June 29, 2007

More food for thought: connections and disconnections

I've been cogitating for the past week or so on the things I read in Natalie Angier's science book The Canon, partly in preparation for my regurgitation earlier today and partly in preparation for the kids' science studies next year (informal plans for which I hope to post before too long). So everything was rolling around in my head quite nicely when my I started to read one of the books from my father's recent parcel*, Barbara Kingsolver's latest, the nonfiction Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, just published in May and which I'm enjoying very much. It sounds very much of a piece with her 2002 book of essays Small Wonder, which JoVE has mentioned at least once to me in her comments here. (My request was down pretty low on the interlibrary loan list, but after opening the package, I canceled the hold and requested Small Wonder instead.)

So on page 11 of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, I discovered this passage (emphasis mine),
Many bright people are really in the dark about vegetable life. Biology teachers face kids in classrooms who may not even believe in the metamorphosis of bud to flower to fruit and seed, but rather, some continuum of pansies becoming petunias becoming chrysanthemums; that's the only reality they witness as landscapers come to campuses and city parks and surreptitiously yank out one flower before it fades from its prime, replacing it with another. (My biology-professor brother pointed this out to me.) The same disconnection from natural processes may be at the heart of our country's shift away from believing in evolution. In the past, principles of natural selection and change over time made sense to kids who'd watched it all unfold. Whether or not they knew the terms, farm families understood the processes well enough to imitate them: culling, selecting, and improving their herds and crops. For modern kids who intuitively believe in the spontaneous generation of fruits and vegetables in the produce section, trying to get their minds around the slow speciation of the plant kingdom may be a stretch.
What Kingsolver's husband, Steven Hopp, a biology professor, calls "agricultural agnostics" (he and their daughter Camille are co-authors of the book, by the way). Which of course handily echoes what I had read not too long before in The Canon (one of the bits I posted earlier today):
Farmers, too, were natural scientists. They understood the nuances of seasons, climate, plant growth, the do-si-do between parasite and host [and this is much more true of present-day farmers who farm in more traditional, less conventional methods without synthetic chemicals that kill the parasite and injure the host]. The scientific curiosity that entitled our nation's Founding Fathers to membership in Club Renaissance, Anyone? had agrarian roots. ...

"The average adult American today knows less about biology than the average ten-year-old living in the Amazon, or than the average American of two hundred years ago," said Andrew Knoll, a professor of natural history at Harvard's Earth and Planetary Sciences Department.
There's a reason this place is called Farm School and there's a reason we're not budging.

Of course, The Canon goes off in one direction, toward science education, and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, toward another. Here's a hint:
When we walked as a nation away from the land, our knowledge of food production fell away from us like dirt in a laundry-soap commercial. Now, it's fair to say, the majority of us don't want to be farmers, see farmers, pay farmers, or hear their complaints. Except as straw-chewing figures in children's books, we don't quite believe in them anymore. When we give it a thought, we mostly consider the food industry to be a thing rather than a person. We obligignly give 85 cents of our every food dollar to that thing, too -- the processors, marketers, and transporters. And we compalin about the high price of organic meats and vegetables that might send back more than three nickels per buck back to the farmers: those actual humans putting seeds in the ground, harvesting, attending livestock births, standing in the fields at dawn castin gtieir shadwos upon our sustenance. There seems to be some reason we don't want to compensate or think about these hardworking eople. In the grocery store checkout corral, we're more likely to learn which TV stars are secretly fornicating than to inquire as to the whereabouts of the people who grew the cucumbers and melons in our carts.
Much as Michael Pollan did last year with his Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, Kingsolver urges us to rememember that we are what we eat and reconsider what we put in our mouths. Kingsolver does it by eating locally and tending her own patch of earth as lyrically as she writes.

Which reminds me of this article, on farmers who write, from last week's New York Times (I think it's a pesky Times Select story, so if Bug Me Not doesn't work, email me and we'll sort things out). To even things out, here are some free recipes from the Animal, Vegetable, Miracle website.

Now off to the farmers' market with you!

* Also in the package -- thanks, Pop -- and on the go at the moment:

The Fight for English: How language pundits ate, shot, and left by David Crystal, inspired, as you can no doubt tell, by Lynne Truss's Eats, Shoots & Leaves

The Unfinished Canadian: The People We Are by Andrew Cohen

Poetry Friday: Poems for the First and Fourth

A Happy Canada Day and Happy Independence Day to all, with some poems to mark the occasions.

Rivers of Canada
by Bliss Carman (1861-1929)

O all the little rivers that run to Hudson's Bay,
They call me and call me to follow them away.

Missinaibi, Abitibi, Little Current--where they run
Dancing and sparkling I see them in the sun.

I hear the brawling rapid, the thunder of the fall,
And when I think upon them I cannot stay at all.

At the far end of the carry, where the wilderness begins,
Set me down with my canoe-load -- and forgiveness of my sins.

O all the mighty rivers beneath the Polar Star,
They call me and call me to follow them afar.

Peace and Athabasca and Coppermine and Slave,
And Yukon and Mackenzie--the highroads of the brave.

Saskatchewan, Assiniboine, the Bow and the Qu'Appelle,
And many a prairie river whose name is like a spell.

They rumor through the twilight at the edge of the unknown,
"There's a message waiting for you, and a kingdom all your own.

"The wilderness shall feed you, her gleam shall be your guide.
Come out from desolations, our path of hope is wide."

O all the headlong rivers that hurry to the West,
They call me and lure me with the joy of their unrest.

Columbia and Fraser and Bear and Kootenay,
I love their fearless reaches where winds untarnished play--

The rush of glacial water across the pebbly bar
To polished pools of azure where the hidden boulders are.

Just there, with heaven smiling, any morning I would be,
Where all the silver rivers go racing to the sea.

O well remembered rivers that sing of long ago,
Ajourneying through summer or dreaming under snow.

Among their meadow islands through placid days they glide,
And where the peaceful orchards are diked against the tide.

Tobique and Madawaska and shining Gaspereaux,
St. Croix and Nashwaak and St. John whose haunts I used to know.

And all the pleasant rivers that seek the Fundy foam,
They call me and call me to follow them home.

Carman, Canada's unofficial poet laureate and a cousin of Canadian poet Charles G.D. Roberts, wrote this c1925.

And, for the Fourth:

I Am an American
by Elias Lieberman

I am an American
father belongs to the Sons of the Revolution;
My mother, to the Colonial Dames.
One of my ancestors pitched tea overboard in Boston Harbor;
Another stood his ground with Warren;
Another hungered with Washington at Valley Forge.
My forefathers were America in the making:
They spoke in her council halls;
They died on her battlefields;
They commanded her ships;
They cleared her forests.
Dawns reddened and paled.
Staunch hearts of mine beat fast at each new star
In the nation's flag.
Keen eyes of mine foresaw her greater glory:
The sweep of her seas,
The plenty of her plains,
The man-hives in her billion-wired cities.
Every drop of blood in me holds a heritage of patriotism.
I am proud of my past.
I am an American.

I am an American.
My father was an atom of dust,
My mother a straw in the wind,
To his serene majesty.
One of my ancestors died in the mines of Siberia;
Another was crippled for life by twenty blows of the knout;
Another was killed defending his home during the massacres.
The history of my ancestors is a trail of blood
To the palace gate of the Great White Czar.
But then the dream came
The dream of America.
In the light of the Liberty torch
The atom of dust became a man
And the straw in the wind became a woman
For the first time.
"See," said my father, pointing to the flag that fluttered near,
"That flag of stars and stripes is yours;
It is the emblem of the promised land,
It means, my son, the hope of humanity.
Live for it die for it!"
Under the open sky of my new country I swore to do so;
And every drop of blood in me will keep that vow.
I am proud of my future.

I am an American.

Elias Lieberman, an educator and poet, was born in Russia in 1883 and arrived in the U.S. at the age of seven. He and his family settled in New York City, and Lieberman graduated from City College. He worked as a teacher, at PS 62 and Bushwick High School, later becoming principal of Thomas Jefferson High School. In 1940, he was appointed Associate Superintendent of Schools, a post he held until his retirement 13 years later.

Lieberman served as an editor of the American humor magazine Puck in 1916 and was literary editor of The American Hebrew journal from 1916 to 1932. "I Am an American" is perhaps his best known work.

The round-up is over at Shaken & Stirred today. Thank you, Gwenda. Grab a glass and a swizzle stick, and enjoy a weekend a poetry, fireworks, and freedom.

Oh, and just a reminder: I do believe in either a weak moment or a brief flicker of responsibility I offered to host Poetry Friday here at Farm School next week, July 6th. So if you sometimes read this blog but haven't participated in Poetry Friday yet, I hope you'll think about sharing a favorite poem -- yours or your family's -- or even a poem you'd like to learn more about or share with your kids. Put your thinking caps on.

June 22, 2007

Poetry Friday: A warning to children

This poem is wonderful to read aloud, to any children nearby or just to yourself.

Warning to Children

by Robert Graves (1895-1985)

Children, if you dare to think
Of the greatness, rareness, muchness,
Fewness of this precious only
Endless world in which you say
You live, you think of things like this:
Blocks of slate enclosing dappled
Red and green, enclosing tawny
Yellow nets, enclosing white
And black acres of dominoes,
Where a neat brown paper parcel
Tempts you to untie the string.
In the parcel a small island,
On the island a large tree,
On the tree a husky fruit.
Strip the husk and cut the rind off:
In the centre you will see
Blocks of slate enclosed by dappled
Red and green, enclosed by tawny
Yellow nets, enclosed by white
And black acres of dominoes,
Where the same brown paper parcel --
Children, leave the string untied!
For who dares undo the parcel
Finds himself at once inside it,
On the island, in the fruit,
Blocks of slate about his head,
Finds himself enclosed by dappled
Green and red, enclosed by yellow
Tawny nets, enclosed by black
And white acres of dominoes,
But the same brown paper parcel
Still untied upon his knee.
And, if he then should dare to think
Of the fewness, muchness, rareness,
Greatness of this endless only
Precious world in which he says
He lives - he then unties the string.

From our secondhand copy of the Oxford Book of Poetry for Children, compiled by Edward Blishen with illustrations by Brian Wildsmith (OUP, 1963). Originally published in Graves's The Penny Fiddle: Poems for Children, 1960, illustrated by Edward Ardizzone.

* * *

Robert Graves was born at Wimbledon, England, in 1895. Though celebrated for his books, including his classic World War I autobiography and raw account of the war Good-Bye to All That (1929), and I, Claudius (1934), and work as a critic and classical scholar and translator, he considered himself foremost a poet. During the Battle of the Somme in 1916 he was badly wounded and left for dead. In 1929, he left England and eventually -- with brief stays in Cairo and, during the Spanish Civil War, the United States -- settled in Majorca, where lived until his death in 1985. For Michele at Scholar's Blog's thorough biography of Graves, go to her War Poets website, Counter-Attack.

The Robert Graves Archive is a marvelous online resource; it includes his poetry, audio files of Graves reading, multimedia resources, and various scholarly materials on the web.

* * *

A Wrung Sponge has today's round-up, and some Wallace Stevens. Thank you!

June 18, 2007

Jumping J, for JoVE, to see if it can be done...

Because I can't resist a challenge (there, another fact/habit about me...)

1. Famous singer/band: Jo Stafford, especially her album Jo + Jazz

2. Four letter word: jute

3. Street name: Jermyn Street, London

4. Color: jade green

5. Gifts/presents: jewels, or (more cheaply) jewel cases with favorite CDs and DVDs

6. Vehicle: jitney

7. Items on a menu: jicama with jerk chicken

8. Boy Name: James

9. Girl Name: Jane

10. Movie Title: The Journey (1959), Deborah Kerr, Yul Brynner; 1956 Budapest, and Ron Howard's movie debut. Sadly not on DVD yet, but I still have my homemade video.

11. Drink: juice

12. Occupation: jack-of-all-trades

13. Flower: Jacob's Ladder (I have taller ones with white flowers, and shorter ones with blue flowers, and both varieties smell heavenly)

15. Magazine: Jack & Jill, one of my favorite magazines as a child

16. US City: Jackson Hole, Wyoming

17. Pro Sports Team: Utah Jazz (NBA)

18. Reason for Being Late for Work: jail

19. Something You Throw Away: jetsam (and flotsam)

20. Things you shout: In a Viennese accent, "Jesus, Maria und Joseph!"

21. Cartoon character: Jerry, of Tom & Jerry

Eight things meme, and an extra

Camille at Book Moot tagged me some time ago for the Eight Habits/Things About Me meme. The taggee is supposed to list eight facts or habits about him- or herself, and, Camille explains,
The rules of the game are posted at the beginning before those facts/habits are listed. At the end of the post, the player then tags 8 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know that they have been tagged and asking them to read your blog.
Eight (not particularly interesting) habits/things about me, then:

1. I like lots of milk in my coffee (a friend in college used to ask me if I'd like a little coffee with my milk) and I drink it slowly. Which means it's almost always cold before I'm finished drinking. This is a trait I apparently inherited from my mother.

2. I sleep with socks on for most of the year.

3. Some items from my childhood scrapbook (before scrapbooking became a competitive sport): ticket stubs from the circus (Ringling Brothers, April 6, 1974) and a Mets game (vs. San Francisco, July 7, 1974); a pressed and dried edelweiss flower, a present from relatives after their trip to Europe; an autographed notes from Ezra Jack Keats ("It's been a pleasant sharing this afternoon with you") and Ben Lucien Burman ("with warmest good wishes from all us critters at Catfish Bend"), both of whom came to speak at my Puffin Books children's club meeting); and autographed photographs of Jimmy Cagney, Mae West, and Gene Kelly.

4. I can't fall asleep without reading a bit.

5. I don't have enough bookcases or bookshelves. I doubt that I ever will.

6. I miss Eugene T. Maleska.

7. For years until the kids were born, I had the same lunch every day -- a tuna sandwich and an apple. Then I decided it might be helpful to demonstrate that variety and moderation in all things are good.

8. I haven't used an ATM machine in the past twelve-and-a-half years.

I think most folks have been tagged, so I'll skip that part. But if you want to play along, go ahead, and leave the link in the comments, please.

Since I was so late with this one, I'll add an extra meme, Scattergories, that I haven't been tagged for, and that I've seen over at Frankie's Kitchen-Table Learners and at Karen's blog; the versions are a tad different (I opted for the one with flowers instead of celebrities, thereby avoiding bald Britney). Using the first letter of your (blog) name, come up with answers for the following categories:

Name: Becky

1. Famous singer/band: The Beatles.

2. 4 letter word: book

3. Street name: Broadway

4. Color: blue

5. Gifts/presents: books, to give and receive

6. Vehicle: boat

7. Items on a menu: Bananas Foster

8. Boy Name: Benjamin

9. Girl Name: Beth

10. Movie Title: The Best Years of Our Lives (1946); starring Myrna Loy, Frederic March, Dana Andrews, Virginia Mayo, Harold Russell, Teresa Wright, and Hoagy Carmichael. Directed by William Wyler. A World War II homecoming.

11. Drink: beer (Big Rock Pale Ale, from Calgary)

12. Occupation: bean counter

13. Flower: buffalo beans, one of my favorite Alberta wildflowers. They're coming to the end of their season now. Other wildflowers coming into bloom now -- bastard toadflax, pincushion beardtongue, northern bedstraw, field bindweed, blue-eyed grass, viper's bugloss, bunchberry, and butter-and-eggs.

15. Magazine: The Beaver, the magazine about Canadian history

16. US City: Boulder (and here's a Canadian one -- Brampton, Ontario)

17. Pro Sports Team: Boston Bruins (NHL)

18. Reason for Being Late for Work: Bushed. Or bushwacked.

19. Something You Throw Away: broken bits

20. Things you shout: Blast!

21. Cartoon character: Bugs Bunny.

Celebrate late Spring with a Country Fair!

The Country Fair of homeschooling is open again, so grab a lemonade or a cotton candy and meander through the barns or past the pie-eating contest...

Thanks, Doc, for taking the time to put it all together!

June 17, 2007

For the birds

Late last spring, the kids asked if we could have "bird school" all summer. So, in addition to our various field guides, we pulled all of the bird books off the shelves and grouped them together in the living room on the coffee table. Indoors and out, the kids read the various books themselves, to each other, and asked for readalouds of others. I kept meaning to put all of the titles in a post, but never got around to something so linky and time-consuming.

But Susan at Chicken Spaghetti has, in a recent post on Bird Books for Children that she and her son have been enjoying. The list includes books, websites, and blogs, including a link to Kelly at Big A little a's bird book bibliography earlier this year.

And don't forget Chris Barton's bird book post from last fall, either.

A better late than never reminder for the (Late) Late Spring Edition of Dawn's Field Days

Dawn at By Sun and Candlelight has this season's installment, in words and plentiful pictures, of the latest Field Day, just in time for late Spring. Rainbows, skinks, flowers, birds and bird books -- something for everyone, especially on an early Spring morning or a quiet, rainy day. Thank you, Dawn, for the wonderful idea and for continuing, season after season.

Keys to my heart

A very happy Father's and Grandpapa's Day to my father, and a happy Father's Day to Tom, with whom I'm also celebrating 13 lucky years of wedded bliss. He and the kids -- who made us a fabulous breakfast of homemade pancakes and bacon with whipped cream and fresh pineapple -- went out this morning to see our new bull, bought from a neighbor on Friday, and later today there just may be some fishing.

For Tom, my joy and only dear, from his Becky Thatcher,

The Key of My Heart
(traditional, author unknown)

Madam, I will give you a new lace cap,
With embroidery on the bottom and insertion at the top,
If you will be my bride, my joy, and only dear,
To walk and talk with me everywhere.

Sir, I will not accept of your new lace cap,
With embroidery on the bottom and insertion at the top,
I won't be your bride, your joy, and only dear,
To walk and talk with you everywhere.

Madam, I will give you a new silk gown,
With nineteen gold laces to lace it up and down,
If you will be my bride, my joy, and only dear,
To walk and talk with me everywhere.

Sir, I will not accept of your new silk gown,
With nineteen gold laces to lace it up and down,
I won't be your bride, your joy, and only dear,
To walk and talk with you everywhere.

Madam, I will give you a little silver bell,
To call up your servants if you should not feel well,
If you will be my bride, my joy, and only dear,
To walk and talk with me everywhere.

Sir, I will not accept of your little silver bell,
To call up my servants if I should not feel well,
I won't be your bride, your joy, and only dear,
To walk and talk with you everywhere.

Madam, I will give you a little greyhound,
Every hair upon its back worth a thousand pound,
If you will be my bride, my joy, and only dear,
To walk and talk with me everywhere.

Sir, I will not accept of your little greyhound,
Every hair upon its back worth a thousand pound,
I won't be your bride, your joy, and only dear,
To walk and talk with you everywhere.

Madam, I will give you the key of my heart,
To lock it up for ever, that we may never part,
If you will be my bride, my joy, and only dear,
To walk and talk with me everywhere.

Sir, I will accept of the key of your heart,
To lock it up for ever, that we may never part,
I will be your bride, your joy, and only dear,
To walk and talk with you everywhere.

From my copy of The Puffin Book of Nursery Rhymes, gathered by Iona and Peter Opie* with charming pen and ink drawings by Paline Baynes (Penguin Books, 1970); from the back cover:
The Opies [Peter died in 1982, and Iona continues to write] have three chidlren, and live in a Victorian family house in Hampshire, which, as a necessary milieu to their studies, is steadily being filled with old and rare children's books, toys, games, pictures, and the paraphernalia of bygone nurseries.
I quite like the idea of "a necessary milieu" to our studies, but, as usual, I'm rambling off the subject...

* A very interesting Time Magazine article from 1959 (more than 40 years before The Dangerous Book for Boys), which begins: "Have children forgotten how to entertain themselves?"

June 15, 2007

The default setting

From A.O. Scott's review today of the new "Nancy Drew" flick (emphasis mine):
The movie turns Nancy, played with more pluck than brilliance by Emma Roberts, into an uptight goody-two-shoes, a prig who lectures her school principal on matters of policy and who won’t exceed the speed limit in the middle of a car chase. Worse, “Nancy Drew” corrupts the clean, functional, grown-up style of the books with the kind of cute, pseudo-smart self-consciousness that has sadly become the default setting for contemporary juvenile popular culture produced by insecure, immature adults.

Poetry Friday: Up by the bootstraps edition

I missed Poetry Friday last week in the thick of things -- Spring busy-ness on and off the farm -- but saw yesterday via Poetry Friday founder Kelly at Big A little a that our own Susan Thomsen at Chicken Spaghetti has a terrific article on the origins of Poetry Friday, "Thank Goodness It’s (Poetry) Friday", at the Poetry Foundation website. Included with the article is a sidebar of "A Few of the Many Poetry Friday Regulars", including Farm School. To which I offer great thanks, and a yikes. Though the kick in the pants is just what I needed. It's time to pull up my poetry socks, and my bootstraps, too.

So here, in honor of Father's Day, and my father, who adores a good bowl of soup (or a bowl of good soup) is

Beautiful Soup, So Rich and Green
by Lewis Carroll

Beautiful Soup, so rich and green,
Waiting in a hot tureen!
Who for such dainties would not stoop?
Soup of the evening, beautiful Soup!
Soup of the evening, beautiful Soup!
Beau-ootiful Soo-oop!
Beau-ootiful Soo-oop!
Soo-oop of the e-e-evening,
Beautiful, beautiful Soup!

Beautiful Soup! Who cares for fish,
Game, or any other dish?
Who would not give all else for two p
ennyworth only of beautiful Soup?
Pennyworth only of beautiful Soup?
Beau-ootiful Soo-oop!
Beau-ootiful Soo-oop!
Soo-oop of the e-e-evening,
Beautiful, beauti-FUL SOUP!


Today's round-up, with a bit of original Poetry Friday haiku, is at The Simple and the Ordinary. Thank you, Christine!

PS Speaking of beautiful and green, the Poetry Friday button above is lovely, but does anyone have a version that's a tad lighter? My 43-year-old eyes are having trouble with the black on dark olive green. And you know, after engaging in conversation this morning with another homeschooler about the merits of Andrew Lang's lovely color Fairy Books series, ably reprinted year after year by Dover, it occurs to me that a rainbow of Poetry Friday t-shirts and mug, say, from Café Press, would be a thing of beauty. Especially if the proceeds went toward providing poetry and other books for children.

June 07, 2007

You pick

the lesser of two weevils:

Doll Web Sites Drive Girls to Stay Home and Play, as reported by The New York Times yesterday (free registration or use Bug Me Not)


The Daring Book for Girls, the not very daring but very manufactured response to The Dangerous Book for Boys, pandering to those who say they are offended by a "boys only" tome and hoping, no doubt, to strike the same nerves and chords as has The Dangerous Book. Coming in time for Christmas 2007.

As I sit here tapping away, wearing my father's old blue dress shirt over my husband's t-shirt (it's a bit cool here this morning), while Laura slurps her cereal and reads her brother's copy of The Dangerous Book for Boys breezily ignoring the last two words in the title and thoroughly unaware of the Cartoon Doll Emporium, Club Penguin, Cyworld, Habbo Hotel, Webkinz, WeeWorld and Stardoll, I wish you a summer of uncomputerized, unmanufactured, unfettered fun.

Canada's alternative alternative

Just a snippet from yesterday's Globe & Mail article on the new Canadian creation museum, in Big Valley, Alberta. It cost only a fraction of the U.S. version's $27 million, but interestingly while its U.S. counterpart is known as the "creation museum", the Canadian version bills itself as the "creation science museum". Read the rest here:
The museum sits about 60 kilometres north of Drumheller's Royal Tyrrell Museum, which houses one of the world's largest collections of dinosaur bones, and Mr. Nibourg wants his 900-square-foot facility to serve as an "alternative view" of Earth history.

It is filled with everything from a "fossilized teddy bear" meant to show how quickly an object can appear fossilized, to a scroll that claims England's Henry VI can be traced back to Adam and Eve, to fossils offered as proof of the Biblical flood.
If you happen to find yourself in southern Alberta this summer, do yourself a favor and head to the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology in Drumheller, a member of the Alliance of Natural History Museums of Canada. The Royal Tyrrell has a wealth of programs for children and families, including nine different summer programs -- make a fossil cast, hike the Badlands, excavate at a simulated dig site, prospect for fossils, and more -- and a science camp. Also, during the school year, "University, college and school students [including homeschoolers] with accompanying teachers and chaperones are admitted free when they are visiting as part of a school group". And did I mention that the nifty gift shop is online? Where you can find the Royal Tyrrell's own Resource-a-saurus Rex, a teacher's guide to palaeontology for use with grades K through 12.

June 06, 2007

Happy Birthday, Grandpapa!

For Grandpapa, a Gilbert and Sullivan fan, on his birthday,

The Fable of the Magnet and the Churn
by W.S. Gilbert

A magnet hung in a hardware shop,
And all around was a loving crop
Of scissors and needles, nails and knives,
Offering love for all their lives;
But for iron the magnet felt no whim,
Though he charmed iron, it charmed not him;
From needles and nails and knives he'd turn,
For he'd set his love on a Silver Churn!

His most aesthetic,
Very magnetic
Fancy took this turn --
"If I can wheedle
A knife or a needle,
Why not a Silver Churn?"

And Iron and Steel expressed surprised,
The needles opened their well-drilled eyes,
The penknives felt "shut up," no doubt,
The scissors declared themselves "cut out,"
The kettles boiled with rage, 'tis said,
While every nail went off its head,
And hither and thither began to roam,
Till a hammer came up -- and drove them home.

While this magnetic,
Lover he lived to learn,
By no endeavor
Can a magnet ever
Attract a Silver Churn!

June 04, 2007

Worth reading

o Stephanie at Throwing Marshmallows has a terrific post about Feminism and Homeschooling.

o David Harsanyi of The Denver Post writes that Adults, not boys, have changed. Just a sampling:
What makes The Dangerous Book for Boys somewhat contentious, though, is its implicit assertion that boys and girls are very different. That boys and girls are interested in different things and, gulp, excel at different things as well.

And according to Jim Hamilton, a program coordinator with Colorado 4-H, it's the adults who need help, not the boys.

Hamilton contends that in his 20 years of involvement with Colorado youth development, boys haven't changed very much at all. What's changed, he claims, is the reaction adults have to the activities boys tend to engage in.

"What boys do isn't necessarily what I'd call dangerous, anyway," explains the father of four. "But they have a need to push their own limitation. And it hurts them when we won't allow that to happen. Sometimes it forces them to learn and deal with those limitations on a bigger stage - where it's much more difficult. Then people overreact. Boys are often on the edge. And that's basically what adults react to in a poor way."
o The BBC's correspondent in America, Justin Webb, this past Saturday, on America's great faith divide and his visit to the creation museum:
There is nothing remotely convincing about the Creation Museum and frankly if it poses the threat to American science that some American critics claim it does, that seems to me to be as much a commentary on the failings of the scientific establishment as it is on the creationists.

There is a reason, I think, why theocracy will never fly in the United States and it has been touched on, inadvertently, by George Bush himself.

Mr Bush often makes the point that the philosophy of the Islamic radicals, full of hate and oppression, would not be attractive to people who truly had the freedom to choose.

Similarly the philosophy of the Old Testament, so much celebrated by some evangelicals here, has a limited power to enthral free people.

At the Creation Museum, goggle-eyed children watch depictions of the Great Flood in which children and their mums and dads are consumed, because God is cross.

In a nation of kindly moderate people I am not sure this is the future.

I put my faith - in America.

June 01, 2007

Poetry Friday: Poetry and science

I arrived at the library yesterday evening to return some books to find Natalie Angier's The Canon: A Whirligig Tour of the Beautiful Basics of Science on the new titles shelf by the front door. Yippee. Started it last night.

We have a homeschool field trip to the vet clinic, the boys are submitting essays for a contest sponsored by the local skateboard club and newspaper to win a skateboard, and the organic inspector comes tomorrow. And today will be a hot one, close to 30 degrees C (over 80F). It may not be summer, but it's definitely summery.
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This one by E.E. Cummings, a lifelong Unitarian, from our out-of-print copy of A Treasury of Great Poems, English and American, selected by Louis Untermeyer, seems appropriate this week. Apologies for the goofy type size; apparenty I can't have Cummings's type arrangement and proper type size at the same time...

O Sweet Spontaneous Earth
by E.E. Cummings (1894-1962)
O sweet spontaneous
earth how often have
fingers of
purient philosophers pinched

, has the naughty thumb
of science prodded

beauty ,how
oftn have religions taken
thee upon their scraggy knees
squeezing and

buffeting thee that thou mightest conceive
to the incomparable
couch of death thy

thou answerest

them only with


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Suzanne at adventures in daily living has the week's round-up.
Thanks, Suzanne!