Saturday, April 11, 2009


Yes, chocolate does grow on trees! Cacao trees grow in tropical areas. Inside the melon like fruit are twenty to forty almond shaped cacao beans. Only five in one hundred cocoa tree blossoms produce a pod of cocoa beans. The beans ripen over a period of four to eight months then they are cut from the tree and the reddish brown beans are scooped out. The beans are then placed in a warm, wet place and covered with banana leaves or burlap bags to ferment. As the shells harden, the beans start to become richer in flavor as they darken. Then they are set out in the sun to dry, bagged and sent off to the chocolate factory. There the dried beans are cleaned, blended with other types of beans and roasted at high temperatures. After that they are shelled and ground into a liquid, then mixed well with milk and sugar. The liquid is then poured into a conch, a large machine with huge cylindrical rollers that blends it across a stone bed over many hours until all of the gritty parts are removed and the desired taste is achieved. After that the chocolate is tempered, or cooled and heated a number of times. Finally it's poured into molds, cooled, wrapped and ready to eat! mmmmmmmm chocolate! ! !

Even the scientific name Theobroma cacao testifies to our fascination and delight with chocolate. Theo is a Greek word meaning god, while broma means food, so chocolate literally means the food of the gods. It was the Swedish scientist by the name of Linnaeus who named cocoa Theobroma cacao.

Chocolate has a long and rich history in the areas of geography, science, and economics. Cacao beans were prominent in the Mayan and Aztec societies and in the voyages of Christopher Columbus and Cortéz to Latin America. The fruit of the cocoa tree was used by the Olmec Indians living in South and Central America who invented the word for cacao many years before it was exported to Europe. The Mayan Indians further domesticated cacao and developed the first cacao beverage. The Aztecs credit their god, Quetzlcoatl, for introducing the cocoa bean to humankind. The beans were revered by the Aztecs, used in religious services and given as gifts.

Not only do over one billion people worldwide eat some form of chocolate every single day, cacao beans also play an important part in the ecology of the rain forest and is a 12.5 billion industry in the United States. Since the U.S. Civil War, chocolate has been part of the battlefield rations of U.S. soldiers. Manufacturers around the world use forty percent of the world's almonds, twenty percent of the worlds peanuts, and eight percent of the worlds sugar, PLUS 3.5 million pounds of whole milk a day.

Two thirds of the cacao bean harvest comes from Ghana, the Ivory Coast and other counties along the equator in Africa. Chocolate is also grown in the rain forests of Mexico, Brazil, Costa Rica, and other parts of Central and South America, as well as the Southeast Asian countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia. The manufacturing of chocolate occurs primarily in countries such as Switzerland, France, Belgium, Italy, England and the United States.

Concocted as a spicy, bitter drink, the ancient Aztecs roasted and ground cocoa beans into a paste, mixed it with water and maize, flavored the drink with chilies and beat it to a froth. It was called xocolatl (pronounced shoco-latle)as a matter of fact, both the Mayan and Aztec cultures called the drink xocoatl from that the Spanish Conquerors turned the word into chocolate. The Aztecs kept the consumption of cocoa for nobility and warriors. Montezuma and his friends consumed up to fifty pitchers of the xocolatl drink a day. Served up in a golden goblet they were only used once and then ceremoniously thrown into a lake. It was around 1519 AD that Montezuma introduced Hernan Cortéz to chocolate. He was sure that Cortéz was the prophesied "white god" He gave the explorer a royal plantation of cocoa trees. Cortéz traded many cocoa beans for gold, which was far less revered by the Aztecs. It was not only used for ceremony and nutrition, but also because the beans were small and easy to carry and count that they were once used as a from of currency. The Spanish colonist exported them to Spain, where as recently as 1545, they were still being traded:

    200 beans = male turkey
    100 beans = daily wage of a porter
    100 beans = female turkey
    100 beans = rabbit
    3 beans = turkey egg
    3 beans = avocado 3 beans = fish wrapped in maize husks
    1 bean = tamale

Cacao trees grow best in its native rain forest in the shade of the tall canopy. About eighty percent of the worlds chocolate is produced on small farms there. Chiefly because the cacao tree needs chocolate bugs --tiny insects that help pollinate the cacao flowers. These insects need a very damp environment and so they don't survive on the large plantations with no shade. Scientists have discovered these little midges (Ceratopogonidae) are more attracted to wild trees than the domesticated one.

How does chocolate affect the body?

    While eating too much of any food may cause health problems. The cocoa butter in chocolate does contain saturated fat, which can increase blood cholesterol levels, and high cholesterol can contribute to heart disease. However, recent research at the University of California, Davis, has discovered that chocolate carries high levels of chemicals known as phenolics, some of which may help lower the risk of heart disease. Plants such as chocolate, coffee, tea, and others contain high levels of phenolics.
Does chocolate cause acne?
    "Chocolate has a reputation for being a fattening, nutritionless food. Some theories would have us believe that it causes acne and tooth decay. The good news is," according to The Sweet Lure of Chocolate, "is that most of the bad effects of eating chocolate are either overstated or entirely false. Eating chocolate neither causes nor aggravates acne. Two studies -- one by the Pennsylvania School of Medicine and another by the U.S. Naval Academy -- showed that eating chocolate (or not eating it) did not produce any significant changes in the acne conditions of the study's participants. These results are further backed by research which shows that acne is not primarily linked to diet."

    "Chocolate also has not been proven to cause cavities or tooth decay. In fact, there are indications that the cocoa butter in the chocolate coats the teeth and may help protect them by preventing plaque from forming. The sugar in chocolate does contribute to cavities, but no more than the sugar in any other food. "

Does it have any nutritional value?
    "Chocolate is loaded with calories." says Good Housekeeping," The average 1.5- to 1.6-ounce milk chocolate bar has roughly 230 calories, with more than half of those coming from fat. Chocolate provides other nutrients, too, but not the ones you might expect."

    "Despite its name, a typical "milk" chocolate bar provides less than 10 percent of the daily recommended amount of calcium. But, surprisingly, a government survey shows that chocolate and products containing chocolate make substantial contributions to our daily intake of copper, an essential mineral in the prevention of anemia and, possibly, heart disease and cancer. Chocolate also provides significant amounts of magnesium, which plays a role in regulating blood pressure and building bones. "

Some people claim that eating chocolate has the same chemical effect on the body as falling in love--is that true?
    "Probably not." again from Good Housekeeping. They say, "Chocolate contains a variety of compounds that in large amounts can produce a drug like effect, but the sensory aspects of this delectable confection -- its delicious smell, the feel of it melting in your mouth, its rich taste -- are more likely the reasons for your passion. For instance, a 1994 study found that eating a chocolate bar satisfied a chocolate craving, but swallowing a cocoa-containing capsule had no more effect than a placebo capsule. Other research suggests that chocolate cravings may also have a strong cultural component. When university students from Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania and the Universidad Nacional de Educacion a Distancia in Madrid, Spain, were asked to fill out a questionnaire naming the foods they craved the most, nearly half of the American women craved chocolate, while only a little more than 25 percent of Spanish women did. This study, too, argues against any innate biological craving. In Spain chocolate does not loom as large on the culinary landscape as it does here."

Helpful Hints About Chocolate

Chocolate Bloom:
    Chocolate may develop a grey film on its surface, called bloom This is caused by cocoa butter within the chocolate rising to the surface. While this dulls the color of the chocolate, it does not affect the taste. Don't hesitate to use the chocolate for melting or baking because it's rich color will reappear.

Storing Chocolate:

    Keep chocolate in a cool dry place. It can be refrigerated, but wrap it tightly so it won't absorb odors. Airtight wrapping also prevents moisture from condensing on the chocolate when taken out of the fridge. Chocolate becomes hard and very brittle when cold, so let it come to room temperature before using.

Chocolate Conversion Chart:

    1 ounce (1 square) unsweetened baking chocolate is equal to 3 ounces or ½ cup of semi sweet chocolate chips. You can substitute it in recipes by decreasing the shortening by 1 tablespoon and decreasing the sugar by ¼ cup.
    ¼ cup of unsweetened cocoa powder is equal to 3 ounces or ½ cup of semi sweet chocolate chips. You can substitute it in recipes by decreasing the shortening by 1 tablespoon and decreasing the sugar by ¼ cup.

About Melting Chocolate

    The smallest drop of moisture (even a wet spoon or steam from a double boiler ) can cause melted chocolate to become lumpy. If this happens, stir in one tablespoon vegetable shortening for every three ounces of chocolate. Do not use butter because it contains water.

    One 12 ounce package of semi sweet chocolate chips is equivalent to one cup of melted chocolate.

Top of Stove Method:

Microwave Oven Method:
    To melt one 12 ounce package (2 cups) of semi sweet chocolate chips place them in a dry 4 cup glass measuring cup. Microwave on high 2 minutes; stir. Microwave on high 1 minute longer. Stir until chocolate is smooth.

For Pets: Chocolate is a tasty toxin. It contains a compound called theobromine, which like caffeine, is dangerous to dogs and cats when eaten in large quantities, says Mary Labato, D.V.M., clinical assistant at the Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine.
Baking chocolate, with almost nine times more theobromine that milk chocolate, is particularly dangerous, but either kind can cause problems she warns.
Don't panic, however, just because your pet sneaks a munch from you chocolate bar. A toxic dose of theobromine for a 20 pound dog is about 1,000 milligrams--the amount found in 28 ounces of baking chocolate. If you're not sure how much he ate, call your vet for advice.


The History of Chocolate


The Sweet Lure of Chocolate

Picture Source

Friday, April 10, 2009

Liberty Leading the People

Generally, Delacroix chose his subjects from either non-Classical or post-Classical periods and literature, but sometimes dealt with a Greek subject that moved him. Other sources of subjects were the events of his own time, notably popular struggles for freedom; the ill-fated revolt of the Greeks against against Turkish rule in the 1820's; the Parisian revolution of 1830, which overthrew the restored Bourbons and placed Louise Philippe on the throne of France. In Liberty Leading the People done in 1830, Eugène Delacroix makes no attempt to represent a specific incident seen in actuality. Instead, he gives us a full-blown allegory of revolution itself, teeming with unidealized and carefully presented details. Liberty, a majestic, partly nude woman, whose beautiful features wears as expression of noble dignity, waves the people forward to the barricades, the familiar revolutionary apparatus of Paris streets. She carries the tri-color banner of the republic and a musket with a bayonet and wears the cap of liberty. Her advance is over the dead and dying of both sides -- the people and the royal troops. Arrayed around her are bold Parisian types: the street boy brandishing his pistols and the menacing prolétaire with a cutlass, the intellectual dandy in plug hat with sawed-off musket. In the background, the towers of Notre Dame rise through the smoke and clamor, witnessing the tradition of liberty that has been cherished by the people of Paris throughout the centuries.

In terms of form, Liberty Leading the People still reflected the strong impression made on Delacroix by the art of Géricault, especially the Raft of the Medusa; the fact that Delacroix made an allegory of Liberty shows he was familiar with traditional conventions. The clutter of sprawling bodies in the foreground provides a kind of base for the pyramid of the figures in the center, which builds the heavy, inert forms of the dead and dying to the frantic energy of Liberty and the citizens still engaged actively in the struggle. The flashes of light suggest gunfire, while the intermingling of light and shadow echoes the confusion of the battle and the dense atmosphere stirred up by conflict. The forms were generated from the Baroque, as they were in Géricault, but Delacroix's sharp agitation of them created his own special brand of tumultuous excitement.

Delacroix's early use of the vignette shows him to have been an innovator. He was always studying the problems of his craft and always searching for fresh materials to supply his imagination. These were conscious efforts on his part; he said,

"style can only result from great research"'

No other painter of the time explored the domain of the Romantic subject and mood as thoroughly and definitively as Delacroix, and none matched his style and technique. Delacroix technique -- impetuous, improvisational, and instinctive, rather than deliberate, studious and cold -- epitomizes Romantic painting. In the end his friend Silvestre, in the language of Romanticism, delivered a eulogy that amounts to the definition of the artist:

Thus died, almost with a smile on August 13, 1863, the painter of great race, Ferdinand Victor Eugéne Delacroix, who had the sun in his head and storms in his heart; who for fouty years played upon the keyboard of human passions and whose brush -- grandiose, terrible or suave -- passed from saints to warriors, from warriors to lovers, from lovers to tigers, and from tigers to flowers.

Picture source

An image of this painting may be viewed at

Mark Harden

Detail of Liberty

Detail of musket-bearer (Delacroix self-portrait)


Lometa. "Artists and Art in the Classroom" Tucson, Arizona.
1994. (Lecture presented at St Joseph's Catholic School.)

Justus, Kevin. "Art and Culture II." Tucson , Arizona.
1992. (Lecture presented at Pima Community College.)

De La Croix, Horst, Richard D. Tansey, and Diane Kirkpatrick.
Art Through the Ages. University of Michigan: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Abstract art

Scholars have long been uncertain as to how to classify art . The practice and theory of abstract art may well have it's beginnings in the symbolism if Neolithic art in Eastern Europe, Siberia and Central Asia. Art of a monumental character was familiar to the tribes who inhabited the coast of the White Sea and the eastern shores of Lake Onega. Findings of a large number of petroglyphs were etched into the rock surface. The petroglyphs are executed in various manners. Realistic and symbolic petroglyphs, and outline drawings but most are silhouettes emphasizing lines, colors, generalized or geometrical forms, especially with reference to their relationship to one another.
In the late thirteenth and the fourteenth century began a long overture towards the advent of naturalistic representation in European art. Medieval artists had for centuries relied mainly on prototypes as representations of the human figure, with an occasional searching glance at objects in the optical world. It wasn't until the fifteenth century where imitation of nature as an objective gives artists a direction. The proto-Renaissance artist of the sixteenth century proceeded tentatively, seemingly suspicious of an approach that involves fleeting appearances and empty of traditionally authoritative formula. Nonetheless, there is a careful stepping into the threshold of discovery infused in the art of that period of a hopeful spirit and often confident, if somewhat unsystematic.
Artists are not philosophers, however in the Renaissance they come very close to sharing the philosophical enterprise and in many ways the situation is akin to the art of today : so many possibilities and such diverse directions that, though rich conclusions are perhaps looked forward to, the way to them appears confused.
With the disintegration of the Roman Empire and the evolution of the Christian Middle Ages a new way of looking at the world emerged from the dissolution of the medieval style of thought. A new approach was needed to explain the nature and God thus creating the fundamental changes in art. William Ocklam, one of the most ingenious and subtle Scholastics who attacked the rationalism of Aquinas, appears to provide such an approach when on the precipice of a great insight, he emphasized the importance of the role of intuitive knowledge and the individual experience in the process of knowing.

Everything outside the soul is individual....{and} knowledge which is simple and peculiarly intuitive knowledge....Abstractive individual knowledge presupposes intuitive knowledge...our understanding knows sensible things intuitively.

Interestingly, many of the later thirteenth century and fourteenth century mystical and skeptical thinkers who emphasized personal intuition and experiences in seeking divine and natural knowledge were Franciscans in what might be called Franciscan radicalism stressing the primacy of personal experience, the individuals right to know by experiment, the futility of formed philosophy, and the beauty and value of things in the external world. It was amidst the rich and simulating social and intellectual environment established by the Franciscans that the painters and sculptors of the proto-Renaissance started a new epoch where the carved and painted images took shape from the optical world and applied the principles of the precocious thoughts of the English philosopher Roger Bacon of personal discovery through experience--for the artists case, the experience of seeing--artists began to project in painting and sculpture the shifting optical and the infinitely complex reticulum that humans experience as the world.
For the world the nineteenth century was an age of radical change unparalleled population explosion, revolution followed revolution, a pattern marked by counter-revolution and conservative reaction. Economic and social struggle vied industrial capitalism and the bourgeoisie against the greatly impoverished masses. The quick industrialization created abrupt changes in age-old living patterns creating an acute dislocation for many. The Industrial Revolution began the exodus from rural living to the city in search of jobs and sent thousands overseas and the disparity between the rich and poor widened unprecedentedly.
Enlightenment and a profound sense of history pervaded the century and many in the nineteenth century did not accept the doctrine of progress. The great debate of this era was about authority-- the questions of what should be believed, respected, defended, and conformed to. Revolutionary shake ups about authority calling for the greatest good for the greatest number was advocated and confusion arose over the means to the ends of these ideologies. Maxims and slogans for innumerable movements remain current today--the isms: liberalism, radicalism, socialism, communism, conservatism, nationalism....and there counterparts in the art world: Romaticism, Realism, Impressionism, and the rest.
The artists of the nineteenth century were facing formidable changes...churches and secular nobility were replaced as sources of income by the triumphant middle class, the national state, and national academies. Competition forced crowds of artists, whose number had more than doubled since the end of the previous century, to vie for public attention by flattering its tastes. They became small independent capitalists with their own stocks and stores, taking chances in the market, aiming to please.
Artists who were dissatisfied with public tastes began to protest what they viewed as the degeneration of art into a shallow entertainment. Here began the nonrepresentational art styles of the 20th century. Romantically idealistic of self expression, artists called for a new, highly individualist vision, one of sincerity and originality, free from the hypocrisies of conventional tastes. There artists tended to group or be grouped into parties or movements analogous to those in political life and recognized for their zealous opposition to the status quo. The art world was on the threshold of what would turn out to be modern art, although functionally different from that of the past even though it was constructed out of the tradition of the past to a greater or lesser degree.

A variety of factors contributed to this historical division. Nineteenth century artists were confronted by three innovations that fatefully affected their work: The camera, the mass-produced print and the printed reproduction . Rivaling the unique work made by hand these new products flooded the world with images and in a way the nineteenth century artist was technologically displaced forcing them as individual craftspeople, to analyze their function and to study closer the physical nature of their medium beginning the development of abstract art as thought of today. Towards the end of the century, artists found themselves using the elements of line, shape, and color to represent their private world, the realm of imagination and feeling. The functions of the artist and the artists medium were decisively transformed by the modern world, and the art of that world broke firmly away from the Tradition
Art became a representation of objects in terms of abstract geometrical form rather than of natural appearance for decorativeness or symbolism and also, by extension, the stereotyping of forms by tradition for the same reasons. Formalism emerged and corresponded to stylization but has since been distinguished from the 20th-century notion of abstract art, which today defines it as a free arrangement of nonrepresentational shapes.
From early times examples of formalism in both senses are to be found in Neolithic statuettes and wooden sculpture and masks from Africa and Oceania, in the decoration of primitive pottery and Chinese bronze and jade, and in the object-symbols that make up the pattern of Oriental carpets; religious art has produced the hieratic figures of Byzantine mosaics and Russian icons and the Buddhist statuary of the Far East, all recognizable at once from pose and habiliments.
In modern times formalism is exemplified in the paintings of the Cubist, Futurist, and Vorticist movements.
Abstract art did not flourish between World Wars I and II. Beset by totalitarian politics and by art movements placing renewed emphasis on imagery, such as Surrealism and socially critical Realism, it received little notice. But after World War II an energetic American school of abstract painting called Abstract Expressionism emerged and had wide influence along with Abstract Figuration and Abstract Symbolism. Since the 1950s abstract art has been an accepted and widely practiced approach within European and American painting and sculpture. Abstract art has puzzled and indeed confused many people, but for those who have accepted its non-referential language there is no doubt as to its value and achievements.


Art Through the Ages. University of Michigan: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.


State Hermitage Museum

Picture source

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Classroom Discipline Plan

A Classroom Discipline Plan is a system that allows me to clarify what behaviors I expect from my students and what they can expect from me in return. My objective is to have a fair and consistent way in which to deal with all students, the results are an atmosphere conducive to teaching and permits more time on-task for learning.
It also serves as an integral part of my teacher-parent involvement plan. By letting parents know exactly how their children are to behave, what will happen when they do behave and what will happen when they don't.
The Classroom Discipline Plan is composed of three parts:
1 Rules that students must follow at all times.
2 Consequences that result when students choose not to follow the rules.
3 Rewards for when students do follow the rules.

Sample elementary discipline plan

Classroom Discipline Plan

Classroom Rules
-Follow directions the first time they are given.
-Keep hands, feet, objects to yourself
-No teasing or name calling.
-Stay in your seat unless you have permission to get up.
-Raise your hand and wait to be called upon before speaking.
First time a student breaks a rule: Warning
Second time: Last in line for lunch
Third time: Time out area
Fourth time: Teacher calls parents
Fifth time: Send to the principal
Severe Clause: Send to the principal
Students who follow the rules receive:
-Positive notes sent home
-Small rewards
-Class parties

Sample secondary discipline plan

Classroom Discipline Plan

Classroom Rules
-Follow directions the first time they are given
-Be in the classroom and seated when the bell rings
-Raise hand to be recognized before speaking
-Do not swear
First time a student breaks a rule: Warning
Second time: Stays in class 1 minute after the bell.
Third time; Stays in class 2 minutes after the bell
Fourth time: Call parents
Fifth time: Send to principal
Severe Clause: Send to principal
Students who comply with the rules receive:
-Positive notes sent home
-Privilege pass
I send a note home to the parent explaining that these are the rules of my classroom and are in effect at all times. Severe misbehavior, such as fighting, verbal abuse will result in the immediate imposition of the Severe Clause: Send to principal. I explain that I have already discussed (actually at the elementary level I teach it as a fun game ie. students are chosen to roll play the teacher and various mis behaving students ) There is a tear off section for the parent to sign and return saying they have talked to their child about the discipline plan.

The end result is that I have well-defined rules and predetermined consequences from the very beginning which establishes classroom control and creates a basis for me to effectively communicate with parents. I am able to:
  • Judge student behavior fairly.
  • Discuss behavior problems more confidently with parents.
  • My reasons for discipline are never vague or arbitrary. I can accuratley describe to the student or parent:
  • The rule(s) that the student has broken
  • The consequences of the student's misbehavior.

    Yes it's a commitment that's time consuming to prepare, but I find it well worth the effort as it saves me time and energy in the future. These are preventative actions that puts parental involvement on the right track from the first day of school and they set the stage for a full year of positive parental involvement.

  • Photo Source

    Sunday, April 05, 2009

    Raft of the Medusa

    Théodore Géricault took for this contemporary subject the tragedy of the survivors of the French ship Medusa. It had foundered off the west coast of Africa in the summer 1816, laden with Algerian immigrants. One hundred and fifty French castaways, abandoned at sea with barely any water and no food began killing off each other and eating the flesh of the dead. The tragedy was the product of terrible mismanagement and resulted in scandalous public scorn of the French government. The politicos construed Géricault's presentation of the horrific event as an outright attack on the government. The artist avoided showing the most terrible aspects of the ordeal-- murder, cannibalism, and the overwhelming hardship--in opting to depict the dramatic moment when the castaways are flailing frenziedly to catch the attention of a distant ship that was to eventually rescue them. Various corpses and a mere fifteen survivors are heaped onto one another any which way--despair, suffering, and death (recalling Antoine Jean Gros' Pest House), and are arranged in a X-shaped composition.
    "One light filled diagonal axis stretches from bodies at the lower left up to the figure of the black man, raised on the shoulders of his comrades and waving a piece of cloth toward the horizon. The cross-axis descends from the storm clouds and dark, wind-filled sail at the upper left to the shadowed upper torso of the body trailing in the open sea."

    Out of love or guilt or madness of idealism, to paint this subject, Géricault locked himself in a room full of amputated limbs and severed heads for seven months. The value Géricault places on telling the truth in his Raft of the Medusa (1819) is evidenced by the fact thatover a period of three years he carried out volumes research and completed several preliminary studies for his piece, even going so far as to interview those who had withstood the shipwreck.


    Justus, Kevin. "Art and Culture II." Tucson , Arizona.
    1992. (Lecture presented at Pima Community College.)

    De La Croix, Horst, Richard D. Tansey, and Diane Kirkpatrick.
    Art Through the Ages. University of Michigan: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

    Picture Source