Archive for June, 2009

Neil Gaiman reads Graveyard Book

June 23rd, 2009

On his book tour, Neil Gaiman read parts of his Newbery-winning book, The Graveyard Book.

Now we get to see his readings in their entirety, from the first chapter to the end. Very cool! Click here to check it out.

The Arizona Budget: A Game of Chicken

June 23rd, 2009

The Arizona Supreme Court is supposed to start hearing arguments today between the governor and the legislature. The legislature approved a budget on June 4 but are not passing it on to the next branch of government. It looks like they might be holding onto the budget until the governor has one of two options: approve their budget or parts of government shut down.

Who’s going to swerve? Will the Supreme Court make a ruling? Can they all just figure stuff out so we can get going on what we need to do for the next school year?

Simon and Shuster: Free eBooks and some social networking

June 22nd, 2009

Simon and Shuster has some great ideas to get kids access to books and getting involved in book discussions, including with the author. I find that when I chat with someone else about a book, it strengthens my enjoyment of the read. Check out more details on Pulse It from the main site (thanks to Phoenix Book Company for the heads up).

No more ‘i before e’

June 21st, 2009

I find it funny that:

  1. There is a Spelling Society.
  2. The author of the article had misspelled the Spelling Society guy’s name.

Here’s the article from the Associated Press:

Sat Jun 20, 3:49 pm ET

LONDON – It’s a spelling mantra that generations of schoolchildren have learned — “i before e, except after c.”

But new British government guidance tells teachers not to pass on the rule to students, because there are too many exceptions.

The “Support For Spelling” document, which is being sent to thousands of primary schools, says the rule “is not worth teaching” because it doesn’t account for words like ‘sufficient,’ ‘veil’ and ‘their.’

Jack Bovill of the Spelling Society, which advocates simplified spelling, said Saturday he agreed with the decision.

But supporters say the ditty has value because it is one of the few language rules that most people remember.

(This version CORRECTS spelling of Bovill, sted Bovell, in graf 4.)

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

June 16th, 2009

What’s the toughest part about Hunger Games? After finishing it, the next book that I read just doesn’t have as much grab for me.

I wonder if that’s a problem for Suzanne Collins. As I talked with students and staff about what to expect with Catching Fire, we had no clue how the author would follow up such a great story.

Now I can’t figure which one’s my favorite.

We knew that there would be rebellion. There’s no way that Capitol officials would let Katniss’ act of defiance go unnoticed. In the first book it is made very clear that Panem resembles Ancient Rome, hosting the games to crush the spirits of the rebels by crushing their kids.

Book two starts out with Katniss on a victory tour. The haunting President Snow warns her that her actions affect more than herself, a poorly veiled threat that her family is in danger unless districts are calmed down into obedience.

While people hold on to a strand of hope, they can still fight.

Katniss has been swept up in events larger than herself and has become the face of the resistance. In this way it keeps with characteristics of a successful YA book: a protagonist that ends up on her own and must figure out who she is, what she truly stands for, as forces push her from all sides.

I’ll be honest: in the first book, I cheered when the games started. I couldn’t put the book down once we had seen the tributes standing on the platforms in the minefield. I stayed up until the early morning, finishing the book and many caffeinated beverages.

In Catching Fire, seeing people thrown into the Games sickened me. I was literally distressed for the characters and angry at Panem’s injustice. I couldn’t stand the Capitol citizens’ compliance with how things were being run.

I have a renewed sense of social activism after reading the book. Seeing food so readily available, with Capitol socialites purposely vomiting so that they could gorge on more, reminded me that there are so many hungry people out there, in our country and others. We need to take action to help our fellow humans – and we’re running out of time.

If there’s one theme repeated throughout the book, it’s that your own mortality is a countdown. We have limited time. Katniss realizes what her goal is and is in a race to meet that goal before her life is snuffed out. She sees the other victors for who they are, as people scarred from the previous Games, people who need compassion but have been dehumanized for society’s entertainment. (One of the victors paints his nightmares from the Games. He has not slept a solid night since being thrown into the arena.)

Pretty challenging stuff for a teen book. But what Suzanne Collins does extremely well is take issues like social concern and mortality and blend it with an engaging, action-packed story. It’s a story that junior high and high school students can connect with, as evidenced by my students constantly having this book on a wait list.

When September 1 comes around, make sure you grab a copy (or four) to continue one of my favorite series. With book two, we knew that there would be rebellion. Book three is scheduled to wrap up the trilogy – I think I have a clue as to what will happen next, but I know that Suzanne Collins will blow away my expectations.

Michael Stackpole workshop this Thursday

June 15th, 2009

Author Michael Stackpole will be at Changing Hands from 6:30pm-8:30pm this Thursday to give a workshop on writing a novel.
Click here for more info.

Excited about Catching Fire

June 11th, 2009

The rebellion begins today.

The new Blade Runner TV show will be Creative Commons

June 4th, 2009

Did you see the announcement? A Blade Runner webseries is going to be made, title “Purefold” (sheep/fold…ha!)(the original book was not titled ‘Blade Runner’).

Here’s the big part of the announcement:

In an indication that the filmmakers are interested in exploring a new kind of collective, social creativity, the episodes in the series will be released under a Creative Commons license, marking the first time a major Hollywood director has embraced that alternative licensing scheme. The license means fans of the series can take the episodes and remix or otherwise repurpose them, and even make their versions available commercially under the same license.

That, as well as how it will be more like the book instead of the movie.

A Robot Completed My Inventory: Fun with AppleScript

June 4th, 2009

Granted, a human had to go to the shelves and scan 13,822 barcodes.

Another bonus for the human: the ability to generate creative code.

When I scanned a section of my library into my inventory, the scanner saved all of those barcodes as a text file. But here’s a mistake I had made (did I mention 13,822 barcodes?): I had closed all of the previous librarians’ inventories. It asked me what to do with books I hadn’t inventoried yet. I said to mark them as lost, since when I manually scanned a book in, our catalog responds, “This copy had been marked as lost, but will now be found” (or something to that effect). After scanning all of the books, what was left would be truly lost books.

Little did I know that when you use a portable scanner to store up a list of barcodes, when you import that list it says that lost books had now been found, but didn’t update the copy status (they’d still be considered lost until someone hand-scanned them in)(even though I just got done scanning them with a portable scanner).

Since it was already 9pm, I didn’t want to type in 3,000 barcodes by hand.

This morning I wrote my first script in AppleScript. What makes AppleScript different from other programming languages is that it is set up specifically to automate programs that you already have.

I wrote a program that would check the file from the scanner, type in a barcode, press enter, and move on to the next line and repeat the process (like a robot typing in each barcode, line by line).

I set it up so that you run the code, choose the text file holding your barcodes, and then have time to click on the place in your catalog where you type in for books to be checked in. You have to manually click on that text box in your catalog at the start, but I set it up like that so that if your catalog wasn’t set up exactly like mine, you could still use my script.

Here’s the script:
-- variable for carriage return/enter key
set CR to ASCII character of 13

set the source_file to choose file with prompt "That freaking file is located here:"
--give me time to switch back to the circulation
delay 5

-- get file data
set fp to open for access source_file
set barcodes to read fp
close access fp

-- types each line in and presses enter/carriage return
set single_barcode to every paragraph of barcodes
set AppleScript's text item delimiters to ""
repeat with thisBarcode in single_barcode
tell application "System Events"
keystroke thisBarcode & CR
delay 5
end tell
end repeat

Feel free to run it in your AppleScript editor (located in Applications on, I think, every new Mac). I have not found something like this on a Windows machine, but I haven’t really looked.

I’m a Mac fan because my MacBook has sped up my workflow considerably, and this is another example adding to my fanboy-ness. The Apple language is very easy to understand. I saved myself hours just by creating a script this morning.

Google Docs now reads .docx (and you should check out Google Wave)

June 1st, 2009

Too many times to count this year I’ve had students who e-mailed .docx files to themselves and couldn’t get them opened. Not every computer on campus had been updated with a .docx to .doc converter. (With Office 2007 for PC, Microsoft started zipping their files for compression purposes, added an ‘x’ to the file extension, and didn’t play well with anyone else.)

Check out the news from Google’s blog. One more reason why it would be great to see more people use Google Docs.

Also, if you haven’t seen Google Wave, you should check out the demo video at It follows the mindset from Gmail with e-mail as a conversation instead of a list of files.

But where it goes further is just how much it incorporates other things that you do on the Web. You can reply to sections of a wave/message and have your little dialogue bubble show up. You can drag photos straight from iPhoto into the wave and place them wherever – a much easier way of attaching pictures to a message. It fits into the conversation in much the same way that pictures in a blog do. It even gives a little thumbnail of the photo on the other person’s end while you are uploading.

What’s really crazy for me is how it handles your replies. Depending upon how you set up the wave (remember: message/conversation entity), if a person is looking at that same wave on their computer while you are replying, they can see you type, character for character. It’s like old school BBSes, where for chat you connected straight to someone’s computer and they saw what you were typing. (Now you only see that in action movies.) It makes the conversation more productive – if you are logged in, you don’t have to wait for the “they’re typing, they’re typing, boom! long message” thing that happens currently with online messaging.

The pro side is pretty cool. It opens up many doors, many conversations, that flow seamlessly. They demoed it this last week, before it was done, so that developers could get their hands on the API to start creating applications for Google Wave. This should result in some great stuff already available when it launches later this year.

The con, though, is that it’s very easy to take what someone wrote in a wave and put it in a blog/Facebook note. It’ll be interesting to see how they work in some of the privacy issues. People invited mid-wave can play back the conversation to be caught up-to-date on what has been previously discussed. Rasmussen demos a secret message part, but it will be interesting to see how many people forget who can read what they’ve written. It raises some great issues of student/staff errors in communication.

I’m excited. My gut reaction, to be honest, was to think it was like this Todd Strasser book.