Thursday, June 30, 2011

Book Review- Brain Jack

Las Vegas is gone—destroyed in a terrorist attack. Black Hawk helicopters patrol the skies over New York City. And immersive online gaming is the most dangerous street drug around. In this dystopic near-future, technology has leapt forward once again, and neuro-headsets have replaced computer keyboards. Just slip on a headset, and it’s the Internet at the speed of thought.

For teen hacker Sam Wilson, a headset is a must. But as he becomes familiar with the new technology, he has a terrifying realization. If anything on his computer is vulnerable to a hack, what happens when his mind is linked to the system? Could consciousness itself be hijacked? Before he realizes what’s happened, Sam’s incursion against the world’s largest telecommunications company leads him to the heart of the nation’s cyberdefense network and brings him face to face with a terrifying and unforeseen threat.

Brian Falkner, author of The Tomorrow Code, has created an action-packed and thought-provoking science fiction adventure in which a brilliant young computer hacker fights to prevent the human race from being deleted.

I found this science fiction/dystopian novel interesting. I don't usually find books where the main character is a hacker. But here's what I think.

What I liked: For some reason I've read two books recently where Las Vegas gets blown up by a nuclear bomb...I found it odd...Anyways, I loved the way Mr. Falkner describes what goes on inside a computer. It makes it much more interesting and fun. And even though I don't know many things about a computer I was still able to understand what was happening. 

I liked the world that's been set up, one where in post-Vegas nuclear bomb they have technology called Nuero-headsets that allow the user to have the computer inside his brain. I like how Sam understands the dangers of this technology later on in the story. The concept of it is cool along with how the internet could control you. 

When Sam's best friend died from gaming obsession I felt sad along with Sam. It wasn't fair! The character's emotions seemed to fit well with the story and I thought that they were overall well rounded characters. I thought it was surprising how when Sam escapes from the prison that Scullface turns up and saves him. And guess what, he's an undercover agent! I loved the first sentence of the books along with the prologue and epilogue. 

What I didn't like: I thought that Mr. Falkner could have done a better gone tying up the loose ends of the story. What happens to Vanessa? Does she survive? And I was confused about what really happened when Sam put on the end set in the end. And whatever happened to his mother? Did she put on a headset and become inslaved to the internet? 

At the part where Sam escapes we meet a boy who in there for robbing a bank. But later on he suddenly appears as another undercover agent. Sam doesn't seem to question this. He questioned Dodge about it but not his friend. 

I thought that it was kinda cliche and not surprising that Sam goes to work for the government as an agent. It reminded me of how the Supernaturalists enlist kids to work for them. It would have been more interesting and maybe less surprising if Sam went to work for the other side and then later turned against the terrorists. I'm getting tired of seeing bad kids turned good and going to work for secret government agencies. Lets think of something new people! 

Overall: I thought it was interesting and I good read. I'd lend it to you if you'd think that you would be interesting ed computer, hacking, mind control, and what not. The story kept me entertained and wanting to read more with enough action, mystery, and those quieter moments. 

So, has something of yours ever been hacked? If so, what did you do about it? Would you like a headset where you can view and control the internet and computer from your head? 


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Could You Pass the U.S Citizenship Test?

A while ago, actually last year, my World History teacher had us take a sample of the US citizenship test. We were allowed to work in groups and we could use our books. I thought it was pretty easy but surprisingly, other students had a harder time with it. And we’ve been learning this stuff all our lives! (Well most of us, we have a couple foreign exchange students every year.)

I’ve provided a list of the questions. For links to the questions themselves and their answers plus a brief information on each one. Try to answer as many as you can without looking up the answers! If you’d like, post your answers in the comments!
  1. Principles of American Democracy
    1. What is the supreme law of the land?
    2. What does the Constitution do?
    3. The idea of self-government is in the first
         three words of the Constitution. What are
         these words?
    4. What is an amendment?
    5. What do we call the first ten amendments
         to the Constitution?
    6. What is one right or freedom from
         the First Amendment?*
    7. How many amendments does
         the Constitution have?
    8. What did the Declaration of Independence do?
    9. What are two rights in the Declaration
         of Independence?
    10. What is freedom of religion?
    11. What is the economic system
         in the United States?*
    12. What is the “rule of law”?
  2. System of Government
    1. Name one branch or part of the government.*
    2. What stops one branch of government
         from becoming too powerful?
    3. Who is in charge of the executive branch?
    4. Who makes federal laws?
    5. What are the two parts of the U.S. Congress?*
    6. How many U.S. Senators are there?
    7. We elect a U.S. Senator for how many years?
    8. Who is one of your state’s U.S. Senators
    9. The House of Representatives has how many
         voting members?
    10. We elect a U.S. Representative for how
         many years?
    11. Name your U.S. Representative.
    12. Who does a U.S. Senator represent?
    13. Why do some states have more
         Representatives than other states?
    14. Why do some states have more
         Representatives than other states?
    15. Why do some states have more
         Representatives than other states?
    16. In what month do we vote for President?*
    17. What is the name of the President of the United
         States now?*What is the name of the Vice President of the
         United States now?
    18. If the President can no longer serve, who
         becomes President?
    19. If both the President and the Vice President can
         no longer serve, who becomes President?
    20. Who is the Commander in Chief of the military?
    21. Who signs bills to become laws?
    22. Who vetoes bills?
    23. What does the President’s Cabinet do?
    24. What are two Cabinet-level positions?
    25. What does the judicial branch do?
    26. What is the highest court in the United States?
    27. How many justices are on the Supreme Court?
    28. Who is the Chief Justice of the United States now?
    29. Under our Constitution, some powers belong to the
         federal government. What is one power of the
         federal government?
    30. Under our Constitution, some powers belong to the   
         states. What is one power of the states?
    31. Who is the Governor of your state now?
    32. What is the capital of your state?*
    33. What are the two major political parties
         in the United States?*
    34. What is the political party of the President now?
    35. What is the name of the Speaker of the House of
         Representatives now?
  3. Rights and Responsibilities
    1. There are four amendments to the Constitution
         about who can vote. Describe one of them.
    2. What is one responsibility that is only for
         United States citizens?*
    3. Name one right only for United States citizens.
    4. What are two rights of everyone living in the
         United States?
    5. What do we show loyalty to when we say the Pledge
         of Allegiance?
    6. What is one promise you make when you become a
         United States citizen?
    7. How old do citizens have to be to vote for
    8. What are two ways that Americans can participate   
         in their democracy?
    9. When is the last day you can send in federal
         income tax forms?*
    10. When must all men register for the
         Selective Service?
  4. Geography
    1. Name one of the two longest rivers in the
         United States.
    2. What ocean is on the West Coast
         of the United States?
    3. What ocean is on the East Coast
         of the United States?
    4. Name one U.S. Territory.
    5. Name one state that borders Canada.
    6. Name one state that borders Mexico.
    7. What is the capital of the United States?*
    8. Where is the Statue of Liberty?*
  5. Symbols
    1. Why does the flag have 13 stripes?
    2. Why does the flag have 50 stars?*
    3. What is the name of the national anthem?
  6. Holidays
    1. When do we celebrate Independence Day?*
    2. Name two national U.S. Holidays.
  7. Colonial Period and Independence
    1. What is one reason colonists came
         to America?
    2. Who lived in America before the
         Europeans arrived?
    3. What group of people was taken
         to America and sold as slaves?
    4. Why did the colonists fight the British?
    5. Who wrote the Declaration of Independence?
    6. When was the Declaration of Independence
    7. There were 13 original states. Name three.
    8. What happened at the Constitutional
    9. When was the Constitution written?
    10. The Federalist Papers supported the passage
         of the U.S. Constitution. Name one of the
    11. What is one thing Benjamin Franklin
         is famous for?
    12. Who is the "Father of Our Country"?
    13. Who was the first President?*
  8. 1800s
    1. What territory did the United States buy from
         France in 1803?
    2. Name one war fought by the United States in
         the 1800s.
    3. Name the U.S. war between the North
         and the South.
    4. Name one problem that led to the Civil War.
    5. What was one important thing that Abraham
         Lincoln did?*
    6. What did the Emancipation Proclamation do?
    7. What did Susan B. Anthony do?
  9. Recent American History and Other
    Important Historical Information
    1. Name one war fought by the United States in
         the 1900s.*
    2. Who was President during World War I?
    3. Who was President during the Great
         Depression and World War II?
    4. Who did the United States fight
         in World War II?
    5. Before he was President, Eisenhower was a   
         general. What war was he in?
    6. During the Cold War, what was the main
         concern of the United States?
    7. What movement tried to end racial
    8. What did Martin Luther King, Jr. do?*
    9. What major event happened on September 11,
         2001, in the United States?
    10. Name one American Indian tribe in the United
For the Questions: 100 Questions
For Answers and Explanations: Answers and Explanations


Monday, June 27, 2011

Poetry- Narrative

Narrative Peom- A Poem that tells a story

So today we're talking about narrative poems. Peoms that tell stories.

Here's an example:
Richard Cory by Edwin Arlington Robinson

Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.

And he was always quietly arayed,
And he was always human when he talked:
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
"Good morning", and he glittered when he walked.

And he was rich-es, richer than a king-
And admirable schooled in every grace:
In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.

So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without meat, and cursed the bread;
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.

One of the reasons I really like this poem is the irony and that the last line was unexpected. But see here that it tells the story of Richard Cory and how he died. Narrative poems can be about anything and they're mostly free verse. Although with all the examples I've seen, they are arranged in a quatrain (four lines) or a sestet (six lines).

So enjoy writing your poems! So have you written narrative poem? What's your favorite narrative poem?


Sunday, June 26, 2011

The History and Usage of Codes

Spying has been around for centuries. It's one of the world's most romanticized and dangerous jobs. Spying requires one to leave family and friends behind for weeks, months, and even years if they have to go undercover somewhere.

The United States has it's own CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) which has been shourded in conspirices and mystery for the general public. While most of us will never become a spy or agent, there are ways you can actually work for the CIA.

But today we are going to talk about secret codes, or just plain codes. I'll even provide examples and how to use some of them so you can make your own secret messages!

Common Codes  Pictures at the bottom of post.
  • American Sign Language- Okay so this isn't really code, but unless your deaf you won't know this unless you're just one of those people interested in this. In 1648, a man by the name of John Bulwar suggested that deaf people could learn to communicate with the use of their hands. A while later, George Dalgarno, a linguist and philosopher, created the first sign language complete with different letters and number by using only his hands. I've provided the alphabet here at the bottom of the post. ASL also has many signals hat represent whole ideas and words. You can even take classes to learn this!
  • Morse Code- This code was invented by an American named Samuel F. B. Morse. The dots and dashes can stand for short and long sounds or light flashes. It was originally used for the telegraph machine. This is one of the msot popular hobbies for HAM radio operators who use morse code to talk to each other.
  • Braille- This is  writing system that allows the blind to read and write. Invented by a man named Louis Braille who himself was blind and then became a teacher for other blind people. Braille is in patterns of cells of six raised dots in a 3 x 2 rectangle. Each cell is either a letter, number, or punctuation mark. Perkin's School for the Blind is was the first school in the USA. It was established over 175 years ago and one of it's most famous students is Helen Keller. Samuel Gridley Howe perfected the mechanical braille typewriter and was the first director of Perkin's. 

Other Codes

  • Substitution Cipher- This is one of the oldest secret codes in the world. It was even used by Julius Ceaser! To make this code one simply substitutes one letter for another. For example, A could be B, B could be C, and so on. 
  • Alberti Cipher Wheel- In the fifteenth century, a man named Leon Battista Alberti invented a quicker way to make a substitution cipher. This device is simple and easy to make. 
  • Grid Ciphers- In this code, letters become numbers. To make one just arrange the alphabet into a 5 by 5 grid. So, a pair of numbers will become a letter. To read, start with the down column number first the use the according across number.  In the one at the bottom, they used a 6 by 6 grid to inculde numbers. Here in the one provided, A = 11, b =12, and so forth. 
  • Pigpen Cipher- This one is one of the oddest but fun codes I've come across. Pigpen is quick because it's a grid that looks like a tic-tac-toe game with an X. Writing it is easy; each letter is represented by a part of the grid or the X that is surrounding it. If the letter you need is the second one in the box then the code represents it with a dot. 
  • Roman Numerals- Because few people actually take the time to learn how to read and write roman numerals past twelve, this can be turned into a code. For example: A = I, B = II, C = III, and so on so forth. (For more information on how to read and write Roman Numerals, see this post:

Examples of Codes (Pictures and Links)
The American Sign Language:

Morse Code: (Use the picture below to figure out) -.-. .- -.  -.-- --- ..-  .-. . .- -..  - .... .. ...?


Pigpen: (With Example Picture)

Link to the CIA site:

For more information on spying, codes, and whatnot, see Spy's Survival Handbook by Laban Carrick Hill. It's more of a little kids book, but it gives information and examples on spies, codes, and how to make your own ciphers and codes. 

So, do you know of any more codes? Have you ever exchange letters with someone in secret code?


Saturday, June 25, 2011

Writing Tips- The Good and the Bad: Writing Websites

I've been wanting to do this topic for a while. You see, I have a brother who dearly thinks that posting my work on a website is a bad idea. Well today I will show him (and you) the reasons why I love being on a writing website and the reasons why I'm cautious on being on one.

I'm a member on, a writing website for the writers of the YA genre (although the majority of the members are teenagers to college aged). You have to be at least thirteen to join and there is no fanfiction allowed. Plus I think it's great! And Inkpop lets you keep all rights to your work.

The Good:

  1. Feedback- I love getting feedback on my work. And since I've joined Inkpop a year ago I can't even begin to tell you how much my writing has grown from it. Now my brother asked why I needed feedback, so in response I'm saying this: because I want to know what I'm messing up on and what I'm doing good on. Plus you have people looking at your work with fresh eyes and they are not attached to your story as much as you are (come on, you have to admit it, you love your book like it's your child and dare anyone to say anything bad about it!). This way they can tell you what's wrong and it's probably something you wouldn't have noticed. Now I'll admit that it does hurt to see someone write something disappointing, but you have to suck it up and learn from it. Because most of the time the comment will help. 
  2. It's strangers (most of the time)- What do I mean by this? Well, first of all, we all know that in most cases if we bring out beloved story to a friend or family member they will tell you it's wonderful because they don't want to hurt your feelings. Now if you have someone who you will probably never ever meet and someone who can't make opinions about your work because they don't know you, they can tell you straightout what's wrong and what's good without feeling guilty about it. 
  3. The community- I love going on Inkpop and talking to other writer like myself. It's nice to know that I'm not the only person who will stay up late trying to write something or who carries a notebook around with them all the time. Not only do we talk about writing but we talk about stuff in everyday life. I've made friends on Inkpop (even though I've never met them, they're online friends). But saying that, I need to say that you should ALWAYS be careful what you say on the internet. You never know who you are really talking to. 
  4. Reading other work: I love reading other people's work! It's cool to see other people like me who are struggling to get published and seeing what they write. Plus since I've come onto Inkpop I probably found other genres to read that I would have never picked up before. 
  5. On some sites (like Teenink and now Inkpop) you may get a publishing deal. Here on Inkpop, if you make it to the Top 5 (meaning if your project gets the most picks (likes) than any other project except for four other ones), your manuscript will land on an actual editor's desk and they will give you a review. Now if your project is done (it helps to have it done by the time it's in the Top 5) and an editor really likes it, they might offer you a deal. (Leigh Fallon and Wendy Higgins are our first two members to get published off the site. You can follow their blogs on the side of this one). On sites like Teenink they do it a different way, but since I'm not a member I'm not totally clear on this. 
  6. On sites like Inkpop, we have this thing where we are actually able to talk to real authors, publishers, editors, etc and ask them questions. It's usually on a Wedensday and for an hour. It's called an author chat and it's so fun! 
The Bad (and yes there are some downfalls)
  1. Copyrighting issues- Yes this is a really big deal to us writers. Death to any who might copy something of ours. Now on Inkpop copy/paste is turned off so that people cannot do this (although there's ways to get around it. Trust me, there's always a way). Now I won't be all "oh trust me this never actaully happens", but here's the big and ugly truth. Stealing someone else's work does happen and it can happen to anyone. Yes, that means you. I've been a victim of this myself. Now I know who did it and I was able to make them stop, but it wasn't obvious to anyone but me that she stole things from my work. One girl's first chapter was copied word or word some how and nobody noticed but her , but by then the "short story" has somehow gotten into the Top 5 without anyone noticing it was a stolen work. Of course you also have to realize that barely anything today is original (Here I'll do another post on this subject later, how's that?) and that most people won't copy your book word or word if they can't copy and paste. Plus it's unpublished. 
  2. Not getting feedback- Yes, it's hard to get feedback on your work. Here on Inkpop you might be lucky to get a "Free Read" everyone once in a blue moon, but most of the time if you want someone to read something of yours, you have to read theirs first. This is called a swap. (i. e. You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours) Of course, some people don't care about promoting their work and it just sits there but most people will "swap" do get a read. 
  3. Trolls (Meanies): Of course you'll meet people anywhere who are unnecessarily mean or rude, but you have to grow a spine. By this I mean, if someone is rude you don't be mean to them back or call them out for the whole site to see, the proper thing to do is message them about it and calmly and politely explain to them why you think they were rude and listen to their side of the story. This is called being professional and graceful when you don't agree with it. And if you want, you can always report them. 
  4. Stranger danger- Remember when you were little how everyone said never talk to strangers? Yes? Well here you have to be careful about what you say. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, I'm just pointing out now that you never give away any personal information online. That's dangerous.
  5. You can't get on if you can't access the internet or if the site if down for various reasons (like if they are redoing it. They just redid Inkpop the other week and no one could get on for three days). 
So what I'm trying to say here is that I (personally) think that the good outweighs the bad. But of course it all depends on you. Now I'm not saying that a writing website is for everyone but for those who think it'd be a good idea you could check one out. There's also the issue of finding one that fits you. Some websites are small and require you to get on daily while others are more relaxed. It all depends on what fits you. If you'd like to see a list of suggested writing websites, I'll be posting a list of them under the Resources tab soon. 

So readers, are you on a writing website? What do you think the pros and cons are? If you're not on one, would you ever consider joining one? Why or why not? 

Video of the Day: Planking
I think it's pretty interesting. 


Friday, June 24, 2011

Movie Review- The Ghost Writer

A ghostwriter stumbles onto a secret that places his life in danger as he takes down the life story of a former U.K. prime minister in this Roman Polanski-helmed adaptation of the Robert Harris novel. Convinced by his agent that he's been granted a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, talented British screenwriter "The Ghost" (Ewan McGregor) agrees to aid British prime minister Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan) in completing his memoirs after the leader's former aide dies under mysterious circumstances. Almost immediately after The Ghost arrives at a remote mansion in the U.S. to begin working with the prime minister, Lang is accused of committing a war crime by a former British cabinet minister. Amidst a deluge of protestors and reporters, The Ghost delves into the unfinished manuscript and comes to the terrifying conclusion that his predecessor died because he discovered a link between Prime Minister Lang and the CIA. The more information The Ghost uncovers, the more convinced he becomes that his life could be in danger  as well. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi (

So the other night I decided to watch a movie with my family. Having no idea what it was about I was thrown in a movie about a ghost writer. For those who don't know what a ghost writer is, a ghost writer is basically someone who writes a story or something for you- for a fee of course. Usually they write it anonymously with the only people knowing who the ghost writer actually is are the author, agent, editor, and publisher.

Anyways, so in the movie this ghost writer dies in a mysterious accident that a bunch of people think was a suicide. Well this ex-prime minister of Great Britain hires this new ghostwriter to write his memoirs and so the British ghost writer travels to the guy's private island home where he starts the second draft of the memoir. While he's writing and talking to this guy, he figures out that the prime minister is lying and not everyone is as they seem...

What I liked: I liked the twists and turns in the movie, although with the suspense. Throughout the movie I kept getting this feeling that someone would die any second but through out the movie only two people die in the end. I loved the ending because it was unexpected. I enjoyed the fact that the "Ghost" never told us his real name, although I thought it separated us from him some. I enjoyed how writing was worked into the movie.

What I didn't like: I didn't enjoy the parts where the ex-prime minister would constantly talk about his old "ghost" I thought it was on border line obsession and kinda creepy. Not going to lie. I thought that some of the characters were over emotional at some points and didn't state why clearly enough.

Overall: I enjoyed the mystery and suspense built into the movie. I would recommend it to anyone who like suspension and mystery movies.



Book Review- The Iron Queen

So apparently yesterday my brain told me it was Wednesday. I'm not sure why, but by the time I realized my mistake it was too late to correct it and I was too tired. So, I'm giving you the book review today. And a  movie review too. 

My name is Meghan Chase.
I thought it was over. That my time with the fey, the impossible choices I had to make, the sacrifices of those I loved, was behind me. But a storm is approaching, an army of Iron fey that will drag me back, kicking and screaming. Drag me away from the banished prince who's sworn to stand by my side. Drag me into the core of conflict so powerful, I'm not sure anyone can survive it.
This time, there will be no turning back.

So this is the third book in The Iron Fey series by Julia Kagawa. In this book Meghan and her ice prince/lover Ash are stuck in our world after being banished from the Faerie Realm. After rescuing her father who is a bit insane, Meghan must learn to use both her Summer powers and her Iron powers. Only every time she tries to use them, the Iron magic messes up her Summer magic. 

So while later, blah blah blah, Meghan makes Ash her Knight which is a way of saying "you have to stick by my side forever even if it means death" and it's a great insult if you make someone who's your knight no longer your knight. 

After this goes on, the Summer king (Oberon her real father) and the Ice queen, Mab, call Meghan back into the Faerie worlds because they need her help. She agrees to help them that on the terms that they will be allowed to stay in the Faerie world after the battle with the Iron fey. After several attacks from the Iron fey she, Ash, Puck, and this cute and funny gremlin travel deep into Iron Fey territory (which is vastly killing the Faerie and taking over the Realms) where they meet this guy (Faerie thing) that loves clocks. 

Then a whole bunch of other gremlins come and take Meghan and her friends to this rebel Iron Fey group who claim that they are trying to defeat this false Iron King. So after hunting down the false king, Meghan sacrifices herself to save the Faeries and then at a last attempt to save Ash (who is Meghan dies, he has to kill himself) she releases him from his promise and because he's now been deeply insulted and whatnot goes off on his own adventure (which turns into The Iron Knight, hopefully coming out soon) and Meghan visits her human family and then disappears back into the Iron Realm as it's rightful ruler. 

What I liked: I loved Ash's role in the story. He's so cute and I'd be totally jealous of Meghan if they were real. I liked Puck and how he returns to the story, although his character gets on my nerves alot during the story. I loved the gremlins, they were cute. And I really liked the plot line to this and how she saved her human dad from this Faerie. I liked the parts where he didn't seem so insane and seemed...normal. I thought the idea of the gems Ash and Puck had to wear otherwise the Iron would hurt them. And I loved the part where Meghan realized what she had to do to save Faerie. She's so strong!

What I disliked: I hated the ending! I didn't like it because she releases Ash from his promise and he goes off on an adventure leaving Meghan feeling guilty and alone. Although it was a good emotional ending I'll say. Puck annoyed me throughout the story (I already mentioned that). And I thought some parts were unnessary to the story line. 

Overall: It was very good and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys YA fantasy, Faeries, and cute guys. 

Today's Video: The Trailer to the Iron Fey series
Hey it relates to the post! 

So, have you ever read this series? If you have are you excited for The Iron Knight? Have you seen the cover for it? Ash looks hot (well the model does anyways...).

Debate or Topic Question(s): Does difference between the spellings of Faeries vs Fairies mean anything? (for example, is there a reason why they're spelled differently? Could each spelling be a different species? Which spelling do you prefer and why?)


Thursday, June 23, 2011

Wikipedia and other User-created content sites.

So tonight I had no idea what to blog about! Unable to find anything interesting enough in the news, I decided to go through my content random collection of magazines. Some of those magazines inculde Brio (no longer published), a newspaper called Tibits, Seventeen magazine, Weekly Reader (a magazine my school gave us as a kid every week. I was able to save some of them), and a magazine my high school gave us the other year called The New York Times: Upfront.

Going through the five or six magazines I saved of Upfront I found an interesting article about Wikipedia. The short article talks about what happened when a French composer named Maurice Jarrie who died in march, Shane Fitzgareld added a fake quote to Jarre's Wikipedia bio. Fitzgerald says it was "simply an expierment to see how the internet affects media accuracy." And the results should leave those using the internet for research more cautious about everything they read and learn on sites like Wikipedia. Until Fitzgerald came forward, the media had started to post the quote on "newspaper web sites around the world".

This story brings a thought to mind. If I'm correct, an old saying goes something like "don't believe everything you hear". Whether-or-not this is a quote or whatever, I think it has a point. On sites like Wikipedia where user can add any information they'd like (although I'll say that Wikipedia does do a pretty good job of monitoring it's content) you have to be cautious about what's true or not.

So what can I do to ensure I'm getting the right information? You ask.

This one simple tip: use other sources to back up your information. Here's what I learned in school while doing research papers. While we're not allowed to use Wikipedia as a source, we are suppose to use multiple sources for our papers. I've been taught that if something seems wrong or incorrect, find another resource to back that piece of information up. If you can't find anything else on the information, don't include it.

A while back, I was still beginning my research on Aztecs and Incas for one of my books, and I chanced upon a site called Crystallinks that has extensive information on Aztecs and other cultures. While I was reading through this, I noticed that some of it seemed far-fetched or odd to me. And so I didn't particularly trust the information. But nevertheless, I kept the site in mind while I found books in my local library and other sites. Reading through these books and other sites, I found that many of the things written on Crystalinks could be backed up to my delight (since there was some things about the Aztecs I wanted to use in my story).

While you may be wondering why I would want to get correct information for a fantasy novel, I'll tell you that because I'm including Aztec and Inca culture into my books to shape the culture of the world (along with other cultures too but mainly Aztecs and Incas) I want to get the information right. I love reading novels, even if they're fantasy, where the author has clearly done research.

Anyways, while doing research papers my teachers have told us that when using the internet to find information, websites endings in "dot edu" are probably the most reliable websites. But that just a tip they gave us. If you want to be sure of something, I suggest you find a book on the subject. While books can be faulty too, they are usually the most reliable tool one can use.

And if you're looking for good sites for research or just for something to do, I've provided a list of sites and books to check out. To see just click on the "Resources" tab. And yes, I'm advertising something on my blog.

Resources used for this post:
September 7, 2009. The New York Times: Upfront. Vol. #142 No. 1 

So, Readers, have you ever come across an untrue piece of information? If so what did you do about it and how did you discover it wasn't true?

Debate Question of the Day (Note: please refrain from bashing or causing arguements): Do we still need to learn how to write in cursive?

Today's Video: Cat barks like a dog 
In this amusing video, a cat is barking like a dog and when it notices the person standing behind it, it stops barking and starts meowing. As if it's saying "That wasn't me! It's was the neighbors dog!...See? I can't bark."
Hahaha...silly cat.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

How U.S Troops Have Fun.

I'm sure by now that most of you have seen the music videos made by our U.S troops overseas. Seeing them, they're amusing to watch and it makes one feel sorry for they must be so bored over there!

Hold it against me- Britney Spears

Telephone- Lady Gaga

So far, these are the only music videos I think they have made while over there. So in other our troops!

So, do you know anyone in the US military who are overseas? Where are they stationed? Are you in the military?


Monday, June 20, 2011

Poetry- Haiku

I've decided to switch from having a book review today to writing poetry. Today we'll learn about Haiku (plural form, you don't add an S to the end). 

A haiku is a form of Japanese poetry that consists of 17 syllables. The poems are usually written in lines of 5, 7, 5. 

An example of my own: 

Fog rests on the lake
Guarding secrets from our eyes
They wish they were known

In this poem the line "Fog rests on the lake" has five syllables. The next line has seven and the last line has five again. Usually a haiku might contain an image (one that forms in the mind) or a reference to a season. Haiku also rarely ever rhyme. They are short, fun and interesting. 

Here's another example: 
An old silent pond...
A frog jumps into the pond,
splash! Silence again.

~ Basho

Resources used for this post:

Have you ever tried writing a haiku? Could you show us an example of one that you've written? 

Today's Video- Weird Al' Yankovic
Weird Al has some other videos than the ones I posted and if you enjoy funny videos and music, I'd suggest looking him up on Youtube or something similar.

Okay so this one is a parody he made about Lady Gaga. This isn't the actually music video he made, ( it had some questionable images in it) so I've posted the lyrics to it. Enjoy!
Trapped in a drive thru!!


Sunday, June 19, 2011

Quick! Watch this! (Video Week)

So tonight, I don't really have any historical facts but I've decided to show you some of my favorite videos this week. I've decided I will have movie week so some how I'll integrate a video (plus my comments) some how into each post this week. And if you have any video suggestions (it has to be appropriate) I'd love to know!

Disclaimer: I do not own any of these videos and you can find them all on youtube.

Tonight is videos from Auto-tune/Song-ify This.

Double Rainbow Song 
This song was made by a dude who freaked when he saw a double rainbow. So Auto-tune made a song from it. <--The link and in the information thingy below the video, it has the itunes version, the real version, and other fun things.

Here's the actual video!
Both videos are so funny. Mostly because I'm pretty sure the guy is on crack.

Okay, this one is probably one of my favorites. Now the funny thing is that I saw the orginal broadcast of this on the news.
Well I couldn't get the orgianal for this video. But it's pretty good when not in song version.

Backing up song
This one is of a funny lady.
Once again, I can't find the original video.

Charlie Seen is Bi-Winning
Um...and how is he not on drugs? Hm....
Actual interview:

And there ya go! There are some funny and interesting videos for tonight. I hope you've enjoyed these and if you have suggestions please let me know! I love hearing from my readers.

So, what's the funniest thing you've seen on the news? Do you think it could be turned into a song?


Saturday, June 18, 2011

Writing- Has the internet made us lose our ability to read books?

According to a Star Tribune article by Stephan Wilbers, he asks if we have lost our ability to read books. He presents two arguments in his short article.

He says that we live "in the age of distraction". What does he mean by this? Mr. Wilbers says,
technology fosters a kind of thinking that races over the surface rather than reflects on what lies beneath, when information, speed and nimble reaction are prized over knowledge, logical thinking and reasoned response.
In other words (like my own) this means that because we have things like social networks and other sites of information, we sometimes feel a sense that there is something out there that requires our attention. For the most part, we come find quick facts and little chunks of information. In our society today, we like to know things as soon as possible, and we like things to be quick to the point. Information quickly is our buddy.

Mr. Wilbers then asks:
If technology is causing people to spend less time reading -- or perhaps causing them to do a different kind of reading -- what are its implications for writers and writing? Is it helping or hurting?
Reading onto the rest of his article, I've come to agree with him. While the internet is very helpful to writers, since we're able to find information quickly and when we need it. He calls it the "playground for inquisitive minds." As Mr. Wilbers goes on to say, when we quickly look at something and knowing when something happened or when it occurred is not the same as understanding what that date or information means to us historically, politically, and socially.  Say we know the date of 9/11 and what happened, but does that mean we understand how that has changed our country and ourselves? If 9/11 did not happen, I say not only our country, but the whole world would be different.

While finding out things on like Twitter, the short little nut of information is not the same as reading a novel about the same subject. While I could find something quickly about Aztecs on the internet, it is not the same as reading a novel about how the Fire Rites affected not only their culture then but the people of Central America today. A short tweet or facebook status does not have the same depth or emotion as actually talking to the person face to face.

Another quote from Mr. Wilber's article:
Whether on paper or on screen, I think we need to find those "quiet spaces opened up by the prolonged, undistracted reading of a book," for it is there "we regain the world by withdrawing from it just a little, by stepping back from the noise, the tumult, to discover our reflections in another mind."
 As he points out here, when we read a book we ignore the thoughts of what we could be doing, the noise and chaos of our daily lives and submerse ourselves in a world that is not like our own- even if it's nonfiction.

While Mr. Wilber has some good points, I think that the internet has not caused us to lose our abilities to read books. When I sit down with a good book, I am fully able to ignore everything else and just read. Maybe it's not the internet that is making Mr. Wilber and others "lose their abilities to read books" but they are not finding good books that keep their attention and make them think about that book through out their day.

Resource used for this post:

So, do you think that the internet could be a "crutch" to writers and readers? What about books, do you prefer paper over a screen? And why? Certainly the internet is very useful to writers, but do you think it also hinders us? Have you ever read a book that sounded really good, but when you sat down to read it, you discovered it wasn't what you expected? And why?


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Book Review- Daughter of the Flames

What if your deadliest enemy were the only one who could save you? 

Inside an ancient temple in the mountains, fifteen-year-old Zira trains in the martial arts to become a warrior priestess who can defend the faith of the Ruan people. Bearing a scar on her face from the fire that killed her parents, the orphaned Zira is taught to distrust the occupying Sedornes. Terror strikes when the forces of the tyrannical Sedorne king destroy the only home she knows. To survive, Zira must unravel the secrets of her identity, decide her people’s fate — and accept her growing feelings for a man who should be her enemy.

I actually read this book a while ago, but I never got the chance to finish it. But I did finish it this time. 

What I enjoyed: I enjoyed (once again) that it was set in a place much like Asia. I loved the prologue, it was so interesting and the fact that the Zoe Marriott had it set in a temple like place was interesting. And then I loved how she has to team up with her enemy to defeat her uncle. I thought all the character's actions and emotions were realistic and her descriptions were wonderful. I thought that the 3rd person pov suited the story and I'm certainly impressed with her writing. 

I loved Zahira's name and how the leader of the temple pretty much straight out lied to her about who she really was and only revealed it just when she died. Nice. I'd be pretty mad at her. I really disliked her uncle; he really did seem evil. 

What I didn't enjoy: I thought that Zahira fell in love with Sorin a little too quickly. Maybe it's just me, but I think that you need more than a couple weeks to fall in love with someone. I thought that at times Zahira and other characters acted a little too dramatic than what the situation called for. 


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Interesting Facts- Wedding Customs From Around the World

Having hear about lots of weddings hear in the U.S all the time, I've always been interested in what marriage customs are like in other countries. Some of you who view this blog may be from some of the countries I am going to talk about briefly today while other may learn things with me here. I hope that if you see thing that should be corrected or changed that you would let me know so everyone can get the right information.

China- The traditional wedding dress is red, a color that is accosiated with good luck. The bridal dress is often decorated with phoenixeschrysanthemums and peonies; which are symbols of wealth and good fortune. The groom might wear a black coat over a robe with a dragon on it.
Japan- The bride wears a white kimono and a headpiece that is decorated with many ornaments that invite good luck to the couple. A white hood is attached to the kimono which is worn like a veil to hide her "jealousy" from her mother-in-law. The bride is also painted white all over. (Lots and lots of white)
India- Traditionally the brides will wear pink or red saris and wear as much jewelry as possible. They also are often decorated with henna. 
Tibet- A girl when she is ready to marry will often binitiated ceremoniously into adulthood. Their hair will now be put into many braids instead of just one and she will wear a colorful "apron" that tells everyone that she is not only ready to marry but form male friendships. Public gatherings are not only places for guys to meet girls now, but bonfires will often be a place for them to meet and have fun. (Of course, bonfires are fun where ever you go. Although I'm not sure if they'd have smores.)
Thai- In a marriage in this country, the bride and groom sit on the floor with their hands pressed together and linked by a chain of flowers.
Iceland- More than a century ago, brides would actually wear black dresses, although now they usually wear white with a veil; having adopted many American and European customs.
Latvian- During their wedding reception, the groom's groomsmen will "kidnap" the bride and make the groom pay a ransom to get her back. Usually ransom in the form of drinks is accepted although I'm sure they'd accept cash too.
Romania- Here girls start to plan their marriage when some are as young as six. (Although don't all girls dream of their weddings when they're young?)
Venezuela- Here the traditional thing to do is for the newly wedded couple to slip slyly away from their own wedding reception without saying any goodbyes because it is thought to bring good luck to them. (Quick honey! Use the back door before they see!)
Chilean- The couple wear their wedding rings on their right hands until after they are married, then the rings go on their left hands.
Belize- The bride will often dance or waltz down the aisle with her father or another male member of her family. (Now that sounds fun!)
Sudan- Here the bride will burn seven broomsticks which represent burning away bad habits.

Resource used for this post

Now that you've learned some random and fun facts about weddings, what are some fun and unique things you've seen at weddings? Do you know any couples who have broken out of the traditional wedding style and done something different? What would you like your dream wedding to be like? Or if you were already married, what was that like? 


Monday, June 13, 2011

Book Review- The Emperor Of Nihon-Ja (Ranger's Apprentice #10)

Months have passed since Horace departed for the eastern nation of Nihon-Ja on a vital mission. Having received no communication from him, his friends fear the worst. Unwilling to wait a second longer, Alyss, Evanlyn, and Will leave their homeland behind and venture into an exotic land in search of their missing friend.

When they finally catch up with him, they find Horace entangled in a military coup. Determined to protect the imperial throne, Will and his band of Araluens must piece together and train a force in order to fend off the master Senji warriors intent on overthrowing the emperor.

Suspense and pulse-pounding action abound in this final adventure in the worldwide phenomenon that is Ranger's Apprentice.

I've read the whole series and I'm sad to see this wonderful series come to an end. This is the only book my brother has willingly read and my mom has even read the series. My favorite characters are by far Halt and Will. 

In this last book, Halt, Will, Evelyn, and some other friends travel to the Japan like country of Nihon-Ja to help Horce who is helping the Emperor take back his throne. 

What I did like: I enjoyed Will's sense of humor and I love the research that you can so clearly seen put into this. Like with the beginning when Will and Halt are watching a demonstration of an army legion. And I love how you can so clearly tell it's Roman and how it actually works. I really do enjoy a book that has well researched points in it. I think it shows an air of profession to the book and helps add to the realism of it. The other will researched part was when they were traveling with more of Will's Scandinavian  friends and how the captain was explaining how the new ship sailed. The other part I enjoyed was seeing the culture of Nihon-Ja, and I loved seeing Alyss and Evelyn have their final roles in this. Plus I adored the ending where both Horace and Will propose! 

What I didn't like: I thought that Alyss and Evelyn both acted stuck up and snotty through most of the book until they made up their differences. Even then I was turned off because how they acted. I wasn't crazy about the ending and how the rebel leader was killed when he was trying to over throw the Emperor. But overall those are my only complaints. 

If I was going to recommend this book I'd give it a four and a half stars. 


Saturday, June 11, 2011

Is Young Adult fiction too dark?

This article was recently brought to my attention by someone on The author of the article says that YA fiction of today is too dark and troublesome for our teens. Here's an example.

Mrs. Megan Cox Gurdon states in her article:
If books show us the world, teen fiction can be like a hall of fun-house mirrors, constantly reflecting back hideously distorted portrayals of what life is. There are of course exceptions, but a careless young reader—or one who seeks out depravity—will find himself surrounded by images not of joy or beauty but of damage, brutality and losses of the most horrendous kinds.

The question I impose is, if YA fiction is too dark, then isn't everything else? If our teenagers shouldn't be reading books with dark themes to it, then they should not be doing anything else and they should shut themselves up in their rooms for the rest of their lives. 

Why? Well, look at everything else in today's world. We have girls who are starving themselves to look pretty, we have news reports everyday with reports of death, violence, and things that probably shouldn't be meant for anyone. Dear Mrs. Gurdon, if the teens of this age read only books of butterflies and unicorns then how will they handle reality? This is the real world, and these books talk about what happens in the real world. 

Besides, not every book is full of dark things. There are plenty of books that talk about happy things. But then not everything in our world today is full of happiness. So why should we not read about real life? 

And even if there are dark books, I've talked to many people who think that they are helpful. Why? Well, if a girl who goes through depression or is abused, may not talk about it with anyone. If she goes and reads a book where the MC is going through the same thing and in the end faces her fears, the girl may end up standing up for herself too. Not only that, but it lets people who are going through troubles that they are not alone. There are other people in the world who understand what they're going through. A book of this kind may even give the teen strength to ask for help. 

Mrs. Gurdon also states:
Yet it is also possible—indeed, likely—that books focusing on pathologies help normalize them and, in the case of self-harm, may even spread their plausibility and likelihood to young people who might otherwise never have imagined such extreme measures. Self-destructive adolescent behaviors are observably infectious and have periods of vogue. That is not to discount the real suffering that some young people endure; it is an argument for taking care.
May help normalize them? Is that truly what you think? If a teen who has never come across extreme measures in his extremely sheltered life, reads a book where an extreme measure is taken, it may, I don't know, warn him? By warning him, I mean it may help him realize that this behavior is not normal and dangerous. It may even help his awareness of the struggles around him and may inspire him to help others in these type of situations. 

I also say that I find this article insulting. From what you are implying, you are saying that all teenagers are naive and innocent. That they do not know how to react to the world and by reading these type of books they will go and do it themselves. As a teenager myself, I will say in our defense that most of us are not stupid enough to do everything we see in movies or read in books. We can actually use our common sense! Shocking I know, but true!

Besides, there is a reason it is called Young Adult fiction. It is not meant for little children, it is meant for young adults who are old enough to know about these things. And if they cannot handle these subjects, then they should not be reading them in the first place. They should go off and read children's books. 

 Mrs. Gurdon quotes Mr. Sherman Alexie in her article when he says that one cannot find anything more harmful in his books than one would find on the internet. And frankly this is true. Instead of banning books (which in effect will only make teenagers want to read them even more. Come on, we're teenagers! We love defying adults.), it should be the parents job to watch what their child reads. Not a school's, or university, or even a journalist. It's the parents job to watch out for their child, not anyone else's. 

Mrs. Gurdon points out one of the books on the  American Library Association's list of top 10 most challenged books. This book so happens to be Suzanne Collin's "The Hunger Games" (I thought it was a good series. I loved the first book, wasn't crazy about the second one, and hated the last one because of the ending). While this book certainly has violence and other touchy subjects in it, I do not see why teenagers of today should not be reading books like these. Dystopian is a new and growing genre that is quickly building up a following of readers. One of the reasons is because we like reading about other people standing up for what they believe in. 

Finally, before I bore you readers all too much, here is a last quote from Mrs. Gurdon's article:
No family is obliged to acquiesce when publishers use the vehicle of fundamental free-expression principles to try to bulldoze coarseness or misery into their children's lives.
While no parent should be silent if they see their child reading something they do not approve of, it is also not the publisher's fault. Publishers sell what the people want, and if teens of today want to read books that actually relate to their lives and they are going to publish these books. Not only that but in no way are publishers using freedom of speech to "bulldoze" misery into teenagers lives. They are not forcing us to read anything.We are choosing what we read. If it is anyone's fault that these "too dark" books are out there, then it is only our own faults for having a voice and a choice. 

We are not children, Mrs. Gurdon, we are young adults who choose rightfully so what we want to read, and think, and speak. We are people too with an opinion and morals. If there is something we do not want to read there is no one saying we have too. Let us make our own choices instead of saying what we should read and what we shouldn't. 

And one last thing, I love Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 and I am a girl. Do not be the judge what is right  for girls and boys. 

Resources used for this post:

Another resource that further proves my point:

And if you'd like to read even more posts and articles further defending YA books, just type in YAsaves in a google search box. 
Sorry for the extremely long post today. So, what's your opinion on this?


Thursday, June 9, 2011

Book Review- Lords of the Earth

Engulfed in the darkness of Irian Jaya's Snow Mountains live the Yali, naked cannibals who call themselves lords of the earth. Yet, in spite of their boldness, they live in terror and bondage to the women-hating, child-despising gods they serve. Missionary Stan Dale dared to enter their domain and be an instrument to change their future. Peace Child author, Don Richardson, tells the story of Dale, his wife, his companions and thousands of Yali tribesmen in Lords of the Earth. This unforgettable tale of faithful determination and zeal against overwhelming odds brings unlikely characters together in a swirl of agony and bloodshed climaxing in a dramatic, unexpected ending. Readers will find their perceptions of how God moves enlarged and inspired by this classic story.

So yesterday I was going through my random stacks of books and bookshelves trying to find a book to blog about and I decided this one would spark some interest. I was given this book to me about a month ago by my history teacher. One of the reasons I find this book interesting is that not only does it talk about the lives of natives, called the Yali, of an island in Indonesia; but it talks about the missionary work of my history teacher's father (my history teacher was also born in Indonesia). Yep that's right, my history teacher's father is in this book along with some pictures of the tribes people and the missionaries with their families. Pretty cool, huh?

Onto the book, there is a preface, an intorduction, 4 parts, 20 chapters, a postscript, and a biblography. Part one is from the point of view of the Yali, while in part two we see alot about Stanley Dale. The last two parts are from the missionaries point of veiws. In the middle of the book we see the pictures. 

What I liked: I loved learning about the Yali's culture and reading about how brave the missionaries were including my teacher's dad. The story was very interesting and I liked how part of it was from the Yali's point of view and the other part of it was from the missionaries. 

What I thought could have been different: There were some points where I skipped over because I wanted the story to get to the action. I understand telling of the people's life stories but it got long at times. 

Overall: This was very good and I recommend it! 



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