Friday, April 29, 2016

Doodles & Riddle

On Serena's door lies a riddle:
Welcome traveler!
You've reached road's end
With patch in shirt & shoes to mend.
Your needs I humbly will attend.
But first your fleeting mind you'll lend
Or sit & wait for days on end.
 The clue:
This spells a word. Find the code!
The word is on the mango.

Naturally I found in our fruit bowl a mango full of doodles.  Doodles of words that tickle this child's fancy, including:

She discovered this 45-letter word "pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis" in a book called "WORDPLAY" by Helga Williams. Reminds me of her mastering "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" at age 4. This girl loves her big words!

The answer to the riddle is, as she said, on the mango. Got it yet?

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Delta Triathlon

Even though this was Serena's 6th triathlon, it's her first time being in the youth category, i.e. double the distances!

She had a grand time doing it with a bunch of friends and finished the race in under 43 mins.
300M Swim


7.5Km Bike

1 more lap to go

2Km Run

Crossing the finish line with buddy Olivia!

Proud triathletes!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016


Enchanted Air by Margarita Engle and Countdown by Deborah Wiles both have Cuba in the 60's as a backdrop when the threat of nuclear war seemed imminent.

Enchanted Air is a beautifully written poetic memoir as the author shares her difficult childhood growing up as a Cuban-American when revolution breaks out in Cuba. Countdown is a fascinating "documentary novel" about 12-year-old air force kid Franny navigating her life in school and at home through the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Serena, share with us what you've learnt about this period in history?

After the Treaty of Paris between the U.S. and Spain, Cuba set up its first local government. Fulgencio Batista came to power as a democratic president for his first term. He decided to run for presidency again, but when he realized he was destined to lose he used his military force to get himself in. He became a dictator, turning Cuba into a military state. He executed his enemies, promoted organized crime and personal power and wealth.

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Cubans were tired of Batista and supported rebels such as Fidel Castro and his brother Raul. The U.S. finally said they couldn't support Batista any longer and suggested he flee the country. He did. After Batista was gone Fidel Castro took power once he ousted the original government. He first served as prime minister then president, promising every citizen a job and promoting health care. He also made Cuba the first communist state in the Western hemisphere.

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Why the estranged ties between the U.S. and Cuba? Cuba was annoyed that the U.S. supported their former dictator during the Cuban revolution. The U.S. was leery that a communist state was so close and could affect other Caribbean countries. There was also the factor of Cuba's friendship with the USSR. That meant that during the Cold War Cuba sided with an enemy of U.S.  The U.S. retaliated by putting a trade embargo on Cuba, letting nothing in or out but food and medicine. The embargo made Cuba's economy deteriorate, making it lean even more heavily on the USSR.
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Then there was the Bay of Pigs invasion, a disastrous attempt by the U.S. to overthrow Castro's government.  The embarrassing episode increased tensions and led to the U.S. having to pay $53-million in food and supplies to Cuba for the release of the 1,113 U.S. prisoners captured during the fighting. Then came the tensest thirteen days possibly in the history of the world - the 1962 Cuban missile crisis.  Everyone knows of the USSR missiles that were placed in Cuba but not many people know of the missiles the U.S. put in Italy and Turkey at that time. Khrushchev (then leader of the USSR) and Kennedy sweated and waited, both of their fingers poised to launch their missiles. At the last second an agreement was made between the USSR and the U.S. where all missiles would be removed and the U.S. promised never to invade Cuba without provocation.

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The missile crisis was over, but the relations between the U.S. and Cuba continue to be tense for 50 more years until recently. In 2014 Obama started what is known as "the Cuban thaw" to normalize the relations. The leaders of the two countries had secret discussions in countries such as the Vatican and Canada. This year Obama made a historic visit to Cuba, the first sitting U.S. president to do so in 88 years. Slowly, the ties between the U.S. and Cuba are hopefully getting better even though current reactions are mixed.

"We and you ought not to pull on the ends of a rope in which you have tied the knots of war. Because the more the two of us pull, the tighter the knot will be tied." Nikita Khrushchev, First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, to U.S. President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, October 1962

Sunday, April 10, 2016

The Winter's Tale

For this spring's Shakespeare workshop, the SDHL thespians tackled one of Shakespeare's later works, The Winter's Tale.

Serena played the role of King of Sicilia, Leontes, whose jealousy caused him to lose his wife Hermione and child Perdita. It was a dramatic play with a bear, a Shepherd, some sheep, a Clown, and a Bohemian dance thrown into the mix. Intriguing and very entertaining!

Act II, Scene I: Leontes accuses Hermione of adultery and treason:

Act II, Scene I: Leontes reveals that he has sent messengers to the oracle of Apollo for confirmation of Hermione's unfaithfulness:

Act V, Scene III: Leontes' final speech as all is pardoned and reconciled, his "ill suspicion" nullified.  Or is it...?

Friday, April 8, 2016

Silly Putty Chemistry

This year for Science Fair I've decided to do something with Silly Putty. Why Silly Putty? I recently got a tin of Crazy Aaron's Thinking Putty and two eggs of Silly Putty.  Enjoying these a lot, I wanted to learn more about this fun toy!

Silly Putty is a polymer. Polymers can be found in nature and also made synthetically. The chemical property of my homemade silly putty is the reaction between the two ingredients we used: Borax and glue.  We knew that the different glue/Borax ratios would mean differences in physical properties, such as stretchiness, bounciness...

My hypothesis: the more glue, the stretchier and stickier the putty would be; the more Borax, the more liquidy and less bouncy.

For our experiment we would first make our Borax and glue solutions, then make putties with different ratios and compare them.

1) Make two jars of solution: a 50% glue solution and a 4% Borax solution.

2) Mix varying ratios of glue to Borax solutions and put them in labelled ziplog bags.

3) Then squish it and wait for it to mix.

4) Play! We tested the physical properties by squashing, bouncing and stretching each sample.  One was so liquidy we couldn't take it out of its bag!

5) Write down observations for each putty.

The super stretchy one in the photo is a putty with a 2:2 ratio. Equal ratio?? Is my hypothesis wrong?

I found a common pattern in the putties that seemed to overturn my hypothesis. The ones with more glue were less stretchy and broke easily, but they were very bouncy.  My batch of 2:2 putty was very stretchy and gooey but not bouncy. Was more Borax better?
6) Adjust experiment. My first batch of putties has glue to Borax ratios of 1:3, 2:2, 3:1, 4:1, 5:1. I've decided to see whether or not more Borax would make the putty stretchier. So I made another batch with these ratios - 3:2, 4:2, 5:2.

When I felt the 4:1 in one hand and the 4:2 in the other, I noticed that the second batch (with higher level of Borax) was more durable and stretchier while the first batch was more flaky.

7) Conclusion: the experiment shows me that the more glue in the mixture, the more breakable but also more bouncy. The more Borax we have, the stretchier, stickier, and less likely for the putty to hold its shape.

After having so much fun with my 2:2 putty, I made a 4:4 which is now my favourite. Perfect slime!