The Equuchick’s Beginnings

What follows here is the Equuschick’s very first foray into nature writing, written at about fourteen and dug up from the past out of morbid fascination. If she does say so herself it isn’t bad, but it could have been better.

Most girls, of course, when first geting into this sort of thing, prefer to take on cute little squirrels, and possibly a bunny rabbit for good measure. But the Equuschick didn’t. The Equuschick was, and still is, minorly obsessed with the man-eating living dinosaurs that roam Indonesia today. She even has a book on their breeding in captivity, which she has read and studied with care. Come on, they’re “terrible lizards.” DINOSAURS! What’s not to like?

She is odd, and she admits it. But she can’t help it. If it’s alive and moving, the Equuschick is enchanted.

Komodo Dragons: Varanus Komodoensis

Dragons: We all know what those are. Great big scaly creatures who breathe fire and occasionally have their heads sliced off by sainted knights. Right? Of course right. So why should I take the trouble to stay up past 10:00 p.m. after a very long day to tell you all something you already knew? Because, quite frankly, if you believe the above definition of “dragon”, you’re sadly misinformed.
Dragons, at least the Komodos, do not breathe fire and have probably never had their heads sliced off by any member of the human species.
They were discovered, on the Indonesian islands of Komodo, Rica, and the westernmost part of Flores, in the early 1800s. Together, these habitats make up an area about the size of King County, Washington. (“Discovered” I mean, by Europeans. The natives had known of their existence for quite some time and referred to them as Ora.)
Though commonly thought of as the largest living reptiles, they’re not. They’re only the world’s largest living lizards. (Both crocodiles and alligators can easily exceed the Komodo dragon’s max. length of 10 ft.)
Their maximum weight is 300 lb., but they run surprisingly fast for such bulk. Faster than a horse in fact, and they have been known to overpower and eat water buffaloes.
They’re vicious hunters and can eat almost anything. The favored dishes are as follows: Large mammals, rodents, small mammals and rodents, smaller mammals and rodents, reptiles and carrion. (The carrion is what gives them their reputation for being poisonous. Though technically they’re not, their mouths contain so much bacteria from dead meat that their bite is perfectly capable of killing a human being. And yes, there have been recorded incidents of the dragons eating humans. They also drool copiously, but their saliva is not venomous.) The dragons hunt by ambush, hiding in the thick underbrush until the victim gets within a few feet of them. Then, they rush out for the kill. If the first bite does not kill instantly, the wounded animal will not be able to run far anyway and the infection from the dragon’s mouth will eventually finish the job. Then, the Komodo Dragon will be able to eat the meat at leisure. (The larger ones will eat first, driving away the smaller by lashing out with their muscular tails.) Most Komodo dragons are also cannibals, the young stay in trees for the first year of life for the prudent reason that they’ll be eaten by Aunt Millie otherwise. The female lays about 28 eggs at a time, and the young are usually 12 to 15 inches immediately after hatching.
Like most reptiles, their jaws are hinged in such a way as to let the bottom jaw slide back from the top and so provide for the lizard to swallow bites whole. Other traits they share with their lizard and reptile cousins (Komodo Dragons are members of the Monitor Lizard species, or family Varindae) include the claws, a tough outer skin covering, eye-lids, forked tongues that detect smell ear openings, and what I like to call a “peer pressure sensitive” body temperature. It adjusts to the climate, as long as it is not severe. Also due to their “peer pressure sensitive” body temp., the dragons are able to swim for long lengths between the islands.
During the hot Indonesian afternoons, the dragons will dig themselves holes or caves in the cool earth, and take naps there. These caves are also where the female lays her 28 eggs.
Despite the large number of eggs, very few baby lizards reach adulthood. This is partly due to the cannibal practices of Aunt Millie, (some eggs are eaten before they even hatch) and partly due, of course, to Big Bad Man. (For more information, contact Al Gore.)
For his all of his bad reputation however, man has done a remarkable job in the last century of trying to conserve the species. The entire island of Komodo has been made into a national park, and the zoo at Surabaya houses large numbers of the lizards. (As matter of fact, the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle has just become home to two female Komodo Dragons.) Though there are only 5,000 or so alive in the world today, “awareness,” as Al Gore likes to call it, is increasing. The biggest problem, most everyone agrees, is the Komodo dragon’s very small habitat.

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New Words

Pipsqueak does not agree that there are enough words in the English Language without making up new ones, so we give her this word, created recently by her tongue tangled mother while brushing the First Year Girl’s hair:

Snangle: a cross between a snarl and a tangle

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The Jabberwocky

‘Tis one of my favorite poems, because of all the wonderful words in it. I do not hold with the philosophy that “There are enough words in the English language without using words that don’t exist at all.” 🙂

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought —
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.

And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

“And, has thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!’
He chortled in his joy.

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

Lewis Carol

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It’s finals week!

It’s the time of year when I need all possible motivation: after putting in months of effort it is easy to feel somewhat apathetic about the last few homework assignments. One way to get through them, however, is to listen to suitably motivational music. What’s my motivational music this time around?

* the soundtrack to Rudy, music by Jerry Goldsmith. Goldsmith actually makes a football movie sound heroic with this soundtrack (quite a feat for a sports-scoffer like myself) and his orchestral fervor can’t help but be contagious.

* Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture. You can only listen to so many oldies rock songs on the radio before sensing that they’re not really musically original, and that you’re going to go nuts if you’re forced to hear some Harmonising Sad Folk belt out a Lament for their Love. Solution? Tchaikovsky. The 1812 keeps you waiting with tense excitement for each new development of the theme and, of course, the cannons.

* for relaxation, the Sense and Sensibility soundtrack is my chosen fare right now. Apart from Patrick Doyle’s good music, listening to it reminds me that someday I can indulge in a real Austen Feast again.

* Last but not least, every one at the Common Room likes an album of really foot-thumping music for cleaning-accompaniment. It’s the silver lining in a cloud. “Housework? What shall we listen to, then?” Yesterday, in a bedroom purge, I listened to the Roan Inish soundtrack. Pure Celtic music. The movie is weird. The music is fantastic.

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Institutional Homeschooling

http://www.flickr.com/photos/oldpatterns/3828031565/sizes/m/in/photostream/Suppose I went to a large institution and visited their kitchen. I see their incredibly huge dough mixer, capable of handling enough dough to make 20 loaves of bread at once. I am impressed by the oven, which has eight burners on the stove top and four huge ovens beneath.

I really like the automated dishwasher, which only requires me to fill up a basket, push it through the front of the machine, and then pull it out at the other end- the dishes are done in minutes. I love the walk in cooler, which is as large as one of my bedrooms at home. This is cool. I want to make food at home like they do here.
So I take the tools and methods designed to accomodate several hundred people each day and I try to use them at home to cook for a family of four (well, my family has nine people, but you get the idea). How well will that work? Are those appliances really the best choice for my funds and my time and space?  Is that expense, floorplan, and design really ideal for a family?

vintage dishwasherSchools, both public and private, have to do some tasks that homeschoolers do not. Schools, the institutional types, must bring a dissimilar group of children together more or less in lockstop through a set amount of material in a limited number of hours in a limited number of days within a single school year- with a student/teacher ratio of 20:1. In order to accomplish this as best they can and make the most efficient use of a teacher’s time, they developed some tools to streamline the process. These tools are things like text books, multiple choice and fill in the blank tests, and so forth.

If you are a homeschooler you do not have to do what a school does in order to commit education upon your child. Your child is with you 24 and 7, a teacher only has a child for 6-8 hours a day. You do not have to start at a set time and quit at a set time. A teacher has to stop educating the students when the last school bell rings each day. You know what your kid had for breakfast and whether or not his dog
died the night before, and you can accomodate those things. A teacher has 20 or more students, all with a variety of different problems and issues going on in their homes. It’s almost impossible for one human to meet so many wildly differing needs.

You can slow down when he has questions and speed up when he does not. You can continue a lesson in a dinner table discussion or at midnight while watching the stars together.

vintage woman sifting flour blogTrying to use an institutionally based traditional programme for a homeschool can be a little like using the firehose to water your garden, or a blow torch to light birthday candles, or a wrench for a hammer. It’s not a tool designed for the job _you_ are doing.

If you know that, but still like textbooks and school tools, you can maybe make adjustments to make them work for you, or maybe you want something different altogether. You’re the homeschooler, so now it’s your call. If you don’t want to use textbooks and workbooks, you don’t have to. It’s okay to be different.

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