Archive for July, 2012

It Can Wait

July 31st, 2012

Last Friday I was able to go to the American Idol Live concert in connection with AT&T’s It Can Wait campaign. AT&T had people at the entrance to Arena to talk with about the dangers of texting and driving. They had iPads queued up with the Facebook page to take the pledge with a few simple clicks. You can take the pledge on Facebook here or through AT&T’s dedicated website here.

The seats were great and I was able to chat with some of the people about the It Can Wait campaign. One of the messages that I posted on Twitter about it was displayed on the Jumbotron screens in the arena, which was fun.

AT&T’s It Can Wait campaign is sobering in its focus: to give real-life examples of people affected by teens texting and driving. We are currently in the 100 deadliest days of summer according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Teens are more at risk now to get in a fatal accident than any other time of the year. A study from Virginia Tech found that drivers who text while driving are 23 times more likely to get in a crash.

If you want more information about distracted driving, check out

Mars One

July 27th, 2012

Mars One is a Dutch organization set to pioneer Mars. I’ve been excitedly following the next NASA Mars mission, Curiosity. It’s an unmanned probe that will land on August 5 and search for signs of life (whether ancient or current) on the Martian surface.

Mars One, on the other hand, is promising to establish a manned colony by 2023. That number seems so far off and yet it’s only 11 years away. Here’s their game plan. One key facet to note: they don’t plan on coming back to Earth. They’re setting out like the Pilgrims and know that they must have a successful colony or they will die. That’s pretty gutsy but that has sometimes been the risk with historical milestones.

They have companies supplying different components for the mission and you can find them by clicking here. I really hope it works. They say that they’re only using proven technology; there’s nothing new here, it’s just all working together. That’s like the Pilgrims, too. Their boats were not new technology. Where the new technology came in, though, was learning how to plant crops in a completely different ecosystem. Hopefully Mars One finds some friendly Martians to help them out.

Wheelchair-accessible playgrounds

July 20th, 2012

Something so simple and yet I can’t believe I’ve never seen this before.

What causes old book smell?

July 19th, 2012

Mental Floss has a fun article about some of the compounds found in and on books. Having been around books for quite some time, I can tell you that the environment that they are in definitely affects how long they last. Check out the article here.

Nielsen’s list of the most powerful events in TV history

July 11th, 2012

I suspect that this list is very modern-biased, given that the Casey Anthony verdict or the earthquake in Japan beat out things like, oh, I don’t know, STEPPING FOOT ON THE MOON.

Usually you hear questions like, “Where were you when you saw…?” I can remember distinctly the OKC bombings, the Columbine shootings (bravo to my education professor for an impromptu and extremely memorable lesson), and 9/11 (and having to try to explain it to my Freshmen).

While what happened in Japan was a huge tragedy, and the details of the Casey Anthony case extremely sad, I don’t think people will be able to say, “I remember I was ____ when I heard the news.”

So, here’s the list from the most recent Sony Electronics and Nielsen study:

1. Sept. 11 tragedy (2001)
2. Hurricane Katrina (2005)
3. O.J. Simpson verdict (1995)
4. Challenger space shuttle disaster (1986)
5. Death of Osama bin Laden (2011)
6. O.J. Simpson white Bronco chase (1994)
7. Earthquake in Japan (2011)
8. Columbine High School shootings (1999)
9. BP oil spill (2010)
10. Princess Diana’s funeral (1997)
11. Death of Whitney Houston (2012)
12. Capture and execution of Saddam Hussein (2006)
13. Barack Obama’s acceptance speech (2008)
14. The Royal Wedding (2011)
15. Assassination of John F. Kennedy (1963)
16. Oklahoma City bombing (1995)
17. Bush/Gore election results (2000)
18. L.A. riots (1992)
19. Casey Anthony verdict (2011)
20. Funeral of John F. Kennedy (1963)


The Apothecary by Maile Meloy

July 10th, 2012

I have not seen much Cold War fiction for middle grade students. For nonfiction, I definitely recommend The Dark Game. I was intrigued instantly by the premise of The Apothecary: a young girl’s family is accused of being Communist, so they flee to England where she meets up with a mysterious apothecary.

The first few chapters of the book meet my expectations for spies. The main characters are caught up in watching for information exchanges, secret handshakes, and scary intelligence agents from East Berlin. The apothecary and his cohorts have made amazing breakthroughs in chemistry that will greatly impact the growing nuclear threat. Yes, sign me up.

Then the kids turn into birds. (This explains the birds on the cover, which I thought were some symbol for innocence or whatever and in no way the actual main characters of the book. Nope. The kids are birds.) The story shifted dramatically for me there and I remember being disappointed that magic realism had to be thrown in. So many middle grade novels resort to magic and I was looking for something new.

On the positive, the main character is not some chosen one from an ancient civilization/order. At least we don’t have to rehash that trope – as far as I know, since this book follows another trend of setting up a series. “I will return.” Yep. This is just book one.

The Cold War paranoia and the politics of nuclear weapons is portrayed really well and makes it worth the read. There was enough action to keep readers interested; it wasn’t a bunch of people spouting off ideologies. It’s a good book that I know students will enjoy. The ones that have read it have said so. I just wish it didn’t follow the alchemy trend of books like This Dark Endeavor and others that are out right now. It’s tougher to write a book where you have to think through a character’s escape and not simply resort to, “They drink a potion and everything’s swell.”

Marvel’s Augmented Reality App

July 10th, 2012

Marvel has an augmented reality app where you can scan comics and get expanded content. That’s nothing too extreme, although I do like its DVD-like special features quality.

Where you might be interested is the new release of the Spider-Man augmented reality storybook app, where young readers can take pictures of themselves and add on photo elements from the new movie. It’s nothing too groundshaking, but might be the sign of a change in book marketing for the future. The app also narrates the storybook.

Right now it’s just for iOS systems. The regular Marvel digital comics app is for iOS and Android, is free, and has free comics to download to your device. Most comics you have to pay for, but I have only downloaded the free ones and have enjoyed it (just don’t expect to follow a story arc to its completion).