Archive | February, 2018

Death, taxes, and computer glitches

27 Feb

It’s that time of the year: tax time.That always gets me thinking about the saying about death & taxes. You know the one ” in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”  I think we could add computer glitches to that original statement, which was written by Benjamin Franklin in a letter in 1789.

Last year, when I loaded the tax software, it warned me that I would soon need to upgrade my operating system. And yet, I still loaded it this year without upgrading, just n case. Of course, this year, it told me I couldn’t proceed any further without the upgrade.

As easy as it would be to upgrade to High Sierra, I was a little nervous. I worried about what could be lost, so I backed up my files and bookmarks before I clicked on that which needed clicking. After all the clicks and buzzes subsided, all was well.

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Relief swept over me and a few days later, I did my taxes and felt doubly satisfied.

A few days later, feeling confident, I clicked on the Systems Preference icon in the dock that indicated there were updates and went forward with the updates.

Of course, that is when that hammer dropped.

I don’t know what I did wrong, but suddenly all was not well.

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I followed the directions on the screen, quitting the installer, but the same message kept returning. I shut down the computer and hoped that, tomorrow, all would be well. It wasn’t.

I awoke the next morning feeling anxious. Once more, I tried following the directions. Once more, it didn’t work.

I felt frustrated, but persevered rereading the instructions in case I was misinterpreting the directions. Once more, I quit the installer. In a flash of insight, I wondered if I need to restart the computer myself, not just assume that quitting the installer would be enough. I clicked on the apple icon and chose restart. Sure enough, it worked.

Although I felt relieved, I still feel a little anxious each time I turn on my computer. Every day, the anxiety diminishes a little more, and I am sure, before too long, I will not worry at all – until the next time I see a number on the Systems Preference icon.

 

 

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The dead shall speak

26 Feb

Trayvon Martin was killed six years ago today.

He is just one of many young black people, violently killed by people in power, mentionedin the powerful graphic novel  I Am Alfonso Jones, written by Tony Medina and illustrated by Stacey Robinson & John Jennings.

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Publisher’s Summary: Alfonso Jones can’t wait to play the role of Hamlet in his school’s hip-hop rendition of the classic Shakespearean play. He also wants to let his best friend, Danetta, know how he really feels about her. But as he is buying his first suit, an off-duty police officer mistakes a clothes hanger for a gun, and he shoots Alfonso.

When Alfonso wakes up in the afterlife, he’s on a ghost train guided by well-known victims of police shootings, who teach him what he needs to know about this subterranean spiritual world. Meanwhile, Alfonso’s family and friends struggle with their grief and seek justice for Alfonso in the streets. As they confront their new realities, both Alfonso and those he loves realize the work that lies ahead in the fight for justice.

In the first graphic novel for young readers to focus on police brutality and the Black Lives Matter movement, as in Hamlet, the dead shall speak—and the living yield even more surprises

Although choppy in places, the book does a great job showing how the press and the justice system work against young people like Alfonso.

Many of my students are still a bit too young to pick up The Hate You Give  or Dear Martin,  but I think many of them would pick up I Am Alfonso Jones. I hope they do.

What a week! Booktalks 2/19-23

23 Feb

Today is the only “normal” day this week.

No school Monday because of Washington’s birthday (aka President’s Day)

Tuesday, we arrived at school at our normal time but dismissed at noon. No book talk.

Wednesday was a snow day.

Thursday we had a 2-hour delay. The roads were clear, once I got off my street AND, I had time for a book talk. I shared Like Water on Stone a novel in verse by Dana Walrath.

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Publisher’s Summary:  It is 1914, and the Ottoman Empire is crumbling into violence.

Beyond Anatolia, in the Armenian Highlands, Shahen Donabedian dreams of going to New York. Sosi, his twin sister, never wants to leave her home, especially now that she is in love. At first, only Papa, who counts Turks and Kurds among his closest friends, stands in Shahen’s way. But when the Ottoman pashas set in motion their plans to eliminate all Armenians, neither twin has a choice.
After a horrifying attack leaves them orphaned, they flee into the mountains, carrying their little sister, Mariam. But the children are not alone. An eagle watches over them as they run at night and hide each day, making their way across mountain ridges and rivers red with blood.

Today, Friday,  I will book talk a new book to my classroom library, One Amazing Elephant by Linda Oatman High.

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Publisher’s Summary:  A poignant middle grade animal story from talented author Linda Oatman High that will appeal to fans of Katherine Applegate’s The One and Only Ivan. In this heartwarming novel, a girl and an elephant face the same devastating loss—and slowly realize that they share the same powerful love.

Twelve-year-old Lily Pruitt loves her grandparents, but she doesn’t love the circus—and the circus is their life. She’s perfectly happy to stay with her father, away from her neglectful mother and her grandfather’s beloved elephant, Queenie Grace.

Then Grandpa Bill dies, and both Lily and Queenie Grace are devastated. When Lily travels to Florida for the funeral, she keeps her distance from the elephant. But the two are mourning the same man—and form a bond born of loss. And when Queenie Grace faces danger, Lily must come up with a plan to help save her friend.

 

 

Family drama

22 Feb

In Anna Karenina, Tolstoy posits that “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Much literary fiction is built around this principle.

In Here We Are Now by Jasmine Warga, our protagonist, Taliah’s problem – the sudden appearance of the father she has never – isn’t unique to literature, but her curcumstances are certainly unique.

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Summary from the author’s website:Taliah Sahar Abdallat lives and breathes music. Songs have always helped Tal ease the pain of never having known her father. Her mother, born in Jordan and very secretive about her past, won’t say a word about who her dad really was. But when Tal finds a shoebox full of old letters from Julian Oliver – yes, the indie rock star Julian Oliver – she begins to piece the story together.

She writes to Julian, but after three years of radio silence, she’s given up hope. Then one day, completely out of the blue, Julian shows up at her doorstep, and Tal doesn’t know whether to be furious or to throw herself into his arms. Before she can decide, he asks her to go on a trip with him, to meet her long-estranged family, and to say goodbye to his father, her grandfather, who is dying.

Getting to know your father after sixteen years of estrangement doesn’t happen in one car ride. But as Tal spends more time with Julian and his family, she begins to untangle her parents’ secret past, and discovers a part of herself she never recognized before.

Songs have always helped Tal ease the pain of never having known her father. Her mother, born in Jordan and very secretive about her past, won’t say a word about who her dad really was. But when Tal finds a shoebox full of old letters from Julian Oliver – yes, the indie rock star Julian Oliver – she begins to piece the story together.

She writes to Julian, but after three years of radio silence, she’s given up hope. Then one day, completely out of the blue, Julian shows up at her doorstep, and Tal doesn’t know whether to be furious or to throw herself into his arms. Before she can decide, he asks her to go on a trip with him, to meet her long-estranged family, and to say goodbye to his father, her grandfather, who is dying.

Getting to know your father after sixteen years of estrangement doesn’t happen in one car ride. But as Tal spends more time with Julian and his family, she begins to untangle her parents’ secret past, and discovers a part of herself she never recognized before.

Taliah is an introvert and the book reflects her quiet exterior life, chock full of a rich interior life. Her awkardness around her new family is understandable. There is a small romance with a neighbor that I think wasn’t necessary, but it doesn’t take away from the essential story. This was a pretty good read – not an over the top book, just a really good read on a snowy day.

 

Snow Day Rituals

20 Feb

Last year, we missed 10 days of school due to snow.

This year, we have had no snow days. It doesn’t seem fair. It seems especially unfair that we had snow this weekend and icy streets Monday morning – President’s Day – a day with no school.

There is hope. Snow is in the forecast, though it is hard to say if there will be enough to impact the school day.

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There are myths about how to ensure a snow day. The one we used at my previous school was simple: wear your pyjamas inside out.

A quick online search reveals that other places have other traditions  Here are a few

1. Place an ice cube in the toilet and flush it (one for each inch of snow you want). Alternatively, I also found a site that says to flush six ice cubes. It was also very clear that it must be ice cubes, not crushed ice.

2.  Several sites suggested sleeping with a spoon under your pillow.

3. Run around the kitchen table five times before bed (and chanting “I want it to snow” three times in a row).

4.  Eat ice cream for dinner.

5.  Do a snow dance on your front yard (while wearing your PJ’s inside out).

6.  Go to the freezer and open the door and dance singing SNOW DAY, SNOW DAY, SNOW DAY!

7. Put a spoon in the freezer.

8.  Put a white crayon in the freezer. Then,  put it under your pillow when you go to bed.

I am not doing any of these tonight, but who knows how I might feel later in the week.

Upside down and backwards

19 Feb

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I’ve heard (and used) this quote about Ginger Rogers a number of times. I hadn’t realized it originated in a Frank and Ernest comic!

I got to thinking about it because I just read a new picture book biography of Elizabeth “Libba” Cotten, self-taught blues and folk musician, singer, and songwriter. Libba: The Magnificent Musical Life of Elizabeth Cotten is written by Portland Musician Laura Veirs and illustrated by Tatyana Fazlalizadeh.

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Because she was left-handed she played the guitar “upside down and backwards”, a refrain that repeats throughout the book and that brought to mind the Ginger Rogers reference.

Libba Cotten was convinced by her pastor to give up the guitar, saying she played “Devil’s music”. Later in life, she became the housekeeper for  Ruth Crawford Seeger and, in a house full of music, she rediscovered her passion. She made her first recording in 1958 at the age of 62.

This picture book biography includes an author’s note that gives more details about Cotten’s life and Veirs’ lifelong connection to her work, as well as a list of sources.

Here she is, playing her most famous song, “Freight Train”.

 

This week’s book talks

16 Feb

It has been a whirlwind week! Although I was only at school for three days, I managed to talk about seven books.

Wednesday, I shared the Sibert winner and honor books.

 

Thursday, I book-talked Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly, the winner of the Newbery Award.I wrote about this book back in May. you can reread my post here.

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Friday,  I book-talked Vincent and Theo by Deborah Heiligman. I won the YALSA Award for Nonfiction and was a Printz Honor book.

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