Friday, August 8, 2014

Ready Player One

I used to be an addict. I would play until I got a cramp in my hand, and then I wouldn't be able to get up off the floor. At the age of twelve, I'd much rather sit in my basement in front of a screen, consuming "pac-dots" and "power pellets" so I can get extra points for attacking the ghosts instead of playing outside. It's an addiction, and Ready Player One by Ernest Cline describes it so well that I was immersed in Parzival's world, as well.

Parzival is Wade's online name. In the OASIS, a virtual world that is free to access, Wade can be free of his terrible life, living as Parzival. Living in "the stacks" (stacks of trailer homes) with his wicked aunt and two other families, twelve-year-old Wade has no life, except what he experiences in the OASIS. When the creator of the OASIS (James Halliday) dies, he unlocks a new game. This search for the ultimate "Easter egg" draws Wade even further into the OASIS, his drug of choice.

(Spoiler alert!)

Five years later, Parzival becomes famous, for he accesses the first key to the puzzle. The entire world is alerted via the scoreboard in everyone's virtual reality. This discovery pushes Wade further into the depths of the virtual world, as he now has more access to more areas in the OASIS, and he is wanted by terrorists who'd love to know what he knows. His avatar has more power and wealth, so Wade is able to move away from the stacks and into his own apartment. Here, he paints over the window, arms the door, and has no contact with the outside world. He even seems to become less human - shaving all the hair from his now pale body, and not wearing anything every day except his high-tech immersion rig. Everything he needs is ordered online and delivered through his high-security system.

Because the reader is so caught up in the action and suspense, it might be easy to not catch on to the theme of the book. The budding online romance Wade once had is shut down so both of them can play the game as best they can, and the second half of the book is focused on one thing - getting the next keys so the company that owns everything else does not end up owning the OASIS, as well. The reader is brought back to the theme when it turns out no one can win this game on his or her own. Players are brought together in the real world so that one of them can win this game once and for all. Halliday meets Parzival to basically give him the keys to the virtual kingdom, with one warning - "Don't make the same mistake I made. Don't hide in here forever." Once the ultimate goal is attained, there is really one MORE goal - Wade wants to meet his love. She will only meet him OFFline. It isn't until page 372 that Wade admits, "It occurred to me then that for the first time in as long as I could remember, I had absolutely no desire to log back into the OASIS." Reality is not online; interaction with human beings is the ultimate goal. Real life has its own Easter eggs for us to find.

Friday, July 4, 2014

The Program

The setting of the novel The Program greatly affects the way the characters act. If it weren't for the setting being a time in our world when teenage suicide is on the rise, and the separate school in town where the "returners" from The Program attend, the characters in The Program would not be interacting in the way they do. Interactions are closely observed and noted, and characters are aware.

The exposition of The Program by Suzanne Young explains that Sloane and James live in a world where teenage suicide affects 1/3 of the teen population. What is the world doing to combat this epidemic? Some communities (like the one Sloane and James live in) have instituted The Program. Every teen 17 and under is watched closely for any sign of depression. They take surveys each day in class, and their answers are scrutinized. They are asked their feelings, but they are not expected to admit that they are lonely, sad, or upset. If they are "flagged" because someone has observed a sign of depression, men called "handlers" come and take them away - to The Program.

When teens interact at school, they act as if they are happy - even if they are breaking inside. They do this because if they are flagged and end up in The Program, they will return without their memories. They will have major holes in their memory, and this is the real threat of The Program. As a result, teens hide away their emotions - in front of their friends, and even their families. (Parents seem quick to call for the handlers to come take their children away - for their own safety, of course.) The irony is, if these teens were allowed to express their emotions and share their feelings with others, the rate of suicide might actually decrease.

This, I believe, is how the author develops the theme, or message of this book. When teens do get to share their feelings with loved ones in the book, they feel better, and can go on to make it through the rest of their day. But it is when the author sets up anxious characters who cannot share their feelings, that they are flagged for The Program anyway. What is the good in that? If we share our grief and frustrations, our anxiety level could decrease, and there would be no need for The Program.

This book made me anxious. I am known to wear my heart on my sleeve, and I would be flagged early. It was quite the thriller, and for mature audiences only.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Lord of the Flies

At 41 years old, I have finally read The Lord of the Flies by William Golding. It is a requirement in some 8th through 12th grade classes, and I wondered about the allure... After reading it, I had to see how it was portrayed on film. There will be no spoilers in this post, so read on if you plan on reading this literary classic.

There are three different videos sharing The Lord of the Flies. The most recent, I've read, is a low-budget film that did not get much recognition in 2013. There is another, from 1990, that received poor ratings. Therefore, I decided to watch the 1963 black and white version. (After watching this one, I was not tempted in the least to watch the other two!)

The first change I noticed right off was the background information given in the movie. Where the book begins with two boys in a forest or jungle-type setting, the movie begins with still photos of what's going on at that time in our history. The book explains that there is a war going on, but the movie shows the typical dress of the day in England, and then flashes quick photos of bombs, rockets, and jets, with menacing music accompanying them. From the photos, viewers can grasp that this takes place in the 1950s. The beginning of the movie ends with a photo of a plane stranded in the ocean, near an island. In the book, Golding explains over and over the "scar" that the plane left on the island itself.

The contrast of watching the movie in black and white vs. reading the vivid descriptions of the foliage and contours of the land in the book is stark. The black and white doesn't show the "pink" of the rocks that Golding writes of a lot, and, to me, doesn't show the enormity of the island and all that it could hold. The film, lacking in its exploration of the island itself that I was expecting, makes up for it in the paint and masks the savages wear. The book described how it was difficult to recognize who was under the paint, but the movie scenes with the boys lined up in full paint, armed with spears, really displayed their savagery. What I noticed in the movie that did I did not notice in the book is that they had paint on their chests and backs, as well. This added to the serious tone of the way the boys were getting out of hand / morphing.

While the movie was almost word for word the dialogue in the book, there was an extra scene that I found amusing. Piggy is left to take care of the "littleuns," and in the film, he is sitting on a log explaining the origin of his hometown's name. I can see that they film maker could have added this scene to show that Piggy is trying to do the right thing by entertaining the littleuns while others go searching for the beast, but also to show how boring (annoying?) he could be. I, however, was chuckling, because it was the first thing I noticed that was different from the text, and I wondered, "Of all the things to add to this movie, they added THIS?"

I was astounded at how close the movie was to the book. I can't help but think that anyone who did not read the book, however, would have no clue what the movie was really about. Many parts were unclear or hard to understand. I am wondering about the 2013 adaptation, but not so much that I'll use (waste?) another 90 minutes of my life watching it...

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Photo - A - Day

At the ICE Conference on February 28th, I went to a session titled, "Photo-A-Day Challenge: Building 21st Century Skills Through Photography," led by Kristin Brynteson from NIU (my alma matter - twice!).

I decided to try it for the month of March - I needed that push! I'm going to use the site she suggested. (Silly me - I should have used the site for March of 2014, but I found the one for 2012 first! Ah, well.)

What I've learned by going through this process...
  * It's not for me.
          I can see how other people (students and adults alike) can get into this - if they share on a DAILY basis. Instagram, Twitter, or some other form of social media could really make this challenge interesting, more fun, and definitely more challenging and more rewarding. It would also be a better learning opportunity, as you can see what others have posted and learn from them!
   * I don't like assignments.
          I love photography - but I don't like someone else determining what shot I should get. It DID, however, make me keep my eyes open for items that fit the bill. For instance, when looking for "an animal" on 3/24, even though I didn't have my camera ready (I was really relaxing), I did make note of all the animals we saw that day on our ride. On the day for "funny," I recognized more of what was funny in the day, but wouldn't be able to capture any of it unless I had the shutter open at all times.
   * The iPad doesn't take bad photos... well, not too bad.
   * I want to include my husband / soul mate in EVERY photo.
          He is such a huge part of my life, and makes it all it is. He has helped me with many of these photos, and he enjoys (or puts up with?) challenges alongside me.

If I were to try this again...
   * I'd join a group, and post photos daily.
   * I would save all my photos for the month in a Flickr account.
   * I would have my good camera with me at all times.
   * I would use the right month & year!
   * I might make one up WITH students - we could create our own, and post when we're ready.
   *** I'd like to try one per week with students - we could share on a Friday in class, and come up with a new one together for the next week. This is actually an option... The gears are turning now...***

Here are the results, and what I learned for certain photos...

March 1st - UP
* I should do this project with my husband / soul mate, because he thinks of "outside the box" (even as I put them INside a box!)...
* When you take photos of lights through your iPad, it can come out looking black and white! (I did NOT touch up any of these with effects.
(Hubby put up these two new light fixtures just this week.)
March 2nd - FRUIT
* I realized that the seeds are what's important in the fruit. Although difficult to get a photo of the seeds, I was able to focus on the inside of the fruit.
* I'd love to take photos of my favorite fruits, but they're not in season...

* I realized I'm disgusted with the snow and the cold, as this is all I see of our neighborhood these days. I thought about this picture all day, and this is all I could come up with. Probably because we haven't been out and about in our neighborhood since December!

March 4th - BEDSIDE
* This project makes me think about what I value. What do I value enough to take a picture and post on my blog?? My warm socks and slippers.

March 5th - SMILE
* Dexter and his friend in a freshly-made bed always make me smile. My husband is caring and knows that if I see them spooning I'll know the sheets are fresh and I will sleep well... I used BigLens for this blurred background and snowy scene today.

March 6th - 5PM
* I found out that people at ______ (identity protected) are not supposed to have their photo taken! So I learned how to blur out Juan's name. ;-) We go here most Tuesdays or Thursdays... depending on when we go to Jimmy John's instead! Juan is a sweet man who we have small talk with each week. His gentleness came out in this quick shot of him we (luckily) got.

* This week, a group of students showed me their logo for their new band (born in Genius Hour!), and I thought my collar could represent them... "Play It In Reverse" is the band!

March 8th - WINDOW
* My love had my iPad today while I enjoyed EdCamp Iowa!! So... here are two photos he took, plus one of him taking one of the photos! (Thanks Shawn!)

March 9th - RED
* Red. I did not see red today. I saw blue. I saw green. I saw purple... Then, at the end of the day, we had my dad's birthday party... everyone there (except me) was wearing some version of red. I did not have my camera. Ugh. How could I not bring my camera to a birthday party??

March 10th - LOUD
* My love is out of town... so I made tuna jackstraw casserole, because he can't stand the smell... I'm learning that words have multiple meanings - even transcending senses.

* I miss him.

March 12th - FORK
* I realized a fork symbolizes a choice... I could choose to be sad that my love is out of town, or choose to be happy, as I know he is good and is coming home soon. I chose happy (now I've got to convince myself that I DID choose happy, and act it!)

March 13th - A SIGN
* These two teachers (ELA & Science - 7th grade) are excited about their new plans for the school garden. They both got up from their lunch to look outside at it and point out where they'll make changes. In front of them, on the counter, is the sign... "GROW." This photo is a sign that spring WILL come to us some day, and the garden will flourish once again...

March 14th - CLOUDS
* I like the first two... My love likes the one with the moon. I can't decide, and it's my photo challenge, so they're all here! Clouds with bare trees & the sun, or just clouds and the sun... Or more clouds later in the evening with the moon and the terrain...

March 15th - CAR
* I hate NASCAR, but love my hubby. He was having fun flipping through the channels, and suddenly he started driving (with remote in hand)! He wants to title this one "Left Turn."

March 16th - SUNGLASSES
* We tried to geocache today... haven't been out since October! Found out we still had a geocoin we have to drop off - it's called "Spring." Hmmm... 23 degrees and a biting wind, but we did get out! I wanted the reflection of the coin in my sunglasses (transition lenses - LOVE 'EM), but learned that we can't see much in the iPad when it's sunny out and our glasses switch over to sunglasses! I also learned that I have more wrinkles that stem out from my eyes (besides the crow's feet from smiling)...

March 17th - GREEN
* It's St. Patrick's Day... It should be easy to find "green..." Yet I wanted something different. I went through the day and then came home, looking at myself to see if I should use my own shirt. Nope. Went back through my photos, and realized that this picture from today was green! My first views of it in my last class did not catch the color - I was trying to catch the smoothness and the intricacies of the patterns INSIDE the "ice marble" that the students made.

* I love our bookshelves, the sound of a banjo, and light for reading... I was also able to catch a wedding photo of me and my love on the beach. <3

March 19th - FUNNY
* I didn't capture "funny." I live in the moment. By the time I get the iPad out to take a picture, "funny" had escaped...

March 20th - BEFORE / AFTER
* Before... excited, sore, ready. After... Ahhhhhhhh......

March 21st - DELICIOUS
* I didn't want to bring the iPad in to the restaurant. So when the day was done, I took this picture so that I could remember that most everything I eat I think is pretty delicious...

March 22nd - KITCHEN SINK
* I wasn't aware that this was the topic today... so since I took this photo yesterday, really, I thought I'd do "delicious" today! Thanks for the omelette, Love!

March 23rd - MOON
* Oh... my... gosh. How DENSE am I? I looked all over for moons today - everywhere I went! Finally, before I went to sleep, I took this photo of my closet door handle, as it could look like a moon if you stretch your imagination. Then I went to sleep. I dream. A lot. I dreamt about my drink on this night - BLUE MOON! UGH! I could've taken a photo of the orange on the glass!! I'm losing it.

March 24th - AN ANIMAL
* We saw SOOOO many animals today - but I enjoyed them without a camera. Here are two of the turkey vultures resting for the night. Can you see their blotches in the tree? We counted about FIFTY between two different areas. We also saw ten deer tonight on our walk, a hawk flew over our head (we could hear his wings when he took off!), we saw a buffalo, long-horned cattle, sheep, goats, horses, cows... the next day we saw a wild turkey in our path, and llamas, too! :D No camera, but memories galore.

March 25th - BREAKFAST
* We went to the Cracker Barrel for breakfast... love this place. I also love that the chair I asked Bob to sit in came alongside a chair with the state we were in! It had snowed this morning, as well, but the bush (tree) was budding... What is this beautiful flower ready to bloom?

March 26th - KEY
* I took this picture on the 25th, not knowing it was the challenge for today! Remember when all hotel keys used to be like this?

March 27th - YOUR NAME
* My name... Joy. Oh, so many things bring me joy! Here is a collage from what brings me joy today.

March 28th - TRASH
* There were lots of photos I could have taken today. However, it got me thinking that maybe some people wouldn't have the same opinions of trash as I do. Then I thought - "Oh, well, this is MY photo challenge." So... this was the second pink elephant we saw on our way home from Nashville. Tacky. The way it happened, it also says "Whiskey" above it, and "liquor" right on it. Trashy, in my opinion. I took it from the car. Also a bit trashy/tacky.

March 29th - FEET
* We got home from Tennessee, and were able to spend the night in our own bed. Ahhh.... This is me and hot-footed man (sans socks).

March 30th - TOY
* TweetDeck. Need I say more?

March 31st - WHERE YOU RELAX
* Usually my love is resting on this with me, watching "The Big Bang Theory."

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Going Well...

Phew! I am doing it! I'm reading a ratio of about 3:1 - 3 YA or juvenile books to 1 adult book! Let's look at the details...
Last I'd written, I'd read The Pregnancy Project. Note that these books go backwards - most recent is top left. I had to read two adult books side-by-side - If Only had come free if I'd write about it and submit a blog post when the book comes out in print, and The First Phone Call from Heaven had been on reserve - I couldn't renew that one! So, to make up for two adult books, I read six YA or juvenile books!

Two new things I've learned...
     I've learned about a "new" genre - speculative fiction.
     I've also learned that I'd like to read about various places - and yet I won't choose a book by where it takes place.

I have two books packed for our break - Thrive (professional development for me) and Grasshopper Jungle (which is labeled "YA," but I hear is more adult than juvenile...). After that, I have a bag of six more YA books - in case I deem Grasshopper Jungle to be adult! ;-)

Monday, February 17, 2014

A Love of Reading

I've asked students to follow these steps:

Therefore, since my last project was a flop, I will stick to this idea until I DO get inspired. Truly inspired. For I learned from my last project that I won't have anything to show if it's not something I for which I am passionate.

Since setting a Goodreads goal for 2013, I have found that I have gaps in my reading choices. I do not read many adult fiction books anymore, and I don't read a lot of novels (young adult or otherwise) from different countries. I've been reading books that take place in the United States, mostly. I also don't read many mysteries. What DO I read? I am about to find out this year.

So... starting this January, I decided I'd have a goal to keep reading (as is normal), with a twist. I'd read three young adult or children's novels, and then one adult novel, nonfiction or professional book.

The books I've read this year are on Goodreads and also on my Google doc. On this document, I also note which genre each book is.

The places I read about are on this Google doc. At the very least, I can read fiction set in different states, yes?? I tried to read I Am Malala, but abandoned it after 120 pages.

My progress so far...

My favorites so far this year...
     Choice Words by Peter Johnston - for anyone who works with children.
     The Pregnancy Project - for anyone who knows, has known, or might know a teenage mother.
     The Running Dream - for middle school and high school students!

Celia WHO?

It's half a year after I was supposed to finish my last (summer) Genius Hour project.

It's still not done.

There is no final product.

It won't ever be completed... UNLESS... someone else cares more about it than me.

That's what I've learned - You need to CARE about your project, or it won't mean as much to you. If it doesn't mean much to you, you won't learn as much as you could if you were truly dedicated to getting something accomplished, or producing a product.
So what IS my thing?

Photography.  Reading.  Organizing.  Walking.  Biking.  Being with family & friends.

I've come up with a goal for the second half of the school year, so I can share my progress with my students. It is NOT poetry. It is NOT trying to better our school bathrooms with poetry about girls and judging. I'm going with reading... I'll keep reading until I am inspired. And then - only then - will I act on it. If I'm only a tad inspired, I think I'll sit out that project...