Archive for August, 2013

Ripper by Stefan Petrucha

August 27th, 2013

Set in the 1890’s in New York, Ripper follows a young boy, a young girl, and a bully-turned-friend (yes, the three-part party has been done before, but go with it) as they try to track down Jack the Ripper. The first well-known serial killer committed his murders in London, but the book theorizes that Jack made his way to the United States to cause trouble. The book is full of historical references but they do not seem like an encyclopedia entry that jars the narrative. The short chapters in Ripper benefit the pacing; the action occurs in tiny snippets. I like that. Where the pacing struggled, though, was in the scope of the mystery. Having figured it out pretty early on, I wanted more intrigue but had to settle for Ripper being more of an adventure book instead of a mystery.

Teddy Roosevelt is becoming more and more popular in fictional works and he’s fun in this one. What I appreciated was that Petrucha gave him flaws. For a historical figure who lived such a boisterous life, flaws like impatience develop him as a supporting character.

The discussion of nature versus nurture – What is it driving Jack the Ripper to kill? – is intriguing and gives some secondary motivation to Carver, the young protagonist. While I would have liked more development for Carver’s foils, the young girl and the former bully, Ripper is still an enjoyable read and worth having a copy on the shelf.


August 27th, 2013

When I do my library orientation or teach a technology lesson, I sometimes want to record what I’m doing so that an absent student can follow along. Check out Screencast-O-Matic. It lets you record 15 minutes of footage, add your voice, and download the video as a file to your computer – for free. The trade-off is that it puts a watermark in the corner of your video. Normally screen capture tools put a watermark in the center of the video, which sometimes can confuse the person that you’re trying to help. Screencast-O-Matic seems to be a pretty viable solution. It does require you to run a Java applet – something that makes me nervous – but I haven’t seen anything too questionable. The fact that I can start recording straight from the homepage without requiring a login is a bonus.

The Score Cut-offs for AIMS

August 16th, 2013

If you’re doing targeted interventions based on AIMS results, here are the scale scores.

Billboard Grabs Water from the Air

August 9th, 2013

The University of Engineering and Technology of Peru set up a billboard in Lima that pulls water out of the 90% humidity air, filters it, and then sends it to cannisters where people can fill up buckets like they would at a well. In a city like Lima – where there’s 9 million people and not a lot of rainfall – it may very well be a life-saving technology.