Sword Art Online

I had some students tell me to check this anime out. I looked online to see what it’s about and saw that the first season is on Netflix. I’ve seen 16 episodes, and I like the series a lot so far.

The series takes place in the near future just before the official launch of a virtual reality MMORPG called Sword Art Online. Players wear a virtual reality helmet called the NerveGear that allows them to experince the game though their senses and control their avatar with their minds. The main character, Kirito, was a beta tester, so he is already somewhat familiar with the game.
After the official version went live, the 10,000 players in the game realize that the log-out option was removed from their menus. The game’s creator, who is also in SAO, teleports everyone to the center of the first town. He removed the log-out option, so the only way players will be able to leave the game will be to beat the bosses on each of the game’s 100 floors to advance and clear the game. If anyone in the real world tries to remove the NeeveGear from a player’s head, the NerveGear will send an electrical signal to fry the player’s brain. If anyone is killed in game, they also die in real life. The players’ only chance of escape is if someone defeats the final boss from floor 100.

Throughout their time in the game, Kirito and the other players have to learn how to survive as well as live regular lives. Days in the game start to feel so normal for them. They hardly ever talk about their lives in the real world, which is understandable. The longer Kirito and the others spend in the world of Sword Art Online, the farther away the real world feels and the more real SAO becomes. Some characters become content with settling down in the game instead of risking death by fighting to advance in the game. I like Kirito as the main character. He’s 14 when he starts playing SAO, but he becomes quite powerful throughout all the time playing in the virtual world. He is a strong player who’s goal is to clear te game and free everyone, but the fact that he’s so young still comes through.
I was interested to find out when he would finally make it to floor 100. I assumed those trying I beat all the bosses would just keep advancing, but episodes go forward to some of the upper floors (50s and 70s) and then back to some if the lower floors as players staying around certain places that they are comfortable around or need certain things from. I liked seeing how the players did eventually adapt to life in the virtual world while still holding into their hopes of returning to the real world.

The second half of the first season takes place in another virtual reality MMORPG. I’m already 2 episodes into this section, and I’m curious to see how it compares to the world of Sword Art Online.

DonorsChoose project

I teach Spanish in a Title I (high poverty) school district in North Carolina. I have about 15-20 dictionaries that I inherited from the previous Spanish teacher last year, but most of them are falling apart. I also have several more students than dictionaries.

I started a campaign through DonorsChoose.org to raise some money for a class set of 30 new dictionaries. Vocabulary is one of the keys to learning a new language, and I know these dictionaries will help my students with that goal.

If anyone makes a donation between now and October 17 and include the code SPARK, the donation will be worth double: DonorsChoose will match the original donation dollar for dollar. The link is below:

Dictionaries: Expanding Vocabulary In Spanish



new vid babes!  SHE ASKED FOR IT.

here are the many reasons why "what was she wearing?" or "you shouldn’t have taken nude pics!" are dumb things to say.

I read a tweet from Laci this morning — her video about the harm of victim blaming has been deemed “inappropriate” by Facebook and removed from view on her page. !?!?!? ;o(

Yesterday I watched her video three times. I thought it was so powerful and well-done I shared it with my 14-year-old daughter. I even thought “brilliant, she designed this so it can be played in classrooms. It is articulate, comprehensive and non-offensive.” 

I’m not one to get mad and pout though. I’m a problem-solver! So I got onto my social media pages and put up this video. Again. And again and again and again encouraging my friends and fans to do the same with the comment “Please share with all the people. This is appropriate.”

  1. 1.
    suitable or proper in the circumstances.
    "a YouTube video appropriate for addressing victim blaming" 

Please join in a push-back against Facebook’s determination by sharing this video in all the places. While I believe that Facebook has the right to choose it’s content, we can still share with our peers the detriment of victim blaming. NO ASKS FOR IT. 

My first Hanklerfish :)

My first Hanklerfish :)

Moffat is not very good about keeping his dead characters dead. Which is why I guess Clara shouldn’t die, haha. She would have a better chance of coming back

Book Review: Hannibal

Hannibal by Thomas Harris

Genre: Thriller

"Reading, Starling heard the words in the same voice that had mocked her and pierced her, probed her life and enlightened her in the maximum security ward of the insane asylum, when she had to trade the quick of her life to Hannibal Lecter in exchange for his vital knowledge of Buffalo Bill. The metallic rasp of that seldom-used voice still sounded in her dreams." (Ch. 5, pg. 37)

Hannibal is the third book in the Hannibal Lecter series. It picks up seven years after Hannibal Lecter’s escape during the events of The Silence of the Lambs. The novel opens up with Clarice Starling, who was in the FBI Academy in Silence of the Lambs and met with Hannibal to get information on another serial killer. In Hannibal, she has been with the Bureau for seven years but has not had success in advancing, despite her promising start with the serial killer Buffalo Bill.

After a botched raid that leaves some federal agents killed and shows the different agencies involved in a poor light thanks to the news reporters following along, Clarice Starling’s career is at risk. When she receives a letter from Hannibal Lecter, she seems to gain a reprieve as she works to track him down. However, while the FBI is trying to find Lecter to arrest and prosecute him, one of Lecter’s early victims wants to capture him and torture him to death.

Although I haven’t read The Silence of the Lambs, I did read Red Dragon, the first book to feature Hannibal Lecter. Harris’s writing in this book is just as strong as it was in his first Lecter novel. There are a few different sides, all with their own motivations and mostly working against each other, which adds some suspense to the book. Even when I felt like I needed a break from reading this long book (which runs at 546 pages), Harris’s writing kept me engaged to push through with another chapter or two. Red Dragon and The Silence of the Lambs are both excellent stories, and Hannibal is wonderful conclusion to this trilogy (I wasn’t able to get a copy of The Silence of the Lambs, but I was able to watch the movie). If you enjoy thrillers, especially if you have read the previous Hannibal Lecter books, you will enjoy this one. Finishing Hannibal left me wanting more; luckily, Harris later wrote a prequel book to this series, Hannibal Rising, and I look forward to eventually reading that one as well.

Overall rating: A

Book Review: The Color of Magic

The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett

Genre: Fantasy

"Great A’Tuin the turtle comes, swimming slowly through the interstellar gulf, hydrogen frost on his ponderous limbs, his huge and ancient shell pocked with meteor craters. Through sea-sized eyes that are crusted with rheum and asteroid dust He stares fixedly at the Destination. In a brain bigger than a city, with geological slowness, He thinks only of the Weight." (The Color of Magic prologue)

I finally broke into the Discworld series, which I have wanted to do for a while, and read The Color of Magic, the first book in the series. This book was well-written and quite funny. Terry Pratchett parodies a lot of typical fantasy tropes in his Discworld series while also telling a well-crafted, original story. Discworld is set in an alternate universe full of magic on a world that is flat that spins on the back of four elephants that stand on a giant turtle swimming through space.

In The Color of Magic, a tourist named Twoflower shows up in Ahnk-Morpork, one of the principal cities in the Discworld. He is the first tourist to show up on the Discworld. He arrives with the Luggage, a sort of magic trunk that can run around on hundreds of little feet and attacks anyone who is a possible threat to its master. He meets up with Rincewind, a low-level wizard who failed out of university. Rincewind gets stuck as Twoflower’s guide, and the two go through a series of trials and adventures from the burning of Ahnk-Morpork to the Edge of the world. I loved the different characters in the book and the different places they ended up, like the upside-down mountain called the Wyrm with its kingdom of dragon-riders, the Temple of Bel-Shamharoth and the number between seven and nine that no wizard can say, and the country of Krull which leans over the Rim.

One of my favorite characters in the book is Death, who acts as a parody of other personifications of Death in other works. He’s not really invisible, but nobody can see him unless they want to. The only exceptions are magical people (witches and wizards), children and cats who can always see Him. He also doesn’t have vocal chords to talk normally (due to being a skeleton), so anyone he speaks to just hears his voice directly in their heads. His dialogue in the book always appears in small caps with no quotation marks.

There are over 30 novels in the Discworld series, and I look forward to reading more of them.

Overall rating: A

Ambiguous Victories and Real Progress: Behind the Beautiful Forevers

In which John continues the Nerdfighter Book Club’s discussion of Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers. Are there unambiguous victories? How should we approach our understanding of and relationship with charities domestic and international?

Book Review: A Study in Scarlet

A Study in Scarlet (Sherlock Holmes, #1)

A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Genre: Mystery

"There was only one student in the room, who was bending over a distant table absorbed in his work. At the sound of our steps, he glanced round and sprang to his feet with a cry of pleasure. ‘I’ve found it! I’ve found it,’ he shouted to my companion, running towards us with a test-tube in hand. ‘I have found a re-agent which is precipitated by hemoglobin, and by nothing else." Had he discovered a gold mine, greater delight could not have shone upon his features." (Ch. 1, pg. 7 “Mr. Sherlock Holmes”)

This was my first time reading A Study in Scarlet, the first Sherlock Holmes mystery. This book has Watson meeting Sherlock Holmes for the first time and joining in as Holmes works to solve the murder of a man in a locked room with no physical marks on his body. I have loved the character of Sherlock Holmes for a while, and I’ve enjoyed his short stories because his way of gathering information and solving crimes through deductive reasoning has always been fascinating to me. When I first started reading Sherlock Holmes stories, I didn’t always pick up on the fact that he doesn’t always have the best people skills and can come across as a bit of a jerk sometimes. These aspects of his personality were more apparent to me in television adaptions, and I believe the reason it wasn’t so obvious to me in the books is because they are written from Watson’s point of view. Watson can’t help but write about Holmes in a favorable view. It speaks to Watson’s character as much as it does to Holmes.

A Study in Scarlet is split up into two sections. The first half focuses on Sherlock (and the police) gathering clues to solve the murder and catch the murderer. The second half opens in the American West and gives us the backstory of the victims and killer. While I did end up getting pulled into the second half, it was a little confusing at first because the connection to the mystery itself wasn’t apparent at first. I still liked the book as a whole and enjoyed reading it. I always love the end of Sherlock Holmes stories when Holmes reveals to Watson how he solves the mystery.

Overall rating: A-


1. There is no “lax enforcement” on the U.S./Mexico border.

2. The migration of children and families didn’t just start recently.

3. The recent increase in the numbers of child migrants is not just a response to gang violence, although this is the most-cited cause in U.S. media coverage.

4. The failure of Central America’s economies is largely due to the North American and Central American Free Trade Agreements.

5. When governments or people have resisted NAFTA and CAFTA, the United States has threatened reprisal.

6.  Gang violence in Central America has a U.S. origin.

7.  Moreover, U.S. foreign policy in Central America has actively led to the growth of gang violence there.

8. Kids looking for families here are looking for those who were already displaced by war and economic crisis.

The US plays a much bigger role in Central American/Mexican migration than our media lets on!