Monday, December 19, 2011

Why Is Eragon So Popular?

When I first read Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass, way back in the '90's, I was totally captivated.  It was a book intended for young adults, yet it was written in a sophisticated manner, with an erudite vocabulary.  It had a spunky heroine.  It was wildly inventive: daemons, panserbjorne, alethiometers, Dust.  It was also mysterious: Just what was going on with the Dust and portals to other worlds?

My sixth grade students all read the book this year and they generally liked it.  Many liked the action sequences at Bolvangar and on Svalbard, but they found the first third of the book slow.  Many also found the book confusing.  Few saw it as the masterpiece I perceived it to be.

What book did the students, particularly boys, really get excited about?  That would be Eragon.  I've read Eragon.  It's a tedious read, overlong, and completely derivative of The Lord of the Rings.  What makes this particular book and its sequels so popular, certainly more popular than The Golden Compass has ever been (at least in this country)?

Adam Gopnik offers his answer to this question in the December 5 issue of The New Yorker.  Gopnik's theory is that young readers relate to the Eragon books not because the story in and of itself is compelling, but because they enjoy reading about an entire alternate world, one in this case filled with dragons, magic, elves, etc.  In reading the Eragon books, readers master an intricate lore and history.  Gopnik writes, "Kids go to fantasy not for escape but for organization, and a little elevation."  Middle school readers identify with Eragon.  He's a pretty typical youth who is confronted with a series of challenges which must be overcome before progressing to the next series of challenges.  Gopnik equates the fantasy hero's progression to that of the student progressing through school.  Since defeating a band of orcs is a bit more glamorous than conquering a page of algebra, students will gravitate to the Eragon book.  To read Eragon is to master the lore and mythology of an entire world, a world with parallels to the reader's world, and that is an accomplishment.

Gopnik doesn't actually mention in his article how he arrives at these conclusions.  My guess is that he talked to his kids and their friends.  Kids do rave about Eragon.  Kids tend to "admire" The Golden Compass rather than rave about it.  Gopnik also presents in his essay the Twilight series as a corollary for girls to the Eragon series for boys.  Neither series is particular well written, at least from an adult's perspective.  Still, Girls identify with Bella Swan to an extent perhaps even greater than boys do to Eragon.  Her romantic conundrum is their romantic conundrum.  The addition of vampire lore makes it all just that much more enticing.  So Gopnik's analysis seems to fit these two publishing phenomena.  But what about the other recent young adult publishing phenomenon, namely The Hunger Games?

The Hunger Games is well written and its plot is certainly exciting.  Its hero, Katniss Everdeen, must use her wits to survive a series of treacherous ordeals.  So is The Hunger Games "escapist" literature in a way that Eragon and Twilight are not?  In other words, do young people read The Hunger Games, and thrill to the action and suspense, but not necessarily identify their situation in life with that of Katniss's?  Adam Gopnik references Harry Potter, the Icelandic sagas, The X-Men, and The Beatles (he references The Beatles in all of his essays) in his article, but he doesn't reference The Hunger Games.

So it's up to me to answer this one.  Evidently, young people like fantasy for the reasons referenced above, but they're also partial to a good page turner.  Kids are going to read a lot of different books for a lot of different reasons.  The Young Adult book business is booming (at least compared to the rest of the publishing world).  Still, there's no simple formula to predicting a blockbuster.  Sometimes books just catch on and it's hard to say exactly why.  While most kids really do seem to love fantasy, and some will read their favorite series over and over again, there are some who prefer other genres, such as realistic fiction.  There are probably even some kids who enjoy reading The New Yorker (though most probably won't even find the cartoons funny).

Adam Gopnik's writing style, by the way, really is an acquired taste.  With his many references to culture both high brow and popular, it really does seem like he's just showing off sometimes.  Frankly, many of the topics about which he tends to write are not of interest to me.  Still, I'd recommend you read the essay cited above.  My favorite Gopnik story, though, is actually one he wrote while he was living in France.  It's about a story he made up to tell his son as a bedtime story.  It's about baseball.  It's fantastic.  It's called "The Rookie."  It's not on-line for free, but if you're a New Yorker subscriber, you can read it here.  It's also available in Gopnik's book "Paris to the Moon."

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Quest and Villain Description

Quest: Describe the Quest of you hero in your fantasy story.  One paragraph in length.
Include the following information in your paragraph:
  • Who is going on the quest?
  • What is the goal of the quest?
  • What are the starting and ending points of the quest?
  • What is the duration of the quest?
  • Why must the hero go on the quest?  What will happen if he/she fails?
Villain: Describe the Villain of your fantasy story.  One paragraph in length.  Include the following information in your paragraph:
  • Appearance of Villain and important characteristics (age, profession, etc.)
  • How did the Villain become evil?
  • What is the ultimate goal of the villain?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Setting Descriptions

3 paragraphs total:

1.  Familiar: The places familiar to the hero: neighborhoods, buildings, communities, parks, etc.  Because the hero has not yet seen the wider world, the familiar is located within a relatively small area.  The familiar can be located in our world, or it can be located in a fantasy world.

2.   Threshhold: The boundary which is crossed which takes the hero from the familiar to the unfamiliar.  If the familiar is located in our world, the threshhold will be a portal through which the hero travels from our world to a fantasy world.  If the familiar is located in a fantasy world, the threshhold will be a boundary the hero will cross to enter the fantasy world.

3.  Unfamiliar: The wider world, heretofore unknown to the hero.  The fantasy world must resemble our world.  It must contain physical features and bodies of water.  The laws of physics apply.  Describe the topography of the world: mountains, canyons, hills, valleys, etc.  Include important cities and towns, as well as castles, fortresses, and other man-made structures.  The fantasy world is a large world.  Describe it very generally; you do not need to include every detail about the fantasy world.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Quiz Bowl #2

4 questions total.  Each question must be from a different category.  Categories include, but are not limited to: Geography, Science, History, Politics, Literature, Movies & TV, Current Events, Music, Nova, Sports, etc.

Include answers.  Answers may not be multiple choice or true/false.  Each question must have only one correct answer.

Due Wednesday, December 7, in Language Arts.  Use correct punctuation and grammar.

Quiz Bowl #2 will take place on Friday, December 9, in The Trow.  We'll start at about 8:45 and conclude at 10:10.  Interested parents are welcome to watch.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Fantasy Choice Book #3 Journal

1.  Read entire book (or books).
2.  Record 3 interesting vocabulary words: defns. + page #.
3.  Rate the book(s) on a 10 point scale.  Explain why you gave the book this score.  Use examples from the book to support your reasoning.
4.  Write 3 open-ended discussion questions.  Answer each question with a short paragraph (at least 2 sentences).

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Fantasy Choice Book Journal #2

1. Locate 3 interesting vocabulary words. Record page # and definition.
2.  What did you think of the 2nd half of the book?  Back up your opinion with examples from the book.
3.  What did you think of the book as a whole?  Will you continue to read the rest of the series?
4. Write 2 open-ended discussion questions about the book.  Do not answer the questions in your journal.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Tough Day: Sounders Lose Riley, Wahl, and Arlo White

James Riley: Wikimedia Commons
Fullback James Riley was selected by the Montreal Impact in the 2011 Expansion Draft.  The Sounders also traded another fullback, Tyson Wahl, to the Impact for allocation money.  Finally, the Sounders play-by-play announcer, Arlo White, has been hired by NBC to be their main voice for national MLS broadcasts.

James Riley has been the Sounders' starting right fullback for all three of their years of existence.  Tyson Wahl was also a starter for most of last year.  Allocation money, which the Sounders received for Wahl, can be used by the club to exceed the salary cap in 2012.  The Sounders will need it, as they will need to replace two defensive fullbacks, as well as their goalkeeper.  The Sounders do have room on their roster for one more Designated Player.  Each MLS team can have up to three DP's, which are players whose salries are not restricted by the salary cap.  The Sounders' current DP's are Fredy Montero and Mauro Rosales.

The Sounders will also need to find a new play-by-play announcer.  Arlo White, originally from Britain, served two seasons as the Sounders' announcer.  While it's a huge loss for fans of the Sounders, choosing White to be their main play-by-play announcer was a smart move by NBC.  White has a passion for the game, and has been a huge supporter of the Sounders and MLS.  He will be hard to replace.

Joshua Mayers reports on the moves in his Seattle Times blog here.

The blog Sounder At Heart comments on the player moves here and the loss of White here.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Fantasy Choice Book Journal #1

1.  Locate 3 interesting vocabulary words.  Record page # and definition.
2.  Rate the portion of the book you have read thus far on a scale of 1-10.  Explain why you gave the book this particular rating. Provide specific examples from the book in your explanation.
3.  Write 3 open-ended discussion questions about the book.  Do not answer the questions in your journal.

African and U.S. Physical Features Quiz

African Physical Features
Rivers: Nile, Congo, Zambezi, Niger.
Lakes: Tanganyika, Victoria, Malawi.
Deserts: Sahara, Kalahari.
Mountain Ranges: Atlas.
Mountains: Kilimanjaro.

U.S. Physical Features
Rivers: Columbia, Colorado, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio.
Lakes: Michigan, Superior, Erie, Ontario, Huron.
Mountain Ranges: Cascades, Rockies, Sierra Nevada, Appalachians.

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Golden Compass, Part II

1.  Vocabulary: Find three interesting words from Part II.  Record the definitions of the words and record the page numbers on which you found the words.

2.  What did you find most surprising in Part II?  Explain your answer.

3.  Compare Part II to Part I.  Which did you like better?  Again, explain why.

Journals for Part II are due in class on Tuesday, November 8.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

African and U.S. Cities

African City Quiz: Cairo, Lagos, Kinshasa, Johannesburg, Abidjan, Casablanca, Cape Town, Accra, Nairobi, Dar es Salaam, Addis Ababa, Dakar.

U.S. City Quiz: Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Atlanta, Miami, Detroit, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Denver, Phoenix, San Francisco.

Africa Maps

1. Draw Grid. Draw lightly with pencil.

2. Draw outline of African continent.

3. Draw country borders.

4. Draw African islands.

5. Draw Europe and Asia and remaining islands.

6. Label African countries.

7. Label Europe and Asia. Do not draw in individual countries on these continents.

8. Label all islands as labeled on your example map.

9. Label all bodies of water as labeled on your example map.

10. Label the following African cities: Cairo, Lagos, Kinshasa, Johannesburg, Abidjan, Casablanca, Cape Town, Accra, Nairobi, Dar es Salaam, Addis Ababa, Dakar. Use a symbol to indicate where the city is located.

11. Give map a title.

12. Add a compass rose.

13. Ink everything. This includes all borders, labels, your name (in lower right-hand corner), title, compass rose, one-inch border around map.

14. Erase all pencil.

15. Color in each country. Do not color adjacent countries the same color. Color Europe all one color. Do the same for Asia.

16. Color bodies of water.

17. Color compass rose.

18. Color one-inch border around map decoratively.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Golden Compass Part I

Read Part I: Oxford by Wednesday, November 2. DO NOT READ PART 2!!!

Monday, October 31, is an independent work day in class. You can read and/or work on your journal.

Journal: Please type or print neatly on a separate sheet of paper. Due Nov. 2.

Geography: A lot of the place names in The Golden Compass are similar to but different from place names in our world. Record 4 such geographic places and then record the corollary place name in our world.

Terminology: There are many terms used in The Golden Compass which are not used in our world. These terms can be types of technology, political institutions, types of customs, or simply objects. Record 3 terms and explain what you think each term means.

Vocabulary: Philip Pullman uses a rich vocabulary. Record 3 interesting words which are English language words but are not commonly used words. Record the page number on which you find the word. Look up the word in a dictionary and record its definition. Many words have multiple definitions. Record the definition which best matches the usage used by Pullman.

Reflection: Give Part I a score out of 10 (10 being the highest). Explain in a complete paragraph why you gave the book the score which you did. Explain what worked and/or didn’t work in the book. Refer to a specific passage from the book to illustrate your point. Be specific and descriptive when explaining why you liked or didn’t like the book.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Quiz Bowl #1 Questions

4 questions total.  Each question must be from a different category.  Categories include, but are not limited to: Geography, Science, History, Politics, Literature, Movies & TV, Current Events, Music, Nova, Sports, etc.

Include answers.  Answers may not be multiple choice or true/false.  Each question must have only one correct answer.

Due Wednesday, October 26 in Language Arts.

Quiz Bowl #1 will take place on Friday, October 28, in The Trow.  We'll start at about 8:45 and conclude at 10:10.  Interested parents are welcome to watch.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Geography Factsheets

Each student assigned 4 different places: an African country, a U.S. state, an African city, and a U.S. city.

For each place, write 5 interesting facts about its geography.  Use your coloring books and the internet as resources.

Factsheets must be typed.  Heading for each group of facts should be type of place (African country, U.S. city, etc.) and not the actual name of the place.

Facts should be numbered from most obscure to least obscure.

Facts may not include the name of the place in the fact (i.e. The Gambia River is located in this country).

Key (actual names of places) and proper heading should be written on back of factsheet in pencil. 

October 17-18, 2011

ELOTD: sp  phenomenal
ELOTD: sp + defn  adjective

GQOTD: What is the easternmost country in Africa?
GQOTD:  What is the tallest mountain in Africa?

Event, Part I passed out Tuesday.  Event Part II due Tuesday, Oct. 25.

Geography Factsheets due Monday, Oct. 24.

The Event Part II: The Dialogue

For Part II, you will be shaping Part I into a new piece. Keep the Event from Part I intact in Part II. For Part II, you will be adding dialogue to the piece. The dialogue should be between the two characters watching the event.

1. Revise Part I so that mistakes are corrected.

2. Add dialogue between the two characters into at least three different points in the story. The dialogue should be interspersed with the description/action. Each point of dialogue must include both characters speaking at least one line each. Remember to start new paragraphs when dialogue alternates between multiple characters.

3. You can change details in Part II from Part I so that the new story makes narrative sense.

4. The maximum page count is 5 pages for Part II. Text must be double spaced.

Friday, October 14, 2011

October 13-14, 2011

GQOTD: What is the capital and largest city of Russia?

Next week's Geo Quiz on SE states will be on Thursday, October 20, becuase of the teacher in-service day on Friday.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

October 12, 2011

ELOTD: homophone: capital/capitol

Subject & Predicate quizzes handed back. Nouns handout due Thurs, Oct. 13.

Friday, October 7, 2011

October 7, 2011

GQOTD #13: What Canadian city has the highest population?

Doppelganger rough drafts were returned today.  Final drafts are due Wednesday, October 12, in Language Arts.  See Mr. Gacek on Monday if you have questions about his revision instructions.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

October 6, 2011

ELOTD #17: sp  beginning
GQOTD #12:  What is the primary language spoken in Brazil?

Conference Week Independent Reading:  Minimum of 3 hours spent outside of class between Oct. 6 and Oct. 18.  Planners checked in class on Tuesday, Oct. 18, for recording of time spent reading.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

September 19--October 5

#4  sp always
#5  defn  subject of a sentence
#6 defn  noun
#7  sp  creativity
#8  sp  beautiful
#9  sp  environment
#10  sp  excited
#11  sp  incredible
#12  defn  predicate
#13  defn  verb
#14  sp  intelligent
#15  homophones  its/it's
#16  sp  excellence

#4  What is the largest ice-free desert in the world?
#5  What large body of water lies between Europe and Africa?
#6  What is the highest mountain range in the world?
#7  What is the southernmost country of continental South America?
#8  What body of water lies east of Africa and west of Saudi Arabia?
#9  What is the most populous city in Michigan?
#10  What is the most populous city in Australia?
#11  What is the longest mountain range in South America?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Rick Riordan Coming to Olympia!

The author of The Lightning Thief and other popular titles will be the guest of honor at Poseidon's Fish Market, which will take place at the Port Plaza in downtown Olympia between 2:00 and 5:00 on Sunday, October 9.  It will be an extravaganza with booths, activities, and books for sale.  There is no admission charge and tickets are not required.  You can just show up.  However, Mr. Riordan will be signing books, and for this you will need a ticket.  Tickets can be picked up at Tumwater Timberland Library.  If you're a fan of Mr. Riordan, come check out this event.  It's going to be quite the spectacle.

Read more about the event here.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Event, Part I: Description

We are going to start the year in Language Arts studying Realistic Fiction. You’ll be reading Realistic Fiction and writing your own Realistic Fiction pieces. Later we’ll contrast Realistic Fiction with Fantasy. Later in the year we’ll study the genres of Mystery and Science Fiction literature.

For your first piece of Realistic Fiction, you are going to create a piece in which two characters watch an event. The event can be a sporting event, a celebration, a performance, a spectacle, a festival…I’m being broad because I want you to think of something you’d be interested in describing. You will describe the event the characters are watching. You can invent what happens during the event, but you should probably choose something you know something about, so that you can describe it accurately. The event doesn’t have to be The Greatest Event in the History of Mankind. It can be a normal event in which normal things happen. Your goal is to write a descriptive piece, not necessarily a suspenseful piece (though you can add suspense to your piece at your discretion).

You are telling a story in your Realistic Fiction piece, however. Think of yourself as a storyteller describing these two characters, where they are, and what they see.

You will describe three things in your piece:

1. The characters. Describe the appearance of the characters. Describe what is noticeable about them.

You are creating realistic characters. Give them realistic names and realistic appearances. You can base your characters on people you know. Make your characters fictional, however.

2. Describe where your characters are as they’re watching the event. Describe the venue, the weather, the crowd…anything applicable to the event.

3. Describe the event itself. What is happening? What do your characters see? The event should be somewhat prolonged so that the characters can watch it. It should not be over in an instant.

Your descriptions should happen in the past tense, as if the events have already happened.

Your description should be narrated from a third person perspective. This means that neither of the characters is narrating the description. It is the author, in effect, who is narrating the description.

Do not use any dialogue in your descriptions. You will be adding dialogue to your piece for Realistic Fiction: The Event, Part II: Dialogue.

Your weekend homework is to brainstorm ideas for your two characters, the venue in which they will be watching the event, and the idea itself. The brainstorming sheet will be due Tuesday, September 27.

The finished piece should be at least a full page in length, but no more than 3 pages. It can be typed or hand-written. If you type your piece, please double space and use a normal font.

We will be working on our pieces in class all of next week. You’re welcome to work on this over the weekend, but make sure you bring your work to class with you on Monday

The actual piece will be due Thursday, September 29.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

September 9-14, 2011

ELOTD #2: there/their/they're
ELOTD #3: 3 types of end punctuation
ELOTD #4: sp: always

GQOTD #2: What is the newest country in the world?
GQOTD #3: What is the most populous city in California?

Western States Quiz & North African Countries Pre-Quiz Friday, Sept. 23.

Sixth Grade Student Council Election

The Nova Student Council consists of student body representatives. It includes three 8th grade reps, two 7th grade reps, and two 6th grade reps. Student Council generally meets once a week, usually on Mondays during lunch. Mr. Fleming is the faculty adviser to the student council.

The Nova Student Council is made up of leaders at Nova. You will take on a definite leadership role on the council. You will be involved in decision-making, you will take an active role in assemblies, and you will be expected to take part in extra-curricular functions. You will need to listen to your classmates’ ideas and concerns. You will be expected to advocate for your classmates at student council meetings.

You need to be positive and hard-working. You need to be confident when speaking in public. Most of all, you need to want to do the very best work that you can do in this role.

6th Grade Student Council Campaign Week will run September 19-23. Starting on Monday, September 19, you may put up 3 campaign posters measuring no larger than 8 ½ by 11 inches. You may put a poster up on your locker door. You may put a poster on a classmate’s locker door with their permission. Anywhere else in the building, you must first get faculty permission before hanging a poster. Please use Scotch Tape only for hanging posters.

It is your job during Campaign Week to let people know you are running for Council. Talk to your classmates. Advocate for yourself. Tell them why you would make a good representative.

You may not offer any gifts in exchange for votes. No candy, Pokemon cards, $100 bills, etc.

Each candidate for Student Council will give a speech on Friday, Sept. 23 during Social/Emotional Health. The maximum length for each speech is 5 minutes. There is no minimum length.

You want to make your speech memorable but substantive. You need to address the following points in your speech:

a) What qualities or attributes do you possess which make you an effective leader?

b) What experiences have you had which have allowed you to demonstrate leadership in your recent past?

c) Why do you want to be on Nova Student Council? What do you most want to accomplish on the council?

d) What would you like the other sixth graders to know about you which they might not already know?

Don’t be afraid to make your speech entertaining. Be humorous, but let your classmates know you’re serious. Tell a joke. Sing a song. Do a dance. Create a slogan. Above all, you want to stand out. Give your classmates a reason to vote for you.

Practice your speech in front of an audience. Preparation leads to success.

It is an honor to be elected to Student Council. If this job appeals to you, you should strongly consider throwing your hat in the ring. Go for it!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Silent Reading Subgenre Project

During the Fall Trimester of Silent Reading this year, you will choose a specific literary subgenre as a focus for your reading. You will then read 2-3 books over the course of the trimester within this subgenre. If you finish 3 books within your subgenre you can then read whatever you’d like for the remainder of the trimester.

You will need to choose a subgenre which holds a lot of interest for you. You will become a bit of an expert in this subgenre so you will want to choose wisely. Only works of fiction are eligible for this project. To insure that you really consider your options, you will actually identify 3 books in the 3 different subgenres which would interest you. You will turn in a worksheet with this information during your first Silent Reading class the week of September 19-23. Once you get your selection checked off, you may begin your reading.

There will be no homework component in Silent Reading this trimester. There is also no minimum reading amount. If you spend the entire trimester reading just two books and that is all you finish, that is fine, so long as you bring the correct books to class and are engaged in your reading. You can of course read your subgenre books outside of class. For in-class reading, however, you have to finish 3 books in the same subgenre before you move on to other genres and subgenres.

Books you have already read and books in a series from which you have read other books are not eligible for this project.

Your effort will determine your grade for this class.  You have a chance to earn 5 effort points each class in Silent Reading.  Here is the daily effort scale:

5: Subgenre book present, completely engaged in reading

4: Subgenre book present, engaged in reading with one minor lapse

3: Subgenre book present, with partial engagement in reading

2: Subgenre book not present OR little engagement in reading

1: No engagement in reading

Here are some examples of subgenres within wider genres of fiction:

Family: adoption, loss of parent, loss of sibling

Multi-Cultural: North American, Indian, Jewish, African American

Middle School: Bullies, cliques, misfits, gifted, friendship

High School: GLBT, Mean Girls, Substance Abuse, Romance

Historical: Salem Witch Trials, Civil War, World War II

Sports: baseball, swimming, gymnastics

Fantasy: anthropomorphic animals, re-told fairy tales, parallel worlds

Science Fiction: dystopia, interplanetary, alternate history, Steampunk

Supernatural: ghosts, fairies, zombies

Mystery: kidnapping, murder, private eye

Just about the only subgenre I will not allow is High Fantasy.  High Fantasy is a subgenre of Fantasy, but it is actually what most people think of when they think of Fantasy.  High Fantasy derives from Tolkien and usually concerns a hero who must learn to wield magic to go on a quest to defeat a great evil.  Think Eragon, basically.

September 8, 2011

ELOTD #1: SP: definitely
GQOTD #1: What is the smallest continent?

LA: Reviewed summer reading assignment.  Assignment is due when complete, no later than September 26.
Geo: Continents and Oceans Pre-Quiz.  Geo Quiz #1 assigned for Tues, Sept. 13.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Book Discussion Group at Olympia Timberland Library

Photo: Olympia Timberland Library
Do you like to read? Do you like to talk about books with fellow book enthusiasts? If so, you might be interested to know that the Olympia branch of the Timberland Library System will be hosting book discussion groups. If you're interested you simply bring the books you've read and enjoyed recently down to the library and you discuss them with other kids. The program is open to kids in grades 6, 7, and 8. Did I mention there would be food? There you go. Did I mention the fact that the first 10 kids who sign up get a free book? I just got the info today so if you sign up soon I'd say your chances of getting a book are pretty good.

Meetings will be held on Saturdays from 2:30 to 3:30. Here are the dates of the meetings:

September 24th, 
October 29th,
November 19th, 
December 17th

You can register by calling the library at 352-0595 and asking to sign up for the Middle School Book Club. If you have questions I can't answer, ask for Youth Services Librarian Sara Lachman. Registration is not required. You can simply show up on a whim if you'd like.

Hope some of you can make it!

Happy First Day of School!

We had a great first day of school at Nova.  Thanks to Mo for planning the day, Flem for planning the So-Emo activity, all the students for being awesome, amd all the teachers and staff for being great colleagues.  Oh, and the weather was beautiful, too.

Tomorrow all students need to turn in a rough sketch for their Photo I.D.  Sixth graders need to bring with them to Language Arts their summer reading assignment.  If it is complete you will be able to turn it in tomorrow.  If you are missing something, you will have the weekend to finish it.  If you haven't started the assignment you will have as much time as you need to finish it.  You can ask me any questions tomorrow in class.

Tomorrow actual classes begin! 

Monday, September 5, 2011

Tavi Gevinson, Teenage Fashion Blogger

I first read about Tavi Gevinson in The New Yorker last year.  She was a fourteen-year-old fashion blogger from subarban Chicago who made a name for herself through her blog and got to attend big fashion shows and hobnob with top designers.  She started her blog while she was in middle school.  Now she's in high school and is starting up an on-line magazine.  Her inspiration is Sassy Magazine, which in the nineties was a hipper and, well, sassier version of Seventeen.  I associate the magazine with Kurt Cobain (he was a fan) and My So-Called Life (great show) but I was never actually a subscriber.  Tavi's blog is called Style Rookie and her magazine is called Rookie.  It's pretty amazing how much media attention Tavi has attracted.  I mean what fifteen year old wouldn't want to hang out with Ira Glass?

You can read the profile on Tavi from this Sunday's New York Times Magazine here.

You can read the first issue of Rookie here.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Meet Mr. Gacek!

Hi, I'm Mr. Gacek.  This year I'll be starting my 11th year at Nova!  I love teaching and Nova is an awesome place to teach.  I teach Language Arts and Geography, as well as Silent Reading, Study Skills, and Social and Emotional Health.  I studied History, Anthroplology, and English at Reed College and Western Washington University and earned a Master in Teaching from The Evergreen State College.   I read a lot.  I really like Young Adult Literature; a recent favorite was Okay For Now by Gary B. Schmidt.  I'm also an avid sports fan.  My teams are the Sounders, Mariners, and UW Men's Basketball.  I have a large baseball card collection.  I'm originally from Bellingham and love living in the Northwest.  Welcome to Nova, new parents and students!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Meet Mr Kehoe!

Dominic Kehoe is our new 6th grade science/computers/geometry teacher.  He is originally from Scotland and he loves to rock climb.  He's been working all summer in the Nova garden and he's been planning up a storm for his classes.  His blog looks great so sign up as a follower to show him you've checked it out.  Also, you'll notice Mr Kehoe doesn't put a period after Mr and Mrs like we do in the States.  So when writing his name, make sure you do it the British way: Mr Kehoe.  As for me, I'm still Mr. Gacek. 

Check out Mr Kehoe's blog here.

NYT notices a trend: Schools banning disposable lunch bags

Students and teachers at Nova actually do a pretty good of bringing their lunches to school in re-usable containers.  Students in Environmental Science the past couple years have experimented for a week with not using disposable bags and containers.  Should Nova ban disposable bags outright?  The benefit would be less waste and it would actually save families money in the long run.  The drawback is that the ban would induce some stress in some parents and students.  The Times quotes a mom whose daughter's school has a no disposable bag policy.
In school years past, she said, many a morning came unhinged when the girls were sent to school with disposable sandwich bags. “That’s when the kids have meltdowns, because they don’t want to be shamed at school,” Ms. Corbett said. “It’s a big deal.”
I'd like to see Nova continue to promote using re-usable containers for lunches.  But a complete ban?  That's kinda harsh.  What do you all think?

You can read the article here.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

"Why Not Eat Insects?"

The topic of insects as food is explored in Dana Goodyear's current New Yorker article "Grub: Eating bugs to save the planet."  As the world's population continues to rise, there will be more and more demand for food.  And as the planet continues to heat up, drought and extreme weather will continue to affect the food supply.  Therefore, it does make sense to start creating a food production system based on the production of insects.  Insects are excellent sources of protein and micronutrients.  They can be raised in an environmentally sustainable way.  Plus, eighty percent of the world already regularly eat insects.

In the West there's an obvious "ick" factor about eating insects.  You also have to eat a lot of them to match the calories found in, say, a hamburger.  But let's face it: humans are really taxing the planet with their current living practices.  Eating insects could very well become a necessity.

I'm all for eating insects.  However, I was disheartened to read one thing.  I am allegic to shellfish, including crabs, lobster, and shrimp.  Genetically, shellfish are very similar to insects.  Therefore, I am likely allergic to most insects.  Therefore, I'm probably not able to start adding crickets and mealworms to my diet.  I'm severely disappointed.

For the rest of you, though, there is nothing stopping you from eating more grasshoppers, beetles, and wax worms.

I would love to have an entomologist come to Nova to give a bug cooking demonstration.  If anyone knows anyone skilled in entomophagy, please let me know.

You can read the New Yorker article here.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Sounders defeat Monterrey 1-0

Alvaro Fernandez splits two Monterrey defenders (courtesy MLS).
The Sounders are currently playing in the CONCACAF Champions League tournament which pits teams from the U.S., Canada, Central America, and the Caribbean against one another.  The Sounders are currently in the group stage with Monterrey and teams from Guatemala and Costa Rica.  The Sounders won their first game against Communicaciones from Guatemala.  And tonight they won at Monterrey, only the second MLS team to win a CONCACAF match in Mexico.  Monterrey won the entire tournament last year; they're a good team (usually).

Seattle scored its lone goal in the first half on a brilliant shot by Alvaro Fernandez.  The Sounders controlled the game in the first half.  Monterrey very much looked out of sync.  The second half was a different story, however.  Monterrey applied constant pressure on the Sounders' goal.  Somehow shots were deflected, missed, or stopped by keeper Terry Boss.  Boss played an excellent game, with one exception.  On a friendly pass back to him, Boss misplayed the ball, and a Monterrey player won control with an open goal in front of him.  Somehow, though, he didn't have the right angle, so he had to pass, and the subsequent shot by the Monterrey player was offline.  It was a lucky break for the Sounders for sure.

Because the Sounders also have league matches and U.S. Open Cup matches, the team will play 6 games in 18 days.  Several key players, including Kasey Keller, Fredy Montero, and Mauro Rosales, did not play in the game.  It was an impressive showing by the Sounders.  They were lucky, for sure, but they'll take it.   

Friday, August 19, 2011

Olympian Article About Growing Local Food

John Dodge wrote a nice article in today's Olympian about growing and eating local food.  A number of local non-profits have joined forces for a series of events this fall called Focus on Food.  The culminating event will be a day-long food summit held October 15.

You can read John Dodge's article here.

More information about Focus on Food can be found at Sustainable South Sound's website here.

Here's the truth, kids: candy and soda pop are not good for you.  Mr. Gacek says: Eat Your Veggies! 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

New Yorker Profile of the Rwandan National Cycling Team

Everyone should read this article, but I would especially recommend it to those of you who were present for Rachel's presentation on Rwanda in Geography last spring.  The article will give you a good sense of how the genocide continues to affect the country.  The poverty of the country is also starkly portrayed in the article.  However, the article is not depressing.  It's about how a few Rwandans--some Hutus, some Tutsis--have committed themselves to the sport of cycling and are starting to emerge on the international cycling scene.  It's all quite fascinating.

You can read The New Yorker article here.

The author of the article is Philip Gourevitch.  Gourevitch wrote the book We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda, which was about the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.  You can read an exerpt from the book here.

Friday, August 12, 2011

NPR's List of 100 Greatest Fantasy/SF Novels of All-Time

This is a pretty great list.  Over 60,000 people voted on the titles, so the list reflects popularity.I've read a bunch of them but certainly not all of them.  You'll note there are no children's or YA novels on the list: No Narnia, no Harry Potter, no Golden Compass, no Eragon, etc.  Ender's Game, interestingly, was allowed in and ended up at #3.  Obviously there's not a clear dividing line between YA and Adult.  There are a lot of classics on the list, and there is a lot of stuff on the list not suitable for kids.  However, if you're a genre fan and looking for something to read, you will find a lot of great ideas on this list.

You can find the list here

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Mr. Kenis is off to Hungary

Well, Mr. Kenis has left Olympia and is currently driving through California.  He will leave for Hungary from Los Angeles in a few days.  You can follow his adventures by reading his blog here.  Leave comments on his blog so he will know people are reading.  Have a great trip, Mr. Kenis!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Little League Baseball in Uganda

The New York Times published a fascinating (and sad) article about Little League baseball in Uganda.  In short, the team became the first team from Africa to qualify for the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.  Alas, the team was denied visas into the United States because some players' birth dates were recorded inaccurately. 

It's a shame Uganda won't be allowed to play.  Still, it will be interesting to see if the game continues to grow in Uganda.  That's the great thing about baseball: there's always next year.

I would encourage you to check out the article here.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Brandon Mull to speak at Olympia Barnes & Noble

Brandon Mull, author of the Fablehaven and Beyonders series, will be at the Olympia Barnes & Noble Friday, June 17, from 5-7 PM.  He will be hosting a "Creativity Workshop" and signing books.

If you're a fan of the books, this is your chance to meet the author!

The Barnes & Noble listing can be found here.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Summer Reading

Here's what I'll be reading this summer:

1.  Black Swan Green, by David Mitchell: A chronicle of the year 1982 for a 13-year-old boy in rural Great Britain.  Half-way through; it's fabulous.

2.  Okay For Now, by Gary D. Schmidt: A companion of sorts to The Wednesday Wars, which I loved.  Lots of buzz.

3.  The Tiger's Wife, by Tea Obreht: The best reviewed book of the year so far.   Obreht was born in the former Yugoslavia and grew up in the U.S.  She is 25 years old.

4.  Palestine, by Joe Sacco: A graphic novel documenting Sacco's experiences visiting the region in 1991-2.

5.  Holes, by Louis Sachar: The beloved middle grade novel.

6.  Between Shades of Gray, by Ruta Septys: A historical Young Adult novel about Baltic peoples forcibly removed from their homelands under Stalin and sent to Siberian prison camps.  A sad story, one would imagine.  

Monday, May 16, 2011

SF Write #3

It is predicted by Ray Kurzweil that by 2061 the Singularity will have been in effect for 16 years. You all will have a different take on what this will mean. SF Write #3 will incorporate the ramifications of the Singularity into your story. The characters and world you created for SF #1 & #2 will continue into SF #3. In SF Write #3 your protagonist will have a confrontation with intelligent technology. If you think the Singularity will occur according to Kurzweil's prediction, you can write SF #3 along those lines. If you think the Singularity will not occur or will take a different form, you can incorporate your own ideas related to technology into your story.

You can choose the setting for SF Write #3 and you can choose what you want the piece to be about. SF Writes #1 & #2 were descriptive pieces. SF Write #3 is closer to a story. There must be some sort of resolution following the protagonist's confrontation with technology. You can not leave the story on a true cliff hanger.

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Singularity is Near

Grossman, Lev.  "2045: The Year Man Becomes Immortal."  Time.  10 February 2011.

Ray Kurzweil (Larry Busacca/
Getty Images)
 1:  Define the following terms:   
     a)  Singularity
     b)  Artificial Intelligence
     c)  Exponential Curve
     d)  Telomere

2:  Answer in complete sentences:
     a) Why is Kurzweil sure the Singularity        
     is coming?
     b) How does Kurzweil see humans extending
     their lives indefinitely?
     c) What are some potential drawbacks to the
     d) What do you think about the ideas
     presented in this article?  Do they make you
     more excited or more fearful for the future?  Explain.

Read more about the Singularity at The Singularity Hub.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Students Raise $1,500 for Nova Library

Nova students Aaron F. and Jackson C. initiated a fundraiser for the Nova Library for their Taekwondo Black Belt Project.  The fundraiser was a kick-a-thon in which participants were asked to collect pledges for the number of kicks they could perform in a two-hour period.  Six Nova students participated in the kick-a-thon:

Aaron F.  3, 728 kicks
Jackson C. 2,711 kicks
Danny D.  2,871 kicks
Sam S.  2,328 kicks
Danny R.  2,085 kicks
Rachel H.  1,862 kicks

Anjali V., Surabhi M., and Alex E. also collected donations for the kick-a-thon.  In all, $1,500 was raised.  These funds will be used to add to the collection of the Nova Library.  Thank you to all participants and to all members of the community who contributed!  Your generosity is much appreciated.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Country Presentations

You will be presenting your research on your country to the class.  You're slideshow must contain the following information:

Map of Country
Basic Facts: population, area, language, religion, capital, largest city, etc.
Physical Feature or Region Spotlight: 3 facts + picture
City Spotlight: 3 facts + picture
Animal Spotlight: 3 facts + endangered status + picture
8 Historical Events (multiple slides)
Biographical Spotlight: 3 facts + picture
Cultural Spotlight: 3 facts + picture
Current Issue: What is the issue?
                      Why is it an important issue?
                      What did you learn about the issue?
                      What is being done regarding the issue?
                      What do you think should be done regarding the issue?
Summary: What do you find fascinating about the country?

You will also need to print a bibliography with your sources listed using proper bibliographic notation.

Geo Quiz #38: South American Physical Features

Andes Mountains (Wikimedia Commons)
Andes Mountains, Mt. Aconcagua, Amazon River, Orinoco River, Rio de la Plata, Parana River, Guiana Highlands, Lake Maracaibo, Lake Titicaca, Strait of Magellan, Tierra del Fuego, Atacama Desert.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

SF Write #2

The year is still 2061. Your alter ego is downtown in what today we would call Olympia, Washington. Your piece begins with your alter ego at a specific location downtown. Describe the location and what your alter ego is doing there. Your alter ego will then make his or her way through the city to a second location. Describe people they see, modes of transportation, and the city itself: buildings, structures, etc. Finally, describe the destination your alter ego reaches. Your alter ego must purchase something at this destination. Describe what they purchase and how much it costs.

Like SF Write #1, SF Write #2 is a descriptive piece. It doesn’t need any more plot than what is given above. However, the piece must be consistent with SF Write #1.

SF Write #2 is due Wednesday, May 4. It must be typed and conform to Mr. Gacek’s standards for typed papers.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Geo Quiz #37: Canada Capitals

Edmonton, Victoria, Winnipeg, Fredericton, St. John's, Halifax, Charlottetown, Ottawa, Quebec, Regina, Yellowknife, Whitehorse, Iqaluit.

Geo Quiz #36: Canada Provinces and Territories

Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Northwest Territories, Yukon Territory, Nunavut.

A blank map of Canada can be found here.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Recommended Science Fiction Films and Series

 These films and tv programs are generally appropriate for a middle school audience.  R-rated films have been excluded.

Avatar (2009)
Wall-E (2008)
Serenity (2005)
Minority Report (2002)
AI: Artificial Intelligence (2001)
The Iron Giant (1999)
Back to the Future (1985)
Explorers (1985)
E.T. (1982)
Star Wars (1977)
Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Forbidden Planet (1956)
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)

TV Series:
Fringe (2008-present)
Lost (2004-2010)
Battlestar Galactica (2003-2009)
Firefly (2002)
The X-Files (1993-2002)
Star Blazers (1979-1984)
Star Trek (1966-1969)
The Outer Limits (1963-1965)
The Twilight Zone (1959-1964)

Friday, April 15, 2011

Masdar: Futuristic City

Ouroussoff, Nicolai.  "In Arabian Desert, a Sustainable City Rises."  New York Times.  25 September 2010.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

SF #1

The year is 2061. Your alter ego is attending school in what today would be called Olympia, Washington. Describe a day at school for your alter ego. The narration must be in the first person. Your letter must contain the following:
  1. 5 adverbs, underlined
  2. Description of the physical school itself
  3. Description of at least one class
  4. Description of at least one teacher
  5. Opinion of the narrator of the effeciveness of the school
This piece must be at least a page in length. It should follow Mr. Gacek's standard requirements for typed papers.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Geo Quiz #35: Caribbean

Countries: Bahamas, Cuba, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Jamaica.
U.S. Territory: Puerto Rico.
Capitals: Nassau, Havana, Port-Au-Prince, Santo Domingo, Kingston, San Juan.

Geo Quiz #34: Central America

Countries: Mexico, Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaraguea, Panama.
Capitals: Mexico City, Belmopan, San Jose, San Salvador, Guatemala City, Tegucigalpa, Managua, Panama City.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Nova NCAA Tournament Prediction Contest Leaderboard

1.  Mr. Kenis  196 pts.
2.  Rosa  194 pts.
3.  Sahana  188 pts.
4.  Spencer J.  184 pts.
5.  Pasang  178 pts.
6.  Ben Wh.  180 pts.
7.  Aaron  178 pts.
8.  Colin H.  176 pts.

Who knew Rosa was so knowledgable about college basketball!

The only people listed above with teams still alive in the tournament are Mr. Kenis and Pasang.  In the Kentucky-Connecticut semi-final, if Kentucky wins, Pasang wins the contest.  If Connecticut wins, Mr. Kenis wins the contest.  And whoever wins the contest wins 20 bucks worth of pizza at Vic's.

I just hope the game goes into overtime.

And that Virginia Commonwealth shocks the world.

International Fiction

 For this assignment, you will be writing a letter to the protagonist of the international fiction book you read.

Your letter will have two parts.

In the first part, relate your experience reading about their experience in the book. What did you think of what the character had to go through in the book? In answering this question, describe specific events from the book which helped to give you this opinion. If you admired the character’s actions, write about what it was you admired and why. If you had a different experience reading the book, write about what that experience was and why you had that experience.

In the second part of your letter, relate differences in culture and geography between what is depicted in the book and what you are used to. Tell the character which cultural or geographic elements from the book seemed unusual to you. Then relate how these cultural or geographic elements would compare with the cultural customs and geographic features you are familiar with. Relate to the character whether you found the cultural or geographic differences interesting or strange or something different altogether.

Letters need a date, greeting, closing, and signature. A postscript is optional.
Letters should be at least a full page, typed, and 1.5 line spaced, with size 14 font and Times New Roman or Calibri font.

6th Grade International Fiction Book List
The Killing Sea, Richard Lewis, Indonesia
Rice Without Rain, Minfong Ho, Thailand
Shabanu: Daughter of the Wind, Suzanne Fisher Staples, Pakistan
Iqbal, Francesco D’Adamo, Pakistan
Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortensen, Pakistan (non-fiction)
Koyal Dark, Mango Sweet, Kashmira Sheth, India
Sold, Patricia McCormick: Nepal
Red Scarf Girl, Ji Li Jiang, China
Shizuko’s Daughter, Kyoki Mori, Japan
When My Name Was Keoko, Linda Sue Park, South Korea
The Breadwinner, Deborah Ellis, Afghanistan
Keeping Corner, Kashmira Sheth, India
Forgotten Fire, Adam Bagasarian, Turkey
Tasting the Sky: A Palestinian Childhood, Ibitsam Barakat , Israel/Palestine (non-fiction)
Habibi, Naomi Shihab Nye, Israel/Palestine
AK, Peter Dickinson, fictional African country
The Door of No Return, Sarah Mussi, Ghana
The Other Side of Truth, Beverly Naidoo, Nigeria/U.K.
Child of Dandelions, Sheenaz Nanji, Uganda
Burn My Heart, Beverly Naidoo, Kenya
Facing the Lion: Growing up Maasai on the African Savanna, Joseph Lemasolai Lekuton, Kenya (non-fiction)
The Garbage King, Elizabeth Laird, Ethiopia
A Long Walk to Water, Linda Sue Park, Sudan
Song of Be, Lesley Beake, Namibia
Walkabout, James Vance Marshall, Australian Outback
Does My Head Look Big In This?, Randa Abdel-Fattah, Australia
Maya Running, Anjali Bannerjee, Canada
Before We Were Free, Julia Alvarez, Dominican Republic
Red Glass, Laura Resau, Mexico
The Keeper, Mal Peet, Brazil
I Am A Taxi, Deborah Ellis, Bolivia
Zazoo, Richard Mosher, France/Vietnam

Monday, March 28, 2011

Nova Fantasy Baseball

Mr. Kenis and Mr. Gacek will be hosting a fantasy baseball draft for Nova baseball fans on Opening Day, Friday, April 1, from 5:30-9:00 at Nova.  Yes, the draft really does take that long.  We draft teams of MLB players.  Over the course of the season, the team with the best overall statistics will be crowned Nova Baseball Champion.  The league champion will receive a jumbo pack of baseball cards.  There will be pizza, chips, and drinks, and we ask that you contribute 5 bucks to help pay for the grub.  Let Mr. Gacek know if you'd like to attend.  It's almost Opening Day!  Winter is almost over!

Activity Logs

Students will be recording their activities for the week on their log sheets.  Students need to record every distinct activity they participate in on their logs and to record the times for the activities.  Activities should be named as simply as possible.

Record the entire time you are at school as one big chunk on your log.  Likewise, record all the stuff you do in the morning to get ready for school as one big chunk.

Activity logs are due Friday, April 1.

Friday, March 25, 2011

New Banner

Thanks to Juyoun for creating the new banner for Gacekblog.  Can you identify all the references to the great Sherlock Holmes?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Mystery Essay

Your goal with this paper is to prove that a particular mystery novel is an effective mystery. To do this, you will need to choose 3 mystery traits contained in the novel of your choice. You will then demonstrate that each mystery trait is present in your novel. Thus you will prove that the novel is an effective mystery.

Your essay will have 5 paragraphs. The first paragraph will be the introduction. The middle 3 paragraphs will be body paragraphs. Each body paragraph will cover a single trait. The last paragraph will be the closing paragraph.

Do not use forms of the “I” pronoun in your essay. An essay is an example of formal writing.

Incorrect: “I think The Westing Game is an effective mystery.”
Correct: “The Westing Game is an effective mystery.”

Underline all book titles. Do not abbreviate book titles.

Your Mystery Essay needs a title. You may not title your Mystery Essay “Mystery Essay.” An acceptable title would be: “Mystery Traits in The Hound of the Baskervilles.”

Paragraph 1: Introduction

First introduce the book title and author. Explain that mystery books have certain traits unique to the genre. Name the 3 traits you have identified as being present in your book. Define each trait. Do not give specific examples of the traits in the introduction. Describe the traits generally. Finally, the last sentence of the paragraph should be your thesis statement. The thesis statement states simply what your essay is trying to prove. It should read something like this: “[Name of Book] is an effective mystery because it contains [trait #1], [trait #2], and [trait #3].”

Paragraphs 2-4: Body Paragraphs

Each body paragraph must begin with a topic sentence. Explain which mystery trait is being covered in the topic sentence. Then describe the trait as it appears in the novel. Be specific in regards to names of people, places, and events. Assume your reader has not read the book. You need to describe the trait so that it is clear to the reader that the trait is present in the book.

Paragraph 5: Conclusion

At the beginning of the conclusion, repeat the 3 traits found in your mystery novel. For the rest of the paragraph, comment upon whether your book was a typical or atypical mystery. A typical mystery would adhere to the mystery traits completely. An atypical mystery would include some mystery traits but not all of them. An atypical mystery would take a more unique form. Explain which traits are present if the book is a typical mystery. Explain which traits are lacking if it is an atypical mystery. Finally, comment upon whether being a typical or atypical novel helps the novel in terms of being an effective mystery.

Please use size 14 font and 1.5 line spacing.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

So Close

Photo Credit: Dean Rutz/Seattle Times
With 7.4 seconds left to play, Washington trailed 84-83.  They needed to inbound the ball from underneath their own basket to attempt a game-winning shot.  They didn't get that chance.  Justin Holliday's inbound pass was deflected by North Carolina's John Henson and North Carolina recovered.  North Carolina's Leslie Strickland was fouled and he made his two foul shots.  Still, Washington got the ball with 5.3 seconds left in the game, down by three.  Venoy Overton dribbled up the court and took a wild half court shot.  It wasn't even close, but a North Carolina player deflected it out of bounds.  Washington would again inbound the ball from underneath its own basket, this time with 0.5 seconds remaining.  The pass was to Isaiah Thomas.  Thomas shot and missed, but replays showed Henson might have committed goaltending.  No call from the refs, though, and the game was over.  Further replays showed that even if the shot had gone in or goaltending was called, it was a two-pointer, and Washington would have lost regardless.

Washington led much of the game.  The led by as much as 11 in the first half.  However, they committed costly errors in the last 5 minutes of the game and North Carolina capitalized.  Terrence Ross had a key turnover with 2 minutes left.  Ross, C.J. Wilcox, Holliday, Thomas, Darnell Gant, and Bryan-Amaning all missed key shots in that stretch.  Overall, Washington played a very good game.  It wasn't enough to beat a very talented North Carolina team, though.

Terrence Ross was the star for the Huskies, scoring 19 points.  Washington actually outrebounded North Carolina; Aziz N'Daiye grabbed 11 boards.  After early foul trouble, neither N'Daiye nor Bryan-Amaning fouled out.  Unfortunately, Isaiah Thomas was off his game.  He only managed 12 points off 5-15 shooting.

These types of losses are always disappointing.  This will ultimately be remembered as a flawed team.  An exciting team, yet prone to mistakes.  This was the last game for seniors Matthew Bryan-Amaning, Justin Holliday, and Venoy Overton.  All three had great contributions to the team over their four years at UW.  Next year the Huskies will be back.  Until then, we have the rest of the NCAA tournament to enjoy.  

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Washington Advances

Washington played just well enough to win, defeating Georgia by a score of 68-65. 
Photo Credit: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Isaiah Thomas scored 19 points for the Huskies.  Washington's shooting was dreadful in the first half, as Georgia built an early lead.  Washington managed to come back, however, to tie the score at the half.

Washington was much better to start the second half.  They were able to play at an up-tempo pace and they hit some key shots.  They built a double-digit lead and threatened to put the game away.  But Georgia mounted a comeback and made it close in the final minute.  Georgia had a chance to tie the game with a last-second three-point attempt, but Thomas managed to partially deflect a full-court pass to Georgia's Travis Leslie, and Leslie's shot was off the mark.

The Huskies will take the victory.  However, they'll need to play much better to defeat North Carolina.  They will need Matthew Bryan-Amaning to stay out of foul trouble.  They will need Terrence Ross to be a part of the offense.  And they'll need some luck.  It should be an exciting game.

Washington Huskies vs. North Carolina Tar Heels: Sunday, March 20, 9:30 a.m., CBS Channel 7.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Africa Field Reports

Here are the field reports filed in response the crises which occurred across Africa in early 2011:

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Geo Quiz #33: South America Capitals

Santiago, Chile (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Buenos Aires, La Paz, Brasilia, Santiago, Bogota, Quito, Georgetown, Asuncion, Lima, Paramaribo, Monevideo, Caracas, Cayenne.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Set Your DVR's

Photo: Brian Spurlock/US Presswire
Washington will play Georgia at 6:45 p.m. on Friday, March 18 in the NCAA basketball tournament.  Now, the NOVA School production of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory will premiere that night at 7:00.  You all will want to go see this awesome show.  NOVA theater rocks!  Therefore, if your family has a DVR, you need to record the Washington game so that you can watch it at your convenience.  It airs on CBS, channel 7.

Nate Silver has an excellent post up on FiveThirtyEight about how unlucky the Huskies were in their draw for the tournament.  They have to travel to Charlotte, North Carolina, to play Georgia in the first game, and the University of North Carolina, potentially, in the second game.  North Carolina is one of the most talented teams in the country, and they would be playing what is basically a home game.

It was a tough draw, but it will be incredibly exciting to watch the Huskies play Georgia, and then, hopefully, North Carolina.  UW vs. UNC would be a marquee game and bring tremendous exposure to the program.  Let's hope it happens.  Go Huskies!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

2011 NCAA Tournament Prediction Contest

The prize is a $20 gift certificate to Vic's Pizzeria.

You can download and print a bracket here.

Brackets are due to Mr. Gacek by Tuesday at 2:35 p.m.


Round #1: Play-in Round: Choose the winner of the 4 play-in games by circling the winner of each game.  Each winner is worth 1 point.  The winners of the Round #1 games move on to Round #2.  The play-in round was created by the NCAA to try to eke out a few more television dollars.  The NCAA does not care about the perfect symmetry of the 64-team bracket.

Round #2:  Choose the winner of each game by moving the winner of each game to the next line in the bracket.  The number of points you earn for each game is determined by the seed of the winner.  If you choose a #1 seed, you earn 1 point if they win.  If you choose a #12 seed, you earn 12 points if they win.

Round #3: Scored exactly the same as Round #2.

Round #4: Sweet 16:  In Round #4 you earn 8 points for each winner you predict correctly for teams seeded 1 through 8.  If you pick teams seeded #9 or higher to win in Round #4, you earn the number of points equal to that team's seed.

Round #5: Elite 8: Same scoring as Round #4.

Round #6: Final 4: You earn 16 points for each team you pick correctly to win in this round.

Round #7: National Championship: You earn 16 points for choosing the National Champion.

FiveThirtyEight Forecast
Pomeroy Rankings