Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Story Written with Videoconferencing Students

The White House stood, majestic as ever, at an angle on the muddy ground. Tall, cloaked figures were digging long and narrow trenches in the mud as sirens rang out throughout the city.
The President, Luis, stared worriedly out a window without opening it, of course. All the windows had been partially boarded up after the vampires had taken over the White House lawn.
“They’re using laser artillery, Mr. President!” a White House butler shouted. “Get under your desk!” President Luis ducked under his finely polished mahogany desk just as a beam of green light hit the window, sending shards of heated glass all around the room.
The impressively gigantic armoire in the corner shook as three Secret Service agents came running—the few who were still loyal to the President. Most of the others had gone over to the dark side.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Essay written about the election

Most of the historical events of my lifetime have occurred while I was watching TV. For instance, on November 4th, Election Day in the U.S., I was bouncing on top of the comfy leather couch in my mom's room, watching the elctoral map closely. When Barack Obama was declared President-Elect of the United States, I was actually checking the time on my computer.

"ADORA!" my mother bellowed. I rushed to the TV. The first thing noticed--"Barack Obama Elected" in the corner of the screen. I shouted loudly and jumped on the couch. I was relieved that Obama had kept the election from John McCain's clutches--and by a glorious amount, too.

At the same time, it was very depressing to hear McCain's concession speech. It would have been easier if he had acted ingracious, angry, and more Bush-like, because then we could have been more joyous about Obama's victory. Unfortunately, McCain was gracious, sad, and resigned to his fate.

Obviously, the outcome of this election was extremely important to me. As a shamelessly partisan Democrat, I did not want to imagine a McCain administration. That was made even more frightening by the idea of Governor Sarah Palin becoming vice president.

Although I can understand why the historical aspect of this race has great importance to many, I believe that this election is historically significant not just for the color of the candidate's skin, but also because of the practical fact that a Democrat will be our next president. At the same time, I believe that this election has shown that we have made large steps on the path toward racial equality. Despite your own political affiliation (and I hope that I have not offended too many people), I think that, in such interesting times, this election is of humongous gravity no matter what.

Monday, November 03, 2008

An Account of my Trip to the Island of Oahu in Hawaii

This is a much belated account of my trip to Hawaii.

PART 1: Pre-trip, Airplane, and Hotel

For many days, I could barely wait to depart for that glorious state. I even kept a small note pinned to my desk, a countdown of the days left until I went to Hawaii.

The actual departure was not nearly as glamorous. The night before, I had not been able to get to sleep for pure excitement, and I spent the majority of my sleeping hours tossing and turning, too enthusiastic about the upcoming trip to sleep. A taxi arrived to take us to the airport early in the morning. I bid farewells to the unlucky members of my family who would not be accompanying me (meaning my dad and sister) before going into the car.

At the airport, my mother kindly purchased me a blueberry granola yogurt parfait, which I devoured. Soon after we boarded the Hawaiian Airlines plane and settled down for the nearly six hour flight. Inside, the plane looked much like an international carrier; there were three rows of seats--two on either side, and three in the middle. My mother and I had two seats with a window view. Sadly, the window was obscured by the plane's mammoth wing. This misfortune seems to accompany us to whatever airplane window we are so fortunate to sit by.

At least I was comforted by the fact that the airline would be serving food to us. In fact, the food was not bad for your typical airplane food. We were served hot pasta with an excess of liquidy broth-like sauce, a salad with dressing, and a packet of cookies. It was mostly delicious.

When we landed, we were greeted and given Hawaiian leis, made with real flowers. I still have them, actually. They are in my room. A car took us to our hotel, the Hilton Hawaiian Village, a giant resort with six different towers, sixteen restaurants, and countless shops, all on a beautiful stretch of Waikiki Beach. I was very proud to stay in a hotel that had "Pacific Ocean" on its resort map. We were staying in the Tapa Tower.

At first, the Hilton Hawaiian Village was a little intimidating--it was large, after all--but soon my mother and I were able to find our way around it.


PART 2: The Bus, Iolani Palace, Bishop Museum, and the Honolulu Academy of the Arts

I had done some research prior to going to Hawaii on good historical sites to visit in Honolulu. Because the city of Honolulu is connected by a large and efficient public transportation bus system called, simply, The Bus, it was fairly easy to get around wherever we wanted. Thus, we were able to visit many museums. The first historical site we saw in Honolulu was the Iolani Palace. The Iolani Palace is a striking and beautiful place. It was home to Hawaiian royal figures like Queen Lili'uokalani and is now a museum. The Iolani Palace was very progressive for its time; it had electricity at a time when the White House and Buckingham Palace did not, and had its own generator to make electricity. We learned about the history of the Hawaiian monarchy and how Hawaii's kings and queens lived through visiting this site.

We also visited the Bishop Museum, a renowned museum in Hawaii. Although it did have some interesting artifacts from Pacific cultures, I would have liked to see more content in the museum--we came at a time when its Hawaiian Hall was closed, so we were not able to see as much of the museum as we would have liked.

The Honolulu Academy of the Arts is an excellent museum. It had a variety of artworks, in-depth explanations, and a wonderful audio tour. The Academy of Arts is also a great place to visit just for the beauty of its fountains, gardens, and courtyards. (It has a wide variety of restaurants as well!) Visiting the Academy of the Arts was a wonderful experience.


PART 3: SunRise Rehearsal and Event

You might be asking: Did I come to Hawaii just for the history and resort? Actually, I did have a large purpose for coming to Hawaii--performing at Sun Microsystem's SunRise event for its company. I made three appearances, the first answering interview questions, the second on a technology panel, and the last for the closing of the event, reciting a poem I had written specifically for the event.

Of course, it was a giant event, and all giant events need rehearsals. Thus, I spent Monday rehearsing. I was not needed for the entire rehearsal, so I was able to spend the rest of my time eating, talking, and resting in the private trailer Sun provided for all the performers. I met many talented young people, like Jasmine Lawrence, Bianca Ryan, Ethan Bortnick, and David and Catherine Cook, who were also performing at SunRise.


PART 4: Coming Back

I was very nervous about coming back, as I knew that Halloween was the day after I arrived--and I still hadn't figured out my costume! In addition to that, I had two videoconferences on Halloween and I had a mid-term test in written Chinese that Saturday, which I had not prepared in the least for. However, I forgot about all my worries on the flight home, mostly because my mother had kindly rented me a personal entertainment player, on which I could watch movies of my choice while she watched the spy movie Get Smart on the airplane TV. (Honestly, my mom watching a semi-stupid action movie on an airplane is not really that irregular. She watched the Incredible Hulk on the first flight.) I ended up watching two movies on the plane, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian and Nim's Island, both of which I enjoyed, although I wish that Prince Caspian had stuck more to the book. I also probably ruined my eyes through watching a couple of movies in a row.

Landing in Seattle was a happy event. I was eagerly anticipating giving Adrianna her Hawaiian present--a small wooden pocket mirror with "Hawaii" carved on the front. And although I still didn't know what I would be for Halloween, I knew that at least I would be able to brag about my trip to Hawaii.


P.S. I ended up being an Eskimo for Halloween, because I had a coat trimmed with fake fur as well as matching boots, and I decided that the costume would be warm and convenient.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Story written with Ben Franklin School: Uniontown, PA

This is a story I wrote with the third grade of the Ben Franklin School in Uniontown, Pensylvania during a videoconference called "Easy Steps to Story Writing." The students were very creative, and came up with such interesting characters as "Bob Dickinson the flying elephant" and "Al the Walking Worm." Without any further ado, here is the story:

Bob Dickinson, the amazing flying elephant, waddled onto the warm sands of Sun Grove Beach with his friend, a walking worm named Al. It was an unusually hot day, and Bob Dickinson had shed his bright pink sweater, walking around without any clothes. Al was mortified.
“Surely you’ll be seen!” Al said. “You’re already used to wearing clothes. It’s not that hot here.”
Bob glanced disdainfully at Al, who was inching along at slow worm-pace.
“Not that hot to you, maybe,” Bob said in his best snooty tone. Seeing that Al was not at all convinced, Bob ran, launching off with his back feet into the air. His long, purple wings attracted attention from many viewers on the ground, so Bob went even higher, until the clouds covered him completely. But it was cold up in the air, and Bob soon grew tired.
“I wonder how far I’ve flown,” Bob thought to himself, and decided to circle back to the beach. He heard a mysterious noise behind him, however, just as he was turning. Bob jumped (or jumped as best as he could without anything beneath him) and dropped about fifteen feet—just as a small airplane passed above him.
“Whew!” Bob said, relieved. “That was very close.” He dropped down even further, although this time it was purposeful. Soon he could see Al on the beach.
“Hello, Al!” Bob shouted. “I was nearly hit by an airplane!”
“Hahaha,” Al said with a malevolent grin on his small worm-face.
“What do you mean, hahaha?” Bob asked, crestfallen. “I thought you would be all excited.”
“Never mind,” Al sighed. “Let’s go swimming.”
And that was exactly what they did.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Things I've Learned: Feudal Society

Apologies for the belated new blog post. I need to post another "Things I've Learned" directly after this one, since this is only the post that was due last week, and I need one for this week.

Today I'll talk about European feudal society. The basic feudal society was made up of a social diagram. The king came first, then barons, knights, and laborers, or freemen and serfs. The Church also held a lot of power during feudal times.
Barons or other lords (counts, etc.) owned most of the land. They would give parcels of land to knights in return for their allegiance and protection. Peasants worked their lord's land, planting crops for their families. In return for that land, the lord demanded a share of the peasants' crops. What did the peasants get? The land, food, protection, and security a small feudal manor offered.
Life was very hard for the bottom of the social triangle, the poor peasants called serfs. Serfs were virtually slaves. They could not move off the feudal land, marry, or enter the clergy without their lord's permission. It was not easy to rise up; if you were born a serf, you stayed a serf.
Laws in feudal societies could be very harsh. If you committed a crime, you could be tied behind galloping horses and dragged through the streets. Sometimes, your innocence or guilt in a crime would be determined by whether you floated or sunk in a body of water; other times, you might be put to trial by combat. Eventually, strong monarchs came to the throne and began establishing uniform systems of law.
The feudal system established the importance of land and the power of nobility. The beginning of the feudal system marked a turning point in civilization, from the shadows of the broken Roman empire into the new Middle Ages.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Things I've Learned: Egyptian Art

As promised, I'm continuing the "Things I've Learned" blog series, today focusing on Egyptian, Greek, and Roman art. I have learned quite a bit about Egyptian art and its differences as compared to Roman and Greek art. Here are a few of the things I've learned:


-The ideal Egyptian figure is presented with feet set flat and firm on the ground, both legs and both arms shown, even if a figure is in profile. 

-In a piece of Egyptian artwork, the most important person is often the largest. For instance, in this Egyptian artwork ("Nebamun Hunting Fowl), the subject of the piece (Nebamun) is the largest. 

-Clothing and styles in Egyptian times were pretty interesting. Children (like the
 one seated below Nebamun) wore their hair partially shaved. If you were privileged, you might wear jewelry of some sort. Men wore kilts. 

-You might wonder why Nebamun & family are dressed so nicely--you wouldn't really wear your fanciest jewelry to go hunting, would you? This is actually a picture showing an ideal afterlife scene. The picture was found in the tomb of Nebamun, an Egyptian official.

-Egyptian paintings often did not use shading. Instead, they first outlined the figure and then filled it with solid colors. 

-Egyptian sculptures resembled rectangular blocks, with few protruding body parts. 


-Greek and Roman art showed people in more natural poses in S-curve shapes.
-Greek and Roman sculptures often featured protruding arms or legs, and thus became more fragile. The famous sculpture "Aphrodite of Milos" lost both arms.

-Greek art tended to be more idealistic; Roman art tended to be more realistic, showing details like wrinkles. In the sculpture "Emperor Titus", left, we can see that Titus is starting to bald a little bit, that he has a small, pinched mouth and ears that stay close to the sides of his head. The sculpture shows the details of the fabric and the folds of cloth very well. 

I hope that you've enjoyed reading my newest "Things I've Learned" post. Feel free to leave a comment about the things you've learned! I strongly encourage everybody to explore my blog, website, and Egyptian, Roman, and Greek art!


Monday, September 15, 2008

A Few Things I've Learned Recently: The Vikings

  I've decided to write about a few things I've learned recently. Most of these are things I've learned from other people or from reading books. Chief among the things I've learned: I should blog more often.

So this is a new blog, the first in my new blog series "A Few Things I've Learned Recently." Every week (if not sooner), I will add a blog post about something I've learned. Today it will be about the Vikings.

1. I have learned about Vikings and Viking weapons. Apparently, they used a variety of weapons, from their primary weapon (the sword) to classy weapons like the bow and arrow and spears. They carried heavy round shields with iron centers. Berserkers were the wild, crazed Viking warriors who were supposed to feel no pain in battle. We get our word "berserk" from them.

Although the Vikings lived in the European region of Scandinavia, they could go as far as Greenland and even (thanks to Leif Erikson) to the North American continent. They traveled in light, slim longships that traveled much faster than the average ships of their day.  

The Vikings wore bearskins, richly dyed cloths, and brooches on many pieces of clothing.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Family Reunion Vacation in Lake Chelan

Our vacation began on Friday night. My mom, dad, and older sister packed into our car with countless bags. We were going to a place called Lake Chelan. I threw a variety of clothes of different fabrics and colors into a bright orange bag. We brought some food along with us. I made ice packs and dumped salt into them so that they would keep cold.

The drive was very long. For the most part it was at night, and I had to struggle to keep awake and read directions out to my dad while we drove. My sister and I were on "deer watch" trying to make sure that we didn't hit any deer on the highway, but my sister kept on falling asleep.
When we arrived, it was already past midnight. Everyone was sleeping except for my Aunt Yimei, who was giving us some directions to get to the house. We had an entire room to our own intermediate family.

In the morning, everyone joined upstairs in the dining room--my aunts, uncles, cousin, mom, dad, grandpa and grandma, and my sister. We went for a morning swim and got slightly tanned, much to my dismay. Lake Chelan was renowned for hot, sunny weather.
One of the highlights of the trip was going innner tubing on the Lake Chelan marina. We rented a ten-person motorboat (although there were eleven people) and dragged an inner tube behind us at high speeds. I went in the inner tube many times. One time, the boat went so fast that water and foam flew into my face and I had to hold my nose and close my eyes--in order not to scream.

Thankfully, I was still wearing my swimsuit. I had the good luck to stay in the inner tube, but my sister and uncle were flipped over in the inner tube. My aunt got into the inner tube without a lifevest (for some reason she had taken it off), and we had to pull her back in so that she could put on her life vest. It was lucky, too--for she and my uncle were flipped over and had to swim back to the boat. I was in charge of holding up an orange flag that let other boats know when people were in the water.

We played card games like Bohnanza and Democrazy, played Olympic-themed charades (while watching Michael Phelps swim), and went swimming ourselves. We ate cake and ice cream, and I hogged a great deal of goat cheese. Since it was very hot inside the house, my Aunt Huan made some great smoothies to cool us all off. Everyone took photos and we had an official photo shoot at sunset.

All in all, our family reunion in Lake Chelan was an excellent experience.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Adora Book Club

For all of you readers out there, I'd like to welcome you to my blog It's a blog where viewers can post book reviews in the comments section and I'll publish some of them on the blog. If you've read a book recently and you'd like to write a review, head over to the Adora Book Club!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Book Review of Flying Fingers

This is a book review written by my good friend Maya, who is a very talented author. Here's the review:


Flying Fingers is astonishing, considering the age of the author, seven-year-old Adora Svitak. A must-read, Flying Fingers is filled with enticing stories and poems that are surprisingly mature. Adora has proved herself worthy of praise and of the honor of seeing her name in print…so it’s no wonder that her fast and furious typing ceases only to allow the world to admire the literary masterpiece she has created. Meanwhile, after devouring Flying Fingers, Adora’s fans must await with anticipation her poetry collection, Dancing Fingers.


Check out Maya's blog at!

Monday, July 21, 2008

New Quote

"Childrens' lives started going wrong when adults started diagnosing them."

By the way, these are my quotes and COPYRIGHTED. So get your hand off that copy-and-paste button, buddy.

Fake ad I wrote for a made-up medicine: Protorvia

I’ve been a cell-phone gabber my whole life! I’m a chatterbox sort of girl. But Type 2 musclodesklegenerative disorder, brought on as a result of excessive cell phone use, can make it hard for chatterboxes like me to keep their routine going. That’s why I was excited when my doctor told me about Protorvia. Protorvia is the once-a-month pill that will keep me on my cell phone for a whole month!

Quieter, fast voice while showing distracting images: Do not take Protorvia if you have allergies to peanuts. Do not take Protorvia if you have risk factor for excessive sneezing, as Protorvia may affect your nose and esophagus. Do not take Protorvia if you take statins. Some common side effects of Protorvia are bloating of the stomach, hair loss, migraines, sleep-boxing with amnesia for the event, strep throat, typhoid, tooth loss, mental sluggishness, slowed blood flow, heart attack, and full body paralysis. Death has been reported. Do not drive, walk, or breathe until you are sure of how Protorvia may affect you. Call your doctor immediately if you experience any sudden loss of life.

See how Protorvia can make the one-month difference! Do what I did. Ask your doctor about Protorvia today.

Friday, July 18, 2008


This is a quote I thought about myself when I was walking with my mom and my sister:

"Family and enemies are more important than friends. Family because they love you; enemies because they might kill you."

Obviously, that's not always true.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

San Antonio travels

San Antonio, Texas

Our flight to San Antonio stopped in Phoenix, Arizona first. At the time the temperature in Phoenix was 113 degrees Fahrenheit. The Arizonans must have tough skins to live through such weather.

We arrived in San Antonio very late at night and caught a taxi to the Hyatt Regency, which was situated across the street from the Alamo and directly on the San Antonio Riverwalk.

When we arrived, the hotel—if you’ll excuse the cliché—took my breath away. There were swift transparent glass elevators, balconies on every floor with windows looking out onto the lobby and shiny polished everything. I could hardly wait to inspect our room on the tenth floor. Thus it was with enthusiasm that I leapt into the elevator up.

Our room was the average hotel room: two beds, one TV, a coffee maker with tea and coffee, bottled water—that was, for a five dollar fee—a desk, etc. However, we had a wonderful view of the Alamo looking out of our tall floor-to-ceiling windows.

If you are wondering what the “business” of going to San Antonio was, it was the NECC, or National Educational Computing Conference, as I have reminded my mother—alas—many a time. I was doing events there for various companies.

The NECC was being held at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, which was only a few blocks from our hotel (walking distance). Inside, the convention center looked bigger than outside. On our first day, there were very few people. There were some getting a drink or a snack at the concession and some talking here or there. It was a sparse crowd, compared to what would be coming next.

On the second day, it seemed as though every corner, nook, and cranny had been crammed full with people. People in proper business dress, people with bad hair days, people who frowned in their smiles, people who tried to sell you this after that, people who shouted loud above the crowd and waited by the exhibition hall to make sure that you’d been registered for the event. And the concession that had barely had business before? It was packed full in a tight line of people waiting to buy measly snacks at cutthroat prices. I admit with some shame that I was one of those people. However, unlike many of the others waiting in the line, I went healthy and bought a delicious banana-nut muffin.

But all that had only been the beginning of the convention, the prologue to the exhibition hall. The exhibition hall itself was filled with companies. The bigger companies had giant, showy booths with banners galore. Here, people did less of milling about and more of walking fast or stopping completely.

That’s enough of the NECC for now. Let’s move on to the “fun” stuff.

My mother and I decided to go see San Antonio’s famous Riverwalk. It was a slightly hot day. I stepped gingerly around. Jan Zanetis, from the videoconferencing company Tandberg, had told me that she had nearly fallen in. There were no rails to prevent such a thing from happening, I noticed. My mother kept me firmly to the side, away from the murky green water.

The Riverwalk was certainly touristy, but that had its benefits: it was filled with restaurant upon restaurant. We had plenty to choose from that night, but we were starving, so we didn’t have to walk too far. We decided to eat at a place called Landry’s Seafood or perhaps it was Landry’s Seafood House. It was fairly good food.

To sum the Alamo up in a nutshell, we were a bit disappointed. The building itself is smaller than you’d think and they didn’t have too many artifacts. While all those fighting in the Alamo died, does that automatically make you a hero? I’m sure that they were fairly brave, but who knows? Maybe there were some heroes on the Mexican side too. My mom and I decided to leave the Alamo and move on to the Institute of Texan Culture, or ITC.

In contrast to the Alamo, the ITC was very interesting. They had junior docents who were dressed up in period clothing and showed us how things were done “back then.” They made soap out of ashes and used that soap to clean clothes. I got to help with the cleaning part. There was an old-time schoolhouse with slates, chalk, and the famous birch (for punishment). Another thing I liked about the museum was that it was well-rounded; it had points of view from Czech settlers in Texas, from Germans, from Jews, from Danes, etc.

After going to the ITC, we had dinner with Philip Nelson from NewTek and his family at an Indian restaurant which even my picky mother said was quite good.

With an abrupt move back to our hotel, I must mention that it has quite a good recreational area. There was a rooftop pool, albeit a slightly small one, and quite a few exercise machines, all equipped with TV. I watched a History channel show about ancient torture devices.

Finally, it was with some regret that I got into bed for my last night in San Antonio. Tomorrow we would be departing for…

Boston, Massachusetts/Derry, New Hampshire be continued

Friday, June 20, 2008

On the Degeneration of the American Culture

What sounds more exciting and interesting:

1.) A group of students slacks off in class, never listens to the teacher, spits gum and skateboards in all the places there are signs saying "No Skateboards" and "No Gum." They don't study for tests, shoplift in their spare time, are straight F students, bring concealed knives to class, and, after getting expelled in the tenth grade and forcibly reenrolled by their parents, they drop out of school and become violent thieves.

2.) A group of students behaves perfectly in class, always listen carefully to the teacher, take notes, and don't even dream of bringing skateboards or gum to class. They have shelves full of books on how to study right and always manage to memorize every single thing on the test. School is more important than shopping, they're straight A students, and, after graduating with honors from an Ivy League college, get high-paying jobs like accountants, insurance agents, and university deans.

I don't know, but I bet that at least some of you are going to choose the first one as the most exciting. (Let's hope that your own plans for the future are a different story.) Our present American culture seems to be such that the first would be glorified. Quite a few of the idolized rappers I've heard of have felonies or at least misdemeanors under their belt (and speaking of belt, I think that their pants are far too baggy too).

Please allow me to change the subject abruptly to sports. I have nothing against sports--except when it interrupts normal news broadcasts that I like watching. I was particularly displeased when NBC showed hockey instead of Nightly News with Brian Williams. Why can't they just make a hockey channel instead of halting the news? I don't know about you, but I see more stories about sports victories and murders than I do about someone who works hard at school and manages to accomplish their dreams.

Oh--and another sign of the degeneration of our culture? Watch the children's cartoons and shows on stations like Disney and Nickelodeon. In the good "olden days"--or at least during World War II, I believe--kids watched newsreels. They didn't waste the daylight hours watching far-too-brightly colored animated characters speaking gibberish in shrill high-pitched voices or phony acting.

This article may sound a bit conservative. I took a poll some time ago for fun. It was a poll on how old you acted. And guess what I got? 58-72.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Another story beginning written with Lincoln School, Costa Rica

Max Gil had always wanted to climb a mountain. He said that it didn’t matter which mountain it was (although he’d prefer a pretty high mountain), as long as he got to climb a mountain.
Max would spend hours in bed just dreaming about climbing a mountain. Max had a very nice room. The walls were painted dark blue and the curtains were made of silk and lace. Max had eighty-three building blocks, five boxes full of toys, drawers and drawers of beautiful writing paper, and lots of different things to amuse himself with. Still Max was not happy. He wanted to climb a mountain.
That was why he was so excited when his father told him that they would be going to Mt. Chirripo. In fact, Max jumped up and down and nearly knocked over the breakfast table. He bumped his head on the chandelier. The chandelier ended up on the floor and the candles all fell out. Fire streaked across the hardwood floor.
“Aaaaaah!” Max shrieked as his socks burned. Max’s father was laughing so hard that he didn’t even notice. Max’s older sister, his mother, and his younger brother threw water on Max and the floor. When they put out the fire, the floor was scorched and black.
“We’ll die of smoke inhalation if we don’t get out of here soon,” Max’s father grumbled as soon as he saw what had happened.
“Let’s be off to Mt. Chirripo!” Max shouted.
“That’s a good idea,” his father said, and they skipped breakfast. They did, however, take along some hardboiled eggs and some bread. Little did they know how much they would need it.

Later that day they arrived at Mt. Chirripo. They were all rather tired from the long drive in the car.
“I can’t wait to climb a mountain, I can’t wait to climb a mountain, I can’t wait to climb a mountain,” Max chanted. His older sister slapped him on the cheek and Max stopped chanting. It was only then that Max stopped to look at the beauty of the mountain. They were very high up and the air felt different. Max stared down and found his heart plummeting. They were so high up that he was already getting nervous that he would fall off the edge.
“Careful, Max, or you’ll fall off the edge!” his father shouted. Max jumped back immediately. That had been exactly what he had been thinking, after all.
Finally, after getting all their food into bags and getting everyone organized, they began the long walk up Mt. Chirripo.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Beginning of a story written with Lincoln School, Costa Rica

On June 9th I had my first videoconference with a school in Costa Rica, the Lincoln School. I gave two presentations on Inspirations for Writing. During the second session, I showed them how you can easily start writing a story using simple inspirations. The beginning of this story was inspired by the ideas "carnivorous plant" and "monkeys." I would love it if the students of the Lincoln School wanted to continue this story, copied and pasted the beginning into the "comments" section, and gave it their own ending. Here is the beginning of the story:


The town of Saitam was not known for being an exciting place. Nothing much ever happened there. It was a very small town, with two restaurants, one post office, one school, and twelve houses. The people of the town had to get their groceries from another town four miles away. Saitam was so small that it wasn’t even on the map.
But something would happen to change all that.

There were lots of monkeys in the rainforest by Saitam. They made fools of themselves by making loud noises and throwing bananas whenever people walked by. These monkeys, however, were smarter than most of the other animals in the rainforest, so nobody bothered them too much.
There was a certain plant in the rainforest, near the area that the monkeys played. The monkeys played in a small clearing where there were not as many trees but plenty of interesting plants and insects to observe. At first, the plant in question was hardly noticeable; it looked to be little more than a shrub. But within two days, it had grown to be eight feet tall. Even the monkeys kept away from it at this point, for the plant was carnivorous.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Musical Preferences

When giving presentations via videoconference I am sometimes asked what my favorite kind of music is. At those times I will usually start off by listing the types of music that I dislike. This, for me, is a great deal easier than listing the kinds that I like. I will list for you here some types of music I dislike, in order of most disliked to "I guess it's sometimes okay" position:

  1. Rap. I'm not even sure if rap can qualify as music, but anything that a majority of the United States teenage population likes probably isn't intelligent talk radio. I've taken to doing rap parodies to annoy people, namely my older sister. Whenever I come into the room she blasts Soulja Boy on, high-volume, in order to annoy me back.
  2. Pop. As in today's pop, like Avril Lavigne and the Jonas Brothers. I would describe it as "high-pitched wails, clashing vibrations of shallow idiocy, and altogether unpleasant." I know that I'm probably offending quite a few people here.
  3. Country. Country music may have been okay in the past when the subject matter actually seemed realistic to the time period, but now it's not so great.

By the way, I am aware that I'm probably offending quite a few people here, just in case you were wondering.

Upcoming Events

I'll be presenting at these upcoming events:

WHO Convention (Washington Homeschoolers Organization)
Puyallup, Washington State

NECC (National Educational Computing Conference)
San Antonio, Texas

Tikatok Company Launch (
Boston Public Library, Boston, Massachusetts

For more information regarding these events, or to request a presentation, feel free to contact us.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Dialogue between presidents in the White House of the "underworld"

For class I was studying some early presidents, because I was supposed to write a dialogue between them. I asked my teacher whether I could have some presidents talk with presidents who would have been dead in their time. She said sure. I got the idea to make them ghosts in the underworld.


The White House was never the quietest place in the underworld, but tonight the noise was absolutely alarming. It made sense--all the dead presidents' ghosts, ghosts of staff, and ghosts of family crammed into a single building were bound to make noise. In the kitchen, where at least some of the cooks knew him, Andrew Jackson tried to get to sleep.

"Poll wants to fly! Poll wants to leave!" Jackson's parrot, Poll, squawked.

"Shut it, you scumfaced, traitorous, most--oh, thought you, someone, Poll," Jackson mumbled sleepily, groping for his pillow. "Who stole my pillow?"

"Poll wants to leave!" was Poll's only answer.

"Fine, sirrah! Get away with you, and say no more about my wife!" Jackson bellowed, apparently in the middle of a dream. Poll took this as permission to leave, and, squawking, flew off into the night.

"Well, my dear Abigail, to tell you truly, that Jackson character is getting on my nerves," John Adams sighed. Abigail Adams looked at him sympathetically. They had chosen to stay in the Oval Office for the night.

"Has he gotten into another duel?" Abigail asked. She was friends with Edith Roosevelt and Harriet Lane, who told her all about such matters.

"Yes, my darling. He infuriates me--through truly I'd never say this in public--with his wife. You know what they say--she never properly divorced from that fellow of hers she had before, and Jackson has no thought of honor."

"Yes, I know, John. Helen Taft told me--" Abigail began.

"Helen Taft? That jelly-bellied elephant of a man, Taft, is her husband. He--Taft, that is--got stuck in a bathtub when Cerberus was lurking around."

A squawk came from the windowsill.

"Och! What's that?" Adams asked, and pulled the curtains aside. But there was nothing there but one half of a parrot feather.

"Poll hear Adams," Poll squawked. "Poll hear Adams," she repeated, and nudged Jackson awake.

"God, by the battle of New Orelans I swear there never were--was--is--are--darn durn it, a nastier parrot!" Jackson shouted. "Now, whatcha got? You said Adams? What did he say, huh?"

Poll told Jackson exactly what she had heard Adams say, word for word.

"The scoundrel gossiped about Rachel, huh?" Jackson snarled, waving his pistol about. "And Taft too, hmm. Well, I don't want to break another rib in a duel. Let's see if we can drum up any support."

At dawn Taft turned on his underworld-controlled T.V. and put the channel on Onion News Network. He had only watched for two minutes when William Seward came bursting in, shouting "Murder!" and dragging Jackson along by the ear.

"What in the..." Taft muttered, hefting his huge and heavy body off of his rocking chair, which immediately collapsed.

"I didn't mean to draw my pistol, Seward! Why don't you just go off to your icebox where you belong!" Jackson roared. Seward slunk off.

"I apologize," Jackson said curtly. "I thought that Adams would be in the Executive Suite tonight."

"Nope, he switched to the Oval Office tonight," Taft said, chewing on a petrified stick of butter. All things in the underworld were petrified. "I'm Taft, by the way. I don't think we've met."

"Oh! Taft indeed, very good to meet you!" Jackson said, shaking Taft's hand vigorously.

Eight minutes later, Jackson had filled Taft in on all the infuriating things that Adams had said about Taft and Jackson's wife.

"He called me a WHAT!" and "I'd smash that hypocritical liar's face in!" were all phrases Taft used upon hearing Jackson's (much-exaggerated) tale of what Adams had said.

"Indeed, indeed," Jackson said, trying his best to sound like a gentleman.

"Well, then, Jackson, there's no way around it. We must rally our staff and confront the scoundrel Adams," Taft said, once he had cooled down.

"That sounds quite fine," Jackson said, smiling. Hist staff were fairly good at fighting.

In three hours twenty-five minutes, Jackson had rallied his kitchen staff, his wife, and Martin van Buren around him. There they joined with some sympathetic presidents and First Ladies, as well as with Taft's staff, and marched off to confront Adams in the Oval Office.

"I think that the Aeneid is not quite as good as Common Sense myself," Abigail Adams remarked over her husband's shoulder.

"Not quite as good? Now, Abby, one must be careful with the word "good," for--" John Adams said patronizingly, only to be interrupted by a loud pounding on the door.

"OPEN UP, ADAMS!" came a booming of joined voices. There were some whispers from behind the door.

"It's only me, Helen Taft," said Helen Taft, giggling to the assembled crowd behind her. "Please open up, Abigail, for your dear friend." Abigail, upon hearing this familiar voice, opened up without hesitation, then froze with fear. Jackson, Taft, and their assembled cudgel, lamp, and rope-wielding staff, burst into the Oval Office.

"GET ADAMS!" Jackson roared. Without hesitation, they surged toward Adams and grabbed him by the arms.

"Throw him in the Potomac!" one of Jackson's chefs jeered. "He likes to go skinny-dipping there."

"No I don't, you ungentlemanly monster!" Adams protested, trying to fight his captors. "That's my son, John Quincy--" But Adams got no further, for they had already trooped out of the White House and he determined it best to keep his mouth shut.

Sure enough, when they reached the shores of the Potomac, John Quincy Adams was already in the water without his clothes. He stopped, pale, when he saw the approaching crowd, and grew even paler when he saw that they were holding his father. But he had no time to do anything but watch hopelessly as the crowd shoved an indignant John Adams into the water. John Adams shouted at them as he grew wetter and wetter, until everyone tired of honor and revenge and began to race back to the White House.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Trip to British Columbia, Canada (In Detail)


The city of Surrey is very close to the border--in fact, if you drive into Canada a little ways there should be big white letters that say "Welcome to Surrey." I believe that you have to take King George Hwy. to get into Surrey but I'm not sure. It might be just another name that got mixed in there.

Surrey's school district, the Surrey School District, organized the leadership conference...which brings me to my next topic--

leadership conference

The leadership conference was actually called Ideas 36, and lasted for two days. Schools from all around the Surrey School District sent their student leaders to attend the conference. Not all of the attendees were neccessarily student leaders, however--one boy I interviewed for a blog post said this: "I wasn't really expecting athletic director guided me here...said there would be free food." I am lured to a lot of events by free food, and I'm glad that it worked with that boy at least.

"Creating Leadership"

"Creating Leadership" was the name of the PowerPoint I showed at the Panorama Ridge Secondary School. I talked about different qualities of past and present leaders, asked kids about various different American and Canadian leaders, and then we did an interactive crative writing activity together about an ideal future leader. We ended up creating a tall, generous girl named Sarah who volunteered at the Food Bank and the Humane Society, had the tactical smarts of Napoleon, and inspired others.

"Technology and Leadership"

"Technology and Leadership" was the name of the second presentation I showed at the Bell Theater. It focused on the role of technology in enhancing leadership. During the presentation, I interviewed kids to get quotes for a blog post and rewrote Little Red Riding Hood to give Little Red Riding Hood 21st century technology. Here's my rewritten version of the story:

[Once upon a time, there lived a little girl named Little Red Riding Hood who always wore a red cloak. One day, her mother asked her to bring a pot of Brussels sprout soup to her grandmother.
“Remember the Rule of the Woods,” her mother said, and didn’t say anything else. With that, Little Red Riding Hood’s mother was out the door to find some potatoes for dinner.
“I have no idea what this Rule of the Woods is,” Little Red Riding Hood said to herself. “And I’m not very good with directions either,” she grumbled. “Why didn’t Mom just take the Brussels sprout soup herself?”
After thirty minutes of sulking, Little Red Riding Hood picked herself up and went to her mother’s computer, which she conveniently knew how to use, and went onto the Internet to research her route.
“Oh! Hurray!” Little Red Riding Hood said. “There’s a SkyTrain station right there. I’ll just hop on there and get off somewhere later on the route.”
So that was exactly what Little Red Riding Hood did—but not before researching the “Rule of the Woods,” which was not to talk to wolves.
“That’s easy enough,” said Little Red Riding Hood. She had a picture of a wolf on her cell phone, so she knew how to identify them.
She walked to the nearest SkyTrain station, bought some tickets, and rode it almost all the way to Grandma’s house.
When Little Red Riding Hood got off, she could see a strange animal lying beside a tree. It wasn’t a “strange animal” for long, though—Little Red Riding Hood immediately saw that it was a wolf. She hid behind another tree and dialed her uncle’s cell phone number for help. Her uncle was a woodcutter and would probably know how to get rid of a wolf.
Little Red Riding Hood got impatient waiting for her uncle, so she snuck out in front of the wolf, hoping to walk all the way to Grandma’s.
“Rarrr!” the wolf said, leaping up. Thankfully, Little Red Riding Hood had watched some martial arts moves on YouTube, so she was able to knock the wolf out in a matter of seconds, flat. Her cell phone started beeping. Her uncle was calling her back to check if she was okay.
“Yo man, I’m doin’ fine!” Little Red Riding Hood said, trying to sound as tough as possible. Her uncle came striding up to where she was standing in front of the stunned wolf.
“Your cell phone has a GPS on it, right?” he asked her.
“Yep, man,” Little Red Riding Hood said, still trying to sound tough. Without any explanation, her uncle snipped at the wolf’s belly, took the cell phone from Little Red Riding Hood, and turned its volume full up. Then he tossed it right into the wolf’s stomach.
“We’ll be able to track the wolf with the cell phone’s GPS,” her uncle said, and sewed the wolf’s stomach back up.



There was an abundance of food on both days. On the first day, there were healthy cookies that were covered in seeds, watermelon, honeydew melons, mini-bagels with three different kinds of cream cheese (raspberry, banana, and normal) plus two different kinds of cheese (cheddar and swiss or maybe it was cheddar jack), bottled water...on the second day, there were boxes and boxes of pizza (veggie, cheese, and I think there was pepperoni as well, although I'm not sure), granola bars, juiceboxes, chilled water, and lots more that I didn't see with my own eyes. When we were at the Holiday Inn Express in Surrey, we had a complimentary breakfast (yum!) including my favorite, cereal. When we were at the Holiday Inn Downtown in Vancouver, we paid ten dollars for both my mom and I to have breakfast. They let you make your own waffles with pre-measured cups of batter, and they had a can full of whipped cream that I sprayed on indulgently with no self-restraint. They also had homemade strawberry jam (which was basically mashed up strawberries with liquid sugar--delicious!), so I put some jam on with my whipped cream and had one of the best Belgian waffles in my life. I also had muesli with yogurt, and lots and lots of fruit. The night before we had breakfast, we ate at the hotel restaurant as well, and I had a great vegetarian Mediterranean pizza, some of which we saved for later. At the restaurant, kids got both a free drink and ice cream, so I had a wonderful fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice and some gigantic scoops of peppermint chocolate ice cream. At the Sheraton Guildford Hotel in Surrey, I had a wonderful Eggs Benedict. Unfortunately, the eggs were pretty runny, so I got some bright yellow stains all over my good white pants.

Sheraton Guildford Hotel

We originally stayed at the Sheraton Guildford Hotel, but there was a lot of construction going on at the time we were staying there (and also some personal reasons I don't feel at liberty to disclose for the sake of the reputation of my grandparernts' nasal passages--anyway, no more on that), so we later switched to the Holiday Inn Express.

Holiday Inn Express

I really liked the Holiday Inn Express in Surrey for three reasons:


1) free internet

2) free local calls

3) complimentary continental breakfast


It was also a lot less noisy without construction and grandparents to worry about. A very nice hotel.

Holiday Inn Downtown

The Holiday Inn Downtown was where we stayed in Vancouver. After our good experience with the Holiday Inn in Surrey, I sort of wanted to go there again. We had a handy map with us, so we walked all the way from the SkyTrain station (which was a loooong way) and managed to find it. We felt pretty proud of ourselves for our triumph with the map. My mom admits herself that she doesn't have a very good sense of direction and I'm just a "pathetic little child," after all--shouldn't we feel proud of ourselves?

The first thing I noticed about the Holiday Inn Downtown, strangely enough, was that its logo was slightly more modernized than our first Holiday Inn; it was italicized and the background was a shiny green. I liked both logos. Once inside, we got another map--a fancy 3D pedestrians' map, that is--from the receptionist, and checked in. Our room was very nice, and (to my pleasure) we even had a balcony. At the Holiday Inn Downtown there was a restaurant called "Medley's Bistro." It was raining/hailing outside, so we decided to eat inside. A waiter there, Jason, was in very good spirits and made a lot of jokes. We couldn't tell whether he was joking or not when he said that he had a garden under a bridge near a daycare, but I searched online and I'm pretty sure it's true. For some reason I remember at dinner the boy sitting in front of us, when asked what he wanted to drink, shouted "Chocolate milk!" I just remember the particular way he said it.

Burnaby Village Museum

The Burnaby Village Museum was a village of small original or replica houses, shops, and other buildings (like an outhouse) modeled after life in the early 1900s. Unfortunately, it was closed until May 1st, but we managed to get in just to peer through the windows into the houses and go for a nice walk. We took some great pictures, too!

Vancouver Art Gallery

The Vancouver Art Gallery was not too far from our hotel at all, a short walk. Their feature exhibition on the first floor was "TruthBeauty," which centered on the influences of the Pictorialist movement and the Pictorialists themselves. We saw lots of photos, paintings, and even videos (for an exhibition on the third floor) in the Art Gallery.

Telus World of Science (or Science World)

After the Art Gallery, we walked to the SkyTrain station (which was a hassle, believe me! We turned around in a circle and had to ask for quite a few directions) to catch the SkyTrain to Science World. From the outside, Science World is a gigantic ball mounted on a normal, short building. From the inside (on Saturdays at least), Science World is a crowded inferno of the worst of rowdy young demon children banging, splashing, kicking, hitting--for the most part, doing anything but reading about--various hands-on exhibits. The unfortunate part about coming to Science World on a Saturday was that--long lines of children waiting to get a chance to play with even the most mundane of machines. Certainly there were some immensely fun things at Science World--a chair, attached to a pulley (or at least I think it was a pulley) that took on a fraction of your weight so that you could pull yourself up into the air without much trouble; an "aging" machine that took a picture of you, gave you wrinkles and changed your hairline to give you a picture of what you might look like at seventy years of age...but it was rather a mistake to come on Saturday. At least Science World was right across from the train station.

Simon Fraser University

We were able to go on a tour of the Simon Fraser University which was very interesting. The architecture of the main part of the building is designed to make the building look like the inside of a boat or ship from inside. Another interesting thing about the university was that there was a giant shopping mall downstairs. And yet another interesting thing--we know a Simon Frazer who told us about this university and told u that Simon Fraser was one of his ancestors.


The SkyTrain was a highly efficient system of public transportation that puts many other transportation systems to shame. It was very fast (probably because there isn't traffic to slow a SkyTrain down when it's much higher, or at certain points, lower, than the city streets) and very nice to ride on. I would recommend it highly.

Amtrak train

We took the Amtrak train back to Seattle. We had actually planned to leave on Friday, but it was our unlucky day--all of the tickets were sold out. I had really been looking forward to the train, while my grandparents wanted to get back, so they took the Greyhound bus to Seattle while we bought tickets for the next day's train. The next day when we arrived at the train station in Vancouver, we learned that there had been a power outage at the station since 2:30. That meant that the U.S. customs computers weren't working--which meant that they weren't sure about letting us go--which meant inching along in a long queue that barely went anywhere--which meant boredom. Finally, they had mercy on us and let us get on the train about an hour late, I would say. The train was very nice; there were quite a few seats that had no occupants--and it was a double-decker train, which was a first for me. The seats were upstairs. We stopped at various places; first at New Westminister, Canada to get some "neccessary paperwork," then in Bellingham, Mount Vernon, Everett, Edmonds, and finally Seattle. At all these stops my mother was worried that perhaps our suitcase (which carried both our professional camera and my laptop) would get taken by mistake, so, before she went to sleep, she would have me go down and make sure no one took it. No one did.

tuna fish sandwich

Does this truly need explanation? Well, I suppose there is a little bit more to the tuna fish sandwich. My dad came to pick us up in Seattle. On the train, my mom had called him to tell him that I was hungry (which I was) and asked him to make a tuna fish sandwich for me, which he did. He also got me some grapefruit juice. When one is hungry and thirsty, even tuna fish on stale bread with nothing else but canned grapefruit juice can taste very good. And it was actually a very good sandwich. We drove up to the house; I tapped on my sister's window. She was still reading, to my surprise, probably staying up all night waiting for us. Our journey was finished satisfactorily.

Overview of my trip to British Columbia, Canada

[Note about areas in bold: This is an overview of the trip so I'll be giving more details about bolded areas in a second blog post.]


We (my mother, my grandparents, and I) headed to BC for a leadership conference in Surrey, a large (and quickly growing) city that would have reminded me of Redmond were it not a few times bigger. At the leadership conference, I gave two separate presentations: "Creating Leadership" at the theater of the Panorama Ridge Secondary School, and "Technology and Leadership" at the Bell Theater. After "Technology and Leadership" I answered questions and finished a blog post we had started. There was an abundance of food at both conferences.

We stayed at three different hotels for different parts of our visit: the Sheraton Guildford Hotel, the Holiday Inn Express, and the Holiday Inn Downtown.

We visited three different museums while we were in BC: the Burnaby Village Museum, the Vancouver Art Gallery, and the Telus World of Science (more often called "Science World). We also visited the Surrey campus of the Simon Fraser University.

We used various kinds of transportation during our journey. To get to Surrey, we caught a ride with a driver we found on Craigslist. Two of the most memorable were the SkyTrain and the Amtrak train to Seattle. We took the SkyTrain quite a bit to get between Surrey, Burnaby, Vancouver, and all the places in between.

Finally we arrived at the train station in Seattle. But the journey was not yet over--after all, we still had a drive to Redmond in front of us--and, for me, a tuna fish sandwich.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Friday, April 04, 2008

If you're interested in getting your work published, here is a great way to do that:

Call for Submissions
Become a Published Young Author or Illustrator!
Launch Pad: Where Young Authors and Illustrators Take Off! is a new onlinemagazine devoted to publishing fiction, nonfiction, poetry, book reviews,and artwork by children ages 6-12. The editor is pleased to announce thepublication of the first online issue (January/February 2008) openlyaccessible from the Launch Pad web site. We still have space in all of ourupcoming 2008 issues, and invite young authors and artists to submitmaterial about the following themes:
The OceanSummer VacationSportsMysteries
Please visit to read the magazine and review oursubmission guidelines! We do not charge parents or children any publicationor submission fees.
Printable handouts:
Email submissions and queries to:

If you're interested in getting your work published, here is a great way to do that:


Call for Submissions

Become a Published Young Author or Illustrator!

Launch Pad: Where Young Authors and Illustrators Take Off! is a new online
magazine devoted to publishing fiction, nonfiction, poetry, book reviews,
and artwork by children ages 6-12. The editor is pleased to announce the
publication of the first online issue (January/February 2008) openly
accessible from the Launch Pad web site. We still have space in all of our
upcoming 2008 issues, and invite young authors and artists to submit
material about the following themes:

The Ocean
Summer Vacation

Please visit to read the magazine and review our
submission guidelines! We do not charge parents or children any publication
or submission fees.

Printable handouts:

Email submissions and queries to:

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Camp Goddard

On Tuesday, March 25th, I wrote a blog with students of Furneaux School about a science learning camp called Camp Goddard that they went to. Here's the blog:

Camp Goddard is located right outside of Davis, Oklahoma. There were 82 students and 17 adults. The students stayed four days and three nights in cabins. One of these cabins had an encounter with a really big coyote. It still had its winter coat. It was fat. The students were walking toward the cabin when they saw the coyote. They stood still. The principal, Mr. Cunningham, ran the coyote off. Some of the students were still scared, though, and worried that the coyote might come back.

Some of the activities the students participated in included archery and canoeing. One student tried to fall out, but nobody really did, fortunately. They also went fishing, hiking, and walking on trails. Miss Carlson took the students on an off-trail trip to see a cavern. There was also a fossil dig for limestone. The digging area used to be a shallow sea.

To Furneaux School: I really enjoyed writing this with you, but unfortunately, we don't have too much time left, so you can copy this post and continue it in your own time.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Two Points of View

This is a school assignment I did yesterday. I wrote from two perspectives--one from that of an untouchable (the lowest class in the old Indian caste system) another from the point of view of a girl kshatriya, or noble. The first is that of the untouchable, the second of the kshatriya.


A bonfire flickered in the distance. I could see it clearly against the starry night sky. I ran ahead to inspect it further. Perhaps there would be some food to beg, for it was Holi and I knew that everybody, even the poorest, would probably be in a good mood today.

As I came closer, I could see people singing loudly and dancing around the bonfire in a semicircle. Most of them appeared to be vaishyas, or farmers. I felt like a worm, creeping toward them in their fine clothes. Nobody noticed me at first.

Soon, though, I wished that it had stayed that way. As soon as they noticed me, I wished that they hadn't; the disgust etched on their faces as they backed away made me feel only more an outcast.

A little girl stared at me in fascination, as though I were some strange animal, until her mother pulled her by her sari back into the crowd. I ran away. It did not matter how silly I looked, for no one would bother to tell me.

Later I came back, more discreetly, to watch the festivities. Some kshatriyas' servants had come to dance. I envied them. Servants though they were, they would not be kicked aside like rags when the came to join in.

Some of the young women began to dance. I watched them. Their yellow saris twirled around them and sparkled. The others soon followed suit.

"To Vishnu!" a young man cried.

"To Krishna!" said another.

The crowd laughed together with one voice. How I wished that I could join in with them. But there was no way that a lowly street-sweeping child like myself would be able to do that. It would get me in trouble with my mother. And then everybody would know that I was there, contaminating the air with my unholy breath.


Inside the cool courtyard of my family's house, my father paced back and forth, surveying the shudras hard at work watering plants and pulling up weeds. He hem-hemmed under his breath, snapped his fingers, and walked briskly to me.

"Have the cooks made naan for the festival?" he asked curtly.

"Yes, Father," I said obediently, and nearly groaned out loud. My sari, which was yellow and beautiful to look at, was not so comfortable to wear. It wrapped tightly around my legs and made walking hard. I made my way outside slowly, worried that my sari would trip me and make me look like a loon. My cousins had already gathered outside on the grass.

"Indira, your sari is too tight," my older cousin Kali said, her own sari's hem flecked with dew. She helped me tuck in a loose fold. The boys sniggered and said that we talked only about girlish things.

"Oh--do we have to do rites today?" Sita asked with a catch in her breath.

"I don't think so. Why?" I asked.

"I saw a brahman," Sita said.

"Oh--the bonfire's starting!" I shouted as I noticed flames in the distance. Everyone ran forth to the smell of warm curry and naan. It was heaped upon golden platters, ready to be eaten.

"There goes the daughter of Harsha Varyana," I heard the vaishyas whisper. They were sitting on the ground in orderly rows. This was one of the few times they saw me, and I saw them. Behind the vaishyas were some dirty untouchables, still busy sweeping pathways. The dirty rags they wore as clothes teemed with vermin. I looked at them with disgust and glared into their eyes. Stupid beggars, I thought. Ruining Holi with their dirty clothes and contaminated shadows. I smiled at my cousins and walked demurely to a tasseled carpet that had been placed on the grass for us. Some shudras came forth to serve me and my cousins. My father looked proudly at me . This sari perhaps is not too bad, I thought, and glanced haughtily at the vaishyas and the untouchables who still lingered sadly there.

Monday, March 17, 2008

I'd like to take this chance to reply to an editor in China who left a comment asking some questions. (In the future, I would recommend anybody seeking a direct reply should leave their email addresses so that I can get back to them as soon as possible.) Here are my answers to the questions:

1. How old are you and when were you born?

I am ten years old and I was born in 1997 in Springfield, Oregon.

2. How many words can you type in a minutes now?

I can type around seventy words a minute on average, but I have gotten up to 110 words per minute.

3. How many words have you read until now? And how many words have you written?

It is impossible to calculate how many words I have read until now. I can tell you that I have read about 2000 books and I have written at least 800,000 words.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

School Assignment

Today I was supposed to write a narrative from the point of view of a person going insane and let the reader know that the person was going insane, without actually saying that, of course. Here it is:

Everybody liked the party. The party was bright and happy. However, it was really nothing proper for someone like me, as I was used to a simple life. That was how I had been raised.
I probably would have liked the party, except for the fact that all the ladies and gentlemen in bustle dresses and tailcoats made me feel little and unimportant.
When we were supposed to dance I did not dance. I sat down at the side of the room and watched the people dance. Watching the people dance made me feel dizzy and I sighed. I wanted to dance but I found myself too busy looking out the window. When I looked out the window I saw more rain than grass. It was strange, I thought. Too much water made me feel like I was drowning. It had been that way since I had drank too much water at the beginning of the party and I choked. Nobody liked comics here. That was why I did not dance. There was nobody like me. Even the people who did like comics did not have ways of doing things like me. I did things well, I thought. I could run a car better than Hernsley Jones.
I liked the way the women’s dresses trailed on the floors. I wanted a dress like the one I had seen. It was pink and orange and too many things all at once. I liked too many things all at once. Some people maybe thought that a dress like that was too cramped, too many things all at once. I didn’t think so. I liked cramped and too many things and coziness.
My friends said to be neat and behave properly at the party. I didn’t know what they meant by behave properly but I thought that I was doing it. My opinion was pretty good and what I thought usually held. I liked having my thoughts held. All my friends said it was a good thing, and when we got together to talk about things they always listened to me. That made me think of times when nobody did really listen to me. I was just little then. That was what the party made me think. I didn’t hear anything because it—something—stopped me, made everything a little blurry like a bad daguerreotype.
If they went out I was supposed to, too. I didn’t know how to go out. There was a door that was big and shiny like a polished seashell I have. I like collecting seashells. I put them to my ear and hear the ocean. But I didn’t think that big heavy doorknob was made for turning. I saw more rain than grass outside. The door would just upset that. The natural order of things.
I did things well, I thought. My opinions were held. My friends told me so. The noise was so bad that I thought I would fall to the floor with all the dancing people and those nice women’s dresses that trailed on the floor. But I didn’t. Or at least I don’t think so. I can’t tell what happens. It’s not my responsibility, after all. I sat a little and waited and thought there was something wrong with the natural order of things.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Today's happenings

Today (that is, February 26), I gave a videoconferencing demo to teachers in Alaska. Unfortunately, I was not able to see the other side, but the demo went fairly well in my opinion. After the demo I had lunch of hot blueberry mini-waffles with apple jam. I also had a juicy navel orange.

After my nap, my sister Adrianna and our friend Katie, who attends the same school as Adrianna, came back from junior high, played outside, and came in for afterschool. After Katie had finished her homework, we learned about American history from a website. We also learned about children in Victorian Britain and World War II on the BBC website, and memorized in order the monarchs of the houses of Plantaganet, Lancaster and York, Hanover, and Windsor.

Once Katie was gone I immediately went to my mom's room to watch news on the TV. This is one of my daily rituals--as soon as class ends at 5:30, I come upstairs to watch thirty minutes of alternating between World News with Charles Gibson and CBS news with Katie Couric. After those thirty minutes are done, I watch another thirty minutes of NBC's Nightly News with Brian Williams. My mom (with some reason) calls me a news junkie.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Snow, Sun, and slipping on asphalt

While winter storms batter New York, my sister Adrianna and I have been taking advantage of the warm and sunny weather here in Washington State to play outside on an apparatus called the skateboard. Since neither of us are up to actually keeping our balance standing up on it, we sit down on it and roll down our neighbors' driveway (which slants downward) at great speeds. We have another wheeled device that actually has a proper steering mechanism with handlebars, that is painted red. (I favor it personally.) I was going down our neighbors' driveway just this morning on the vehicle and, fearing that I was going to ram into a decorative wall, attempted to bail off unsuccessfully, leaving my knee dragging on the ground as I hurtled downwards. I managed to get off just in the nick of time but with a bleeding knee from the asphalt. Talk about wounded.

Creating a name

For those of you writing stories of your own (or maybe about to have a baby) here are three ways to find names:

1.) Create your own. You may already like the sound of a name, like "Anna." Now try replacing the "A" with other letters, like Z for Zanna, Y for Yanna, M for Manna, L for Lanna. Let's go with Lanna. Now let's take out one of the N's and change Lanna to Lana. Lastly, I'm going to replace the last A with an E, to create "Lanne." Another way to create your own name is to take your name or that of somebody you know. Let's say Martha, for instance. Martha backwards is Ahtram. Okay, maybe it's a little weird, but we can also try Thara or Mara, Mathara...

2.) Copy someone else. In the olden times, children would often take the names of one of their parents, grandparents, aunts, or uncles. The tradition isn't as widespread today but if you particularly admire someone else's name you can always use it. There's no patent or copyright infrigement law on names.

3.) Use the Internet or other reference source. I personally find a lot of names for my stories from the Internet. There are some names that I don't use in stories, I just keep them in my head. Katenka, for instance, is one of my favorites. (I have a preference for Russian names.) Baby books are also useful. That's how my mom and dad found my sister's name.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Imagined scene from the life of Thomas Jefferson

“My dear, please pass the salt,” Mr. Jefferson said passively to his daughter Patsy, looking ponderously upon his ham and eggs. “First thing you come home and Cook makes ham without any salt! What will this house come to?” Sighing deeply, Jefferson took the salt from his daughter’s hand and dumped a great deal onto his ham.
“I thought Cook would be on vacation!” Patsy said with evident surprise.
“She’s on vacation as much as a Barbary corsair is going to kiss my feet,” Jefferson said. “Meaning, of course, that she’s most decidedly not.”
“I heard about that. Don’t those men have such funny names?” Patsy laughed.
“Patsy my dear, those “men with such funny names” have been attacking our ships and doing what they please,” Mr. Jefferson said sternly, wagging his finger. “I don’t have a taste for eggs today. Let’s take a walk around Monticello.” Patsy nodded and put on her pinafore. As they walked out, Jefferson tripped on a bust of his own head he had ordered and fell forward onto Patsy’s arm.
“Damn,” he swore under his breath, and tried to regain a proper composure.
“Your own head shall be your fate, Father,” Patsy said, laughing as she leaned back on a white marble column. Jefferson smiled grimly and they strode onto the lawn. Patsy surveyed the plantation with a smile. She could see the slaves picking beans and tobacco. Belle the cow came lumbering out to greet them with her wobbly-legged calf.
“Oh Father! You didn’t tell me Belle had a calf!” Patsy said excitedly, kneeling down to feel the calf’s sandy tongue and getting grass stains on her frock. “It would have been a nice distraction.”
“Exactly,” Jefferson said. “It would have been quite a distraction. You must concentrate on your studies for now, my girl, and when you’re older then I’m sure you’ll be married to some rich young man with a plantation of your own.” Patsy sighed and ran off to see the chickens.
“Wait, Patsy!” Jefferson shouted. His leg was still sore from tripping over the bust and he found it hard to keep up with his nimble daughter.

Food Part II

As I said in my previous post, we have too much food in our house. For some reason, we are (or at least I am) drawn to new things rather than the things we're supposed to eat, like leftovers. It's more exciting to tear open a brand-new package of cereal or oats than it is to eat the same old stuff you've had for weeks on end. This phenomenon (our desire to eat new things) has led to an overabundance of leftovers. And nobody likes leftovers, except for starving children in Africa. 

Starving children in Africa makes me think of an interesting Scientific American I read last year. It said that nutritionally, there was enough food in the world for everybody (or at least most of us), but that because of unequal distribution, we have a hunger crisis in many parts of the world. Even when we eat at restaurants, we are often not able to finish what's on our plate. So the restaurant throws it away and the food is wasted. When we eat out too much/have too much food/both, some percentage of our food is going to go bad. And that percentage is wasted.

I watch the news every night and I heard an interesting story about the dramatic rise in wheat prices. A bushel that used to cost $5.11 now costed $10.00, which led (or at least has the potential to lead) to a domino effect--prices of flour went up, prices of goods made of flour (bread, noodles) went up, customers can't buy as much. Who knows if this is a bad thing? Many of us have all the food we need. Unfortunately, the bakery that isn't managing to sell the high-priced bread probably isn't going to give the leftovers to starving children in Africa. 

Food (and too much of it) Part I

Americans are definitely big consumers of food, but we're also big wasters. Even our household (and we consider ourselves fairly good when it comes to eating our food) has a surplus of whole wheat pancakes. The root of the matter may lie in the fact that the pancakes are tough, and some of them are burnt. Of course, we have also been crazed over our new oats so we have obviously neglected the pancakes.

Tonight we're having pasta imported from Italy. You can tell that it's really Italian because 1) there's not a shred of English, everything is in Italian 2) it's small and 3) it's expensive. I look forward to eating it. Call me treasonous if you like, but in general, European food is much better than American. When we were in Europe, we had a good time eating. 

Andy Rooney has said, "I never eat in the restaurant of the hotel where I'm staying." In contrast, I often eat in hotel restaurants. In Hong Kong, it was nearly the only place we ate. Obviously, this isn't the best way to taste the local culture, but it is the best way to eat food you're familiar with. Then again, why not just eat it at home? That reminds me of another Andy Rooney quote--"I don't eat at a restaurant that says "home cooking." If I want home cooking, I'll eat at home."

Well, no matter how guilty I feel, I don't think I'm going to eat the pancakes tonight.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Pros and Cons of the Videoconference Part 2

When I debuted the presentation "Essay Made Easy: Persuasive Writing," I talked about techniques of persuasive writing, like anecdotes and scenarios, facts and examples, and definitions and quotes. 

I noticed that the students (who were, I noted, teenagers) were talking amongst themselves when they were supposed to accomplish an assignment. Was I a little frustrated? To the contrary, these chattering students inspired me to create a new PowerPoint. I hope that a new presentation I plan to make about rules will stick in the minds of students.

Looking back on the persuasive writing presentation, I have to say that it's made me think a little more about the key parts to making a videoconference a success.

1. A good presenter who is able to manage the video conferencing unit and teach students effectively.

2. A working video conferencing unit that, to put it concisely, does just that--works. Plus good internet connection.

3. A receptive audience who listens carefully and makes an effort to understand the material being presented. 

These three things are key to making any video conference a success. I've seen stellar audiences in some of my presentations, but the video conferencing unit can backfire. Thankfully, we think we're mostly done with our problems now--the video conferencing unit is working consistently throughout my programs so far.  

If you are school teachers, administrators, or librarians interested in my video conferencing programs, you can check them out at Search for Adora Svitak.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Pros + Cons of the Videoconference

As a frequent videoconferencer (I give many presentations through a videoconferencing unit to schools across the country), I am surprised by the sometime randomness and uncertainty of videoconferencing.


Problems range from not being able to see the other side (the POINT of videoconferencing) to not being able to show a computer's screen even when the presentation cord is hooked up, to not being able to hear the other party, to not being able to turn the thing on!


But at the same time videoconferencing technology has allowed me to give many presentations to schools far away that would have taken a lot of time to board planes, hook up put it briefly, the videoconferencing unit has allowed me to give more presentations.


I think that's good.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Hairstyles of Dictators of the World

Hairstyles of Dictators of the World
Svitak, Adora

Looking at a picture of Chairman Mao, I notice a striking similarity between his high-forehead hairstyle and that of modern day North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il. This made me want to analyze hairstyles of other dictators of the world, and so I began my political fashion quest. Let's see...Josef Stalin has a fairly high hairstyle. (And all of them have rather chubby faces, but don't tell the Russian, North Korean, or Chinese government I've said this.) Pol Pot, infamous leader of the Cambodian Khmer Rouge, has an about normal hairstyle. Fidel Castro? Yes, he has a high hairstyle, but I think this is because he's balding in old age. Poor Fidel...Our hearts bleed for you.

Although Marie Antoinette doesn't fit under the term "dictator," her hair was pulled back high above her forehead, as was the fashion at the time. So were the dictators mentioned above--many of them Communist--ironically influenced by the Imperialist fashions of old France?

But what about the biggest dictator of them all? Adolf Hitler? Disappointingly, his hairstyle looks more like the toupe of Donald Trump. (Sorry, Mr. Trump.) Hitler's mustache really stands out more. But if any of you have looked these dictators in the eye, remarked on their hairstyles, and lived, we congratulate you.

Becoming an Expert: Words I Learned

Today I am learning about the Red Guards of China's Cultural Revolution by reading articles from Encarta and Wikipedia. While the writing of the article isn't exactly that interesting itself (typical reference writing), the subject is interesting enough to me that the way it's written doesn't matter that much. Here's a word I find popping up a lot in anything related to the Cultural Revolution that I didn't know before:

re·ac·tion·ar·y /riˈækʃəˌnɛri/ Pronunciation Key - Show Spelled Pronunciation[ree-ak-shuh-ner-ee] Pronunciation Key - Show IPA Pronunciation adjective, noun, plural -ar·ies.
of, pertaining to, marked by, or favoring reaction, esp. extreme conservatism or rightism in politics; opposing political or social change. –noun
a reactionary person.

But reactionaries don't have to be related to the Cultural Revolution.

Becoming an Expert: Draft 2

For the Becoming an Expert project, I'm supposed to write about how my perceptions changed when I visited China or my assumptions were proved wrong. But to be honest, I did not have perceptions or assumptions about China before my visit; I merely learned new things that I probably would not have been able to learn from Wikipedia or Encarta. I'll include some of my discoveries here.

I learned a lot about Chinese culture, especially relating to food. The Chinese love eating, and even in Beijing, where space is one of the most important commodities in this city of millions of people, every restaurant has a private room for those people who want to savor their food without the chitchat of the open area. Street food is cheap to many of us tourists, with hot yams at a quarter and cakes at two.

But don't think everything in China comes cheap. In Xi'an's colossal, seven-story shopping mall, some swimsuits cost hundreds of dollars. And often, vendors will try to charge you more if they learn that you're a foreigner. Foreigners (especially Americans) are considered rich.

Like many Asian countries, China values conformity. Most, if not all, of Beijing's schools have uniforms. But at the same time, China is yearning to distinguish itself in the world. The upcoming Olympics, it seems, is a good opportunity for them to do just that, and there's a lot of hype about the Olympics. You can find Beijing's mascots--the "Five Friendlies"--in posters in every public place around. Nearly every single company in Beijing seems to have teamed up with the Beijing 2008 Olympics.

China is responsible for a lot of pollution--eight out of ten, I heard, of the most polluted cities in the world, are located in China, and certainly the most polluted is. But in Shanghai, one of China's largest metropolises, I learned that stores are fined for giving plastic bags free.

I learned about Chinese history. In a history museum in Hong Kong, I learned about the Treaty of Nanking and the Japanese invasion; in Beijing, traveling through the spacious halls of the Forbidden City, I learned about the history of China's dynasties, from the Xia to the Qing. Giant pots were stored by many buildings in the Forbidden City. In old times they were filled with water to use in case of fire. On the roof of one important building in the Forbidden Cities, there are a certain number of animal figures. Many other roofs in the Forbidden City have these figures, but none of them can have the same number or more.One legend from the Qing dynasty was interesting; the young Pu Yi, last emperor of China, was in a ceremonial procession when he became scared. His father comforted him by saying, "It will all be over soon." And the last dynasty of China fell only two years later. (Perhaps I have the two years wrong, but I believe this was how the legend went. Whether or not Pu Yi's father actually said this is up to your imagination.)

In the Summer Palace, we learned that the Empress Cixi spent the amount of silver on one meal as would feed four families for four years. By the way, she had four meals a day--and each had one hundred dishes. This is hard to imagine seeing, much less eating.Going to China gave me the chance to advance my understanding of "The Middle Kingdom" in a very exciting way.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

For the Becoming an Expert project, I'm supposed to write about how my perceptions changed when I visited China or my assumptions were proved wrong. But to be honest, I did not have perceptions or assumptions about China before my visit; I merely learned new things that I probably would not have been able to learn from Wikipedia or Encarta. I'll include some of my discoveries here.

I learned a lot about Chinese culture, especially relating to food. The Chinese love eating, and even in Beijing, where space is one of the most important commodities in this city of millions of people, every restaurant has a private room for those people who want to savor their food without the chitchat of the open area. Street food is cheap to many of us tourists, with hot yams at a quarter and cakes at two. But in other areas, like Xi'an's colossal, seven-story shopping mall, things don't come cheap--some swimsuits cost as much as hundreds of dollars.

Like many Asian countries, China values conformity. Most, if not all, of Beijing's schools have uniforms. But at the same time, China is yearning to distinguish itself in the world. There's a lot of hype about the Beijing 2008 Olympics, and you can find Beijing's mascots--the "Five Friendlies"--in posters in every public place around. Nearly every single company in Beijing seems to have teamed up with the Beijing 2008 Olympics.

I learned about Chinese history. In a history museum in Hong Kong, I learned about the Treaty of Nanking and the Japanese invasion; in Beijing, traveling through the spacious halls of the Forbidden City, I learned about the history of China's dynasties, from the Xia to the Qing. Giant pots were stored by many buildings in the Forbidden City. In old times they were filled with water to use in case of fire. On the roof of one important building in the Forbidden Cities, there are a certain number of animal figures. Many other roofs in the Forbidden City have these figures, but none of them can have the same number or more.

One legend from the Qing dynasty was interesting; the young Pu Yi, last emperor of China, was in a ceremonial procession when he became scared. His father comforted him by saying, "It will all be over soon." And the last dynasty of China fell only two years later. (Perhaps I have the two years wrong, but I believe this was how the legend went. Whether or not Pu Yi's father actually said this is up to your imagination.)

In the Summer Palace, we learned that the Empress Cixi spent the amount of silver on one meal as would feed four families for five years. By the way, she had four meals a day--and each had one hundred dishes. This is hard to imagine seeing, much less eating.

Going to China gave me the chance to advance my understanding of "The Middle Kingdom" in a very exciting way.