Archive for March, 2008

My Favorite Author Gets an Asteroid

March 25th, 2008

Michael Stackpole, one of my favorite authors ever, just got an asteroid named after him. I’ve met the guy. He’s nice. He deserves an asteroid.

Max Ride 4: Final Warning

March 21st, 2008

I finished Haddix’s Found earlier this week and loved it. Since I had already read Flanagan’s Battle for Skandia, equally satisfying, the next big book was Patterson’s Final Warning. (I’m a movie fanatic and waiting for Max Ride 4 after Ranger’s Apprentice 4 was the same feeling as waiting for Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and The Dark Knight.)

Usually it’s my duty to hype books. I understand that sometimes it’s easier to just watch a TV show, so I understand the importance of finding a great book quickly. I especially understand a need for lots of action in a book. A few explosions never hurt anyone (okay, so maybe explosions do hurt, but they make for exciting reads).

The Maximum Ride series by James Patterson always has lots of action and short chapters – a great combination. Number 4 has the short chapters…

I’m not saying that it doesn’t have action, mind you, but the action is not like the other three. It has action like an average book. But in Max Ride you expect giant aerial combats, betrayals by covert operatives, and general craziness.

Well, there’s a scene where the Flock flies over the Pentagon and a jet is scrambled. But the Flock immediately dives for cover. Realistic, but a distinct lack of explosions.

The main villain? Global warming. Yep. There is a significant amount of time spent where scientists and congress debate the causes and effects of global warming. (It’s not like I’m anti-Earth. I’m looking at getting CFL bulbs through an offer from SRP.)

Most of the book is a re-telling of character development from previous books. It’s almost like Patterson wanted to get his global warming message out and needed a popular venue. It makes more sense for Max Ride to look at global warming issues than Alex Cross.

One of the funniest quotes about the re-telling:

I won’t bore you with the usual duct-taped hands and feet, bound wings, stuck into black body bags, yada yada yada, that we always go through in these ho-hum random abductions. It was like, same old, same old, and I could hardly work up the energy to fight hard enough to get more than a black eye and a sprained wrist about it.

– page 214

I actually feel bad about saying negative stuff about the book. Patterson says on his site that his biggest cause is getting students who don’t like to read interested in action-packed books.

This review is not a pan of Max Ride 4 but instead a hype for Max Ride 1-3. In those books you’ll find gut-wrenching descriptions of jumping off cliff edges into canyons, people fighting thousands of feet in the air while experimental werewolves lash out at mutant heroes. Go with those books. Book 4 is for die hard fans, but I definitely wouldn’t start the series there (even though there’s enough re-telling to catch up first-time readers. It’s almost as if Patterson expects people to jump in without having read earlier books).

I’ll still have a couple of copies of Max Ride 4 on the shelf. And I am waiting expectantly for The Dangerous Days of Daniel X coming out in July. Don’t let me down, James. I need something to booktalk the 8th graders this coming August!

Margaret Peterson Haddix’s Missing Series

March 18th, 2008

Plane...scary!
Last night I finished Book 1: Found in Margaret Peterson Haddix’s new Missing series. Just like any Haddix book (she’s so much a favorite author of mine that she has her own category) it has great suspense and mystery. This time, though, she busts out the sci-fi as well.

All of the stuff that made the Shadow Children series work is still in it. The premise is that a plane mysteriously shows up at a terminal and the only people on board are 36 babies (no pilot – the cabin is completely dark once workers show up).

But what sets this apart from the Shadow Children series is that the action picks up in the second half of the book. In Among the Hidden you have lots of ‘What type of society is this?’ and ‘Why is he hiding?’ type questions with one sad twist at the end. This book, though, is not as society-challenging but instead is more like a TV show. (But that’s okay. It’s a great read.)

I know I shouldn’t give quotes from an ARC (the book comes out later this spring) but here’s one of my favorites (with understanding that it could change its wording once published):

“I can’t believe they think you’re on their side,” Mr. Hodge said. “You must not have told them what you want to do.”

Terribly mysterious!

I finished the book last night and it should be noted that I started the book that morning.
Now on to Max Ride 4. Just picked it up this morning.

ActionScript for Advanced Computers

March 12th, 2008

(and for Future Professionals, but we’ve been working on this)

The first type of code that I like to introduce is “stop();”. Put this in the ActionScript for the first frame. Test the movie. Instead of moving on through the frames, it stops in frame 1. How exciting.
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Let’s animate a figure.
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This is circleman. He is a very complex character with artwork that took me hours to draw.

To be able to easily reuse circleman, instead of drawing him on the stage, I made him a separate movie clip in the Flash file’s library. That way I don’t have to spend hours re-drawing him.

Right now he’s kindof boring in his new layer on frame 1, especially since the “stop();” command doesn’t move the animation anywhere. But for this movie, all of the fun will happen in one frame.

Make sure that circleman is selected, click on his ActionScript button, and type in the code that you see in the picture:
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The onClipEvent(load) is a one time thing when that movie clip shows up in the frame the first time around. You’re setting up the initial values of the speed.

The onClipEvent(enterFrame) is every time the frame loops. With the LEFT function, it’s making your xspeed value a negative one. Outside of the Key.isDown(Key.LEFT) function the _x and _y is being added to whatever your xspeed and yspeed values are. It will do this each time the frame loops (many times per second). This creates the constant motion. If you don’t like the constant motion, you could put the _x += xspeed; part inside the Key.isDown function to add the xspeed only when the key is down.

Remember: Brackets start and stop a function. Every time there’s an open bracket it has to close the function somewhere with a close bracket.

Back to the Key.isDown, the way we’ve got it set up, circleman moves left until he is stuck in the netherworld called “Offscreen” with no hope of return. Add some UP, DOWN, and RIGHT Key.isDown functions.

Boundaries
Here’s where stuff gets crazy.

Create a movie called “bounds”.
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This will be your environment/world/level.
Put the movie bounds on the stage. Name its instance “wall”.
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In circleman’s ActionScript, add a hitTest after your Key.isDown code but before your _y+=yspeed; stuff.
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If the character hits the bounds, it stops and then moves to new x,y coordinates.

This ActionScript dictionary is officially your best friend.

Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale

March 8th, 2008

This is a fun read. At first it doesn’t really challenge you much, and that’s okay. It’s a simple story of a princess and her prince.

But where it switches it up is that the true protagonist is the princess’s maid. It’s a classic fairy tale (actually, Maid Maleen by Brothers Grimm) of a prince and princess separated by family and a giant tower. When Lady Saren refuses to marry the warlord Khasar, she is locked in the tower with her maid, Dashti.

Saren has seen some horrible secret of Khasar’s and requires Dashti to pretend to be her. This protects Saren from Khasar but also hides her from her betrothed.

Cases of mistaken identity and loyalty versus class differences provide fun, all told through a fairy tale tone. What really adds to the story are Dashti’s songs. It’s set in a fantasy world where songs have a little ability to heal, so Dashti knows different songs for different situations. The lyrics to these provide a fun flow to the narration. It’s also told in journal format, capitalizing on voices like Princess Mia.

But the part that really got me was that Khasar was no longer human.

(Yeah, you gotta read it.)

The author mentions heifer.org to help out real-life people just like the muckers.

The onClipEvent code

March 5th, 2008

is in wonderful text file format here:onclipevent.txt

Today I was challenged to a duel

March 4th, 2008

Now, I don’t the basics, whether it be pistols at 20 paces, a giant semi, some cards, or even if banjos will be involved. 

But I do know this: Mr. Loge of Fremont Junior High, I accept your challenge. It is officially on. 

Sweethearts by Sara Zarr and Enthusiasm by Polly Shulman

March 3rd, 2008

If you haven’t heard from Ally Carter or Standhart yet, you need to read Sweethearts

It’s funny (okay, so it’s a drama) that the book has some plot, but not in a giant way. 

It’s life, and that’s alright. How do we define ourselves? Can we/do we change from junior high to high school and beyond? This is a great follow-up to Story of a Girl. The characters and setting are very believable and the serious issues are dealt with in a respectful, and intriguing, way that doesn’t downplay but also makes it accessible to junior high students.

A first-time novelist, Polly Shulman succeeds with Enthusiasm. Even if  students don’t catch the Pride and Prejudice references, it’s still a fun book. “He said, she said, but does he really mean this?” situations make this a great romantic comedy. 

Librarians – get both of these books. Students – read both of these books. Authors – make more of these books.