they played was "13" about "a kid from Seattle and how it all went wrong" (they're talking to you Alex Rodriguez). Next on deck was "They Don't Know Henry," which they introduced as being bout "the greatest Brave of all" (Hank Aaron).  

Their closer was the rollicking "Hola America!" It's a song about Cuban baseball players making their way to America. To my ear it sounds like something Iggy Pop would record. Loved it!

If you're so inclined, you can watch a half hour set they played in Portland a couple years back here:

ARE WE THERE YET?: Since landing on the Red Planet in August of 2012, Mars Science Laboratory has been making its way toward its prime destination: Mount Sharp. Today, NASA announced the rover is there.

The press release described Mount Sharp as "a Mount-Rainier-size mountain at the center of the vast Gale Crater." The kids and I stopped for a moment to ponder Curiosity sitting at the base of Mount Rainier, a fixture on our landscape.

Per the presser, "Curiosity’s trek up the mountain will begin with an examination of the mountain's lower slopes. The rover is starting this process at an entry point near an outcrop called Pahrump Hills, rather than continuing on to the previously-planned, further entry point known as Murray Buttes. Both entry points lay along a boundary where the southern base layer of the mountain meets crater-floor deposits washed down from the crater’s northern rim."
Here's a video about today's development.

FAMILIAR FACE: Interesting news today that the art that inspired the Seahawks' original logo back in 1976 has likely been found ... in a museum in Maine!

For years, there has been speculation about the genesis of the original Seahawks' logo, which I'll post here (noting the NFL and the Seahakws own the rights to it).

Today, a story in the Seattle PI reports the inspiration for the logo is in possession of the Hudson Museum at the University of Maine. It's a transformation mask, and the inside is super intriguing, so it has been displayed in an open position, which is, perhaps, why it wasn't widely recognized as the Seahawks' inspiration all along. 

I don't want to post the photos since I don't know them to be public property, but here's the inside of the mask:

And here's a link to the PI article with the photo of the outside of the mask. I think you'll agree, it's a dead-ringer for the Seahawks' logo: 

It is believed it was carved from cedar in the late 19th or early 20th century.

The Burke Museum has started an online fundraiser to get money needed ($7500) to pay for transporting the mask to the PacNW for display. When I checked this evening, they were 70 percent of the way toward their goal! Can't wait to see the original Seahawk!

STELLAR SELFIE: After 10 years of travel, the European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft recently arrived in very close proximity to its intended target, a comet!
Photo: ESA/Rosetta/Philae/CIVA

The "selfie" above was captured with the comet in the background, about 30 miles away from Rosetta. In the not-too-distant future, Rosetta will send out a lander, Phiae, to rendesvous with the comet. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Back at It

FALL BALL:  This evening, before the Mariners' game came on, we headed up to the park to take some B.P. It had been way too long since the kids had swung a bat, so first they had to knock a little rust off, so to speak. However, soon they were in mid-season form. ;)
Kirby and Laika watched the action from the dugout. Or the dogout. Or the dogpen. ... 

SPRING FLOWERS:  While we were up in Shoreline today, we stopped by Sky Nursery to pick up the kids Junior Gardener's club gifts for September. They each came home with a big ol' daffodil bulb and planting instructions.  The cashier told the kids they should wait until late October or early November to plant. I said, "Perfect, we'll plant them on Halloween - that's easy to remember!"

SCHOOL DAY: Today marked the kids first classes of the year in Shoreline. Annabelle enjoyed art this morning, and then this afternoon they both attended their Science Detectives class, and a new offering, "Get a Clue," which is about investigations. 

Last week, they had some school photos taken. We got prints of them today. Nice!
They're certainly easier on the eyes than this self portrait CJ made today in the library.