Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Have you heard of Coursera?

Another new term you might have seen is MOOC:  Massively Open Online Course, which is what Coursera offers.

From the website:  “Coursera is an education platform that partners with top universities and organizations worldwide, to offer courses online for anyone to take, for free.”

I’ve taken three classes over the last couple of years, Introduction to Mathematical Thinking, The Ancient Greeks, and Reason and Persuasion: Thinking Through Three Dialogues by Plato.

The format for each is similar.  There are lecture videos to watch and homework assignments and tests.  There are discussions forums available.  Most classes have some standard you have to meet in order to receive certification. You get out of it what you put into it, and that will vary according to your goals, how much time and effort is demanded by the class, and how much time and effort you can afford to devote to it.

Once you’ve taken a course you’ll always have access to the archives so you don’t have to finish by the deadline, and you can listen to the lectures over again if you like.

The only class for which I met the standard for certification was The Ancient Greeks.  My goal for this class was to get a solid overview of the period – the flow of events and ideas.  Of course, we’ve touched on Ancient Greece over the years in our home school, reading Plutarch’s Lives together and Rosemary Sutcliff’s adaptations of The Illiad and the Odyssey.  I cut my teeth on Edith Hamilton’s Mythology, and I’ve read some of her other books, like The Echo of Greece, but I lacked a cohesive understanding of this period, and that’s what this course offered.  I did not have time to read everything on the syllabus, but I feel like I’ve gotten a decent start on the topic, a foundation to build on in the future, which is what I wanted.

My goals for the Reason and Persuasion course were to read The Meno at a deeper level than my previous effort, to learn more about Socrates and the Socratic Method, and to be introduced to philosophy.  Since the class covered three of Plato’s dialogues and spent two weeks covering recent developments in philosphy, a lot of what was taught was outside the scope of my interest.  I watched all the introductory material, read The Meno and The Euthyphro and listened to their lectures, and listened to the lectures on The Republic. 

I did not write the paper, or listen to the later lectures, and I only took two tests, but I feel the course was a success because I met my own goals.  Near the end of the course, I even decided to buy the textbook.  I really like the translation and I want to reread the dialogues regularly in the future, especially The Meno, since it’s the one that sets the standard for interacting with a student.  Also, I really appreciated the instructor’s style and insight and wanted to finish reading his commentary.  (The textbook was available online for free in PDF format, but I find that a difficult format to get much use out of.  I want a book I can curl up in bed with or carry with me when running errands.  I want to be able to underline and write notes, and flip quickly through pages to find things.  My brain simply has not adapted to e-readers – not for a purpose like this, anyway.)

The one class where I did not meet my own goal was Introduction to Mathematical Thinking.  That class was brutal.  The pace was too rapid for me.  It took me ages to do my homework and the only way I could understand what was going on was by asking the members of my study group to walk me through things.  They were very kind, and one in particular, Denise Gaskins of Let’s Play Math, was very patient and helpful with her clear explanations, but I was falling farther and farther behind everyone else, and I finally gave up. 

I’m not completely discouraged though – I believe that the time I spent in that class won’t go to waste, even it just sits in my mind and turns to compost.  When I took it in the fall of 2012, it was seven weeks long but since then they’ve reformatted it into a ten-week class and have offered it twice more.  I’m interested in trying it again in the future, but that will depend on... well, life.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Dyeing eggs with onion skins

Something to file away for next year.

Last week Elaienar showed me this tutorial on a traditional Eastern European way of dyeing eggs for Easter, first decorating them with flowers, leaves, and feathers, then wrapping them tightly in onion skins and boiling in a pot of water filled with more onion skins.

Sunday afternoon, she and I went around picking pretty things and dyed a few, just to see how it would turn out and whether we would want to do it again next year. Decorating and wrapping them was such clumsy work that we only did a few and left the rest plain just to see how they’d turn out in the dye bath.

Take a look:

We used to have a hen that laid eggs a rich brown like that – I think she was a Wyandotte.

We used several yellow onions, but only had one purple one. Next time I think we’ll use all purple and see if we can get a redder color.

This one featues a dandelion:

And this one a goose feather:

The large pattern on this one was made with a cherry blossom and the smaller one at 11 o’clock was made with a violet. The “latitude” lines are caused by the texture of the onion skin.

In the picture below, the egg on the right features an azalea blossom, the one to the left of that, a few blossoms of lilac. I don’t know what plant caused the bright green leaves – it’s from a tree on our place. I think a sprig of chickweed is what made the fleur-de-lis pattern on the egg in the foreground.

The cracked and misshapen egg at the back happened because the shell crakced while I was wrapping it with string and I decided to carry on just to see how it would turn out. During cooking, the insides ran out and made it really hard to peel off the onions and the cherry blossoms and feathers I’d stuck on. Next time I would just throw an egg like that into the chicken’s scraps bucket and let them deal with it.

We’ll probably do it again next year, and if we get good enough at it, the next time I’ll use eggs that have been dried out first, so the finished eggs will last several years.

What do you think?

Oh, and next year?  I think I should remember to pick only edible plants, if we’ll be planning on boiling and eating the eggs – I don’t know why that didn’t occur to me while we were wandering around, picking things, and while a lot of it isn’t toxic I couldn’t identify some of the things we picked.  I guess we’ll be giving these eggs to the chickens in a couple of days.

Monday, April 21, 2014

La Corona: Ascention

~ John Donne (1572-1631)

7.        Salute the last, and everlasting day.
           Joy at the uprising of this Sunne, and Sonne,
           Yee whose just teares, or tribulation
           Have purely washt, or burnt your drossie clay;
           Behold the Highest, parting hence away,
           Lightens the darke clouds, which hee treads upon,
           Nor doth hee by ascending, show alone,
           But first hee, and hee first enters the way.
           O strong Ramme, which hast batter’d heaven for mee,
           Mild lambe, which with thy blood, hast mark’d the path;
           Bright torch, which shin’st, that I the way may see,
           Oh, with thy owne blood quench thy owne just wrath,
           And if thy holy Spirit, my Muse did raise,
           Deigne at my hands this crown of prayer and praise.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

La Corona: Resurrection

~ John Donne (1572-1631)

6.        Moyst with one drop of thy blood, my dry soule,
           Shall (though she now be in extreme degree
           Too stony hard, and yet too fleshly,) bee
           Freed by that drop, from being starv’d, hard, or foule
           And life, by this death abled, shall controule
           Death, whom thy death slue; nor shall to mee
           Feare of first or last death, bring miserie,
           If in thy little booke my name thou enroule,
           Flesh in that long sleep is not putrified,
           But made that there, of which, and for which ’twas;
           Nor can by other meanes be glorified.
           May then sinnes sleep, and deaths soone from me passe,
           That wak’t from both, I againe risen may
           Salute the last, and everlasting day.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

La Corona: Crucifying

~ John Donne (1572-1631)

5.       By miracles exceeding power of man,
           Hee faith in some, envie in some begat,
           For, what weake spirits admire, ambitious, hate;
           In both affections many to him ran,
           But Oh! the worst are most, they will and can,
           Alas, and do, unto the immaculate,
           Whose creature Fate is, now prescribe a Fate,
           Measuring selfe-lifes infinity to’a span,
           Nay to an inch. Loe, where condemned hee
           Beares his owne crosse, with paine, yet by and by
           When it beares him, he must beare more and die;
           Now thou art lifted up, draw mee to thee,
           And at thy death giving such liberall dole,
           Moyst, with one drop of thy blood, my dry soule.

Friday, April 18, 2014

La Corona: Temple

~ John Donne (1572-1631)

4.       With his kind mother who partakes thy woe,
          Joseph turne back; see where your child doth sit,
          Blowing, yea blowing out those sparks of wit,
          Which himselfe on the Doctors did bestow;
          The Word but lately could not speake, and loe
          It sodenly speakes wonders, whence comes it,
          That all which was, and all which should be writ,
          A shallow seeming child, should deeply know?
          His Godhead was not soule to his manhood,
          Nor had time mellowed him to this ripenesse,
          But as for one which hath a long taske, ’tis good,
          With the Sunne to beginne his businesse,
          He in his ages morning thus began
          By miracles exceeding power of man.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

La Corona: Nativitie

~ John Donne (1572-1631)

3.       Immensitie cloysterd in thy deare wombe,
          Now leaves his welbelov’d imprisonment,
          There he hath made himselfe to his intent
          Weake enough, now into our world to come;
          But Oh, for thee, for him, hath the’ Inne no roome?
          Yet lay him in this stall, and from the Orient,
          Starres, and wisemen will travell to prevent
          Th’effect of Herods jealous generall doome;
          Seest thou, my Soule, with thy faiths eyes, how he
          Which fils all place, yet none holds him, doth lye?
          Was not his pity towards thee wondrous high,
          That would have need to be pittied by thee?
          Kisse him, and with him into Egypt goe,
          With his kinde mother, who partakes thy woe.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

La Corona: Annunciation

~ John Donne (1572-1631)

2.       Salvation to all that will is nigh,
          That All, which alwayes is All every where,
          Which cannot sinne, and yet all sinnes must beare,
          Which cannot die, yet cannot chuse but die,
          Loe, faithfull Virgin, yeelds himselfe to lye
          In prison, in they wombe; and though he there
          Can take no sinne, nor thou give, yet he’will weare
          Taken frmo thence, flesh, which deaths force may trie.
          Ere by the spheares time was created, thou
          Wast in h is minde, who is thy Sonne, and Brother,
          Whom thou conceiv’st, conceiv’d; yea thou art now
          Thy Makers maker, and thy Fathers mother,
          Thou’hast light in darke; and shutst in little roome,
          Immensity cloysterd in thy deare wombe.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

La Corona

~ John Donne (1572-1631)
A series of seven sonnets

1.       Deigne at my hands this crown of prayer and praise,
          Weav’d in my low devout melancholie,
          Thou which of good, hast, yea art treasury,
          All changing unchang’d Antient of dayes,
          But doe not, with a vile crowne of fraile bayes,
          Reward my muses white sincerity,
          But what thy thorny crowne gain’d, that give mee,
          A crowne of Glory, which doth flower alwayes;
          The ends crowne our workes, but thou crown’st our ends,
          For, at our end begins our endlesse rest,
          The first last end, now zealously possest,
          With a strong sober thirst, my soule attends.
          ’Tis time that heart and voice be lifted high,
          Salvation to all that will is nigh.

Friday, April 11, 2014

The River-Merchant's Wife: A Letter

~ Ezra Pound (1885-1972)

While my hair was still cut straight across my forehead
Played I about the front gate, pulling flowers.
You came by on bamboo stilts, playing horse,
You walked about my seat, playing with blue plums.
And we went on living in the village of Chokan:
Two small people, without dislike or suspicion.

At fourteen I married My Lord you.
I never laughed, being bashful.
Lowering my head, I looked at the wall.
Called to, a thousand times, I never looked back.

At fifteen I stopped scowling,
I desired my dust to be mingled with yours
Forever and forever and forever.
Why should I climb the look out?

At sixteen you departed,
You went into far Ku-to-yen, by the river of swirling eddies,
And you have been gone five months.
The monkeys make sorrowful noise overhead.

You dragged your feet when you went out.
By the gate now, the moss is grown, the different mosses,
Too deep to clear them away!
The leaves fall early this autumn, in wind.
The paired butterflies are already yellow with August
Over the grass in the West garden;
They hurt me. I grow older.
If you are coming down through the narrows of the river Kiang,
Please let me know beforehand,
And I will come out to meet you
                            As far as the Cho-fu-Sa.

                                                                                            By Rihaku