New Book Wednesday – Guest Speaker Edition

I’m out of town checking out colleges this week. Matt W. has graciously volunteered to step in and take over New Book Wednesday duties. (Okay, really, I put him on the spot and made him do it, but he agreed nonetheless.)

higher callFrom Matt, “A Higher Call by Adam Makos is a book retelling the encounter between an American bomber pilot, Charlie Brown, and a German fighter pilot named Franz Stigler. The book covers the lives of these two pilots in impressive detail, as well as their encounter where Franz saves Charlie’s life, along with his dying crew. This book is a must read for any history enthusiast.”

Although from what I hear, Matt discusses it much better in person. He read this book as part of his Goodreads assignment for Mr. Betteridge. When he was about 2/3 finished, he came to me one day and suggested that he thought this would be a good book to add to our library. I told him I would be happy to add it, knowing that a lot of you like to read history and war stories, but that I had one condition. Since he read the book and I haven’t, he would have to do the New Book Wednesday for it. After thinking it over for a few minutes, he agreed. And from what I hear, he did a great job.

If there’s anyone else out there who is reading a book they think will have appeal to other Hill Top students, feel free to ask me to add it to the library collection. Just know, you’ll be asked to stand up and tell everyone about how great the book is.

App of the Week – Color Zen

I was going to do an academic related app today, but there’s a break coming up, and sometimes we just need something that’s good at sucking up our time. Enter Color Zen.

color zenThis is kind of hard to describe. The border of your screen will be one color, and you’ll have shapes inside shapes next to shapes of other colors. The object is to turn your whole screen the same color as the border, by connecting shapes of the same color.

Here’s an example. The border is orange.So I want to turn the whole screen orange.

Screenshot_2014-11-17-09-42-18First I get rid of the blue, by touching the circle and the diamond together.

Screenshot_2014-11-17-09-42-24Then I get rid of the outside oranges by moving the diamond to the triangle.

Screenshot_2014-11-17-09-42-31Next, I connect to the diamond to either shape to get rid of the pink.

Screenshot_2014-11-17-09-42-36No, when I connect the circle and the triangle, the whole screen will turn orange and I can move to the next level.

Like a lot of games, this starts out easy and gets progressively harder. There are a few levels that have taken me a few days to figure out. It requires some thought and some planning, but it’s a fun way to waste a few hours, especially if your stuck in a car for a while.

Color Zen is free and available for both iOS and Android.

App of the Week – Evernote

This week’s app is one that I probably could not live without.


In my house, we call limes the uberfruit because you can use them for so many different things. Evernote is the uberapp. It’s what is called a productivity app. You can take notes, create lists, and save webpages and images. You can create a “notebook” for each topic or subject you need to keep track of. To get the full use of it, you should install it on your phone, your tablet, and your laptop. Once you create an account, it links the app on all of your devices.

So, for example, when I go to a workshop I don’t like to carry around my laptop. It’s too bulky, especially if I end up having to sit on the floor somewhere (which happens a lot at conferences for some reason). However, I have a keyboard for my Nook. So, I just open Evernote on my Nook, create a notebook for that workshop, and start taking my notes. Maybe partway through the day the battery on my Nook runs out. So, I whip out my phone and continue taking notes on there. Maybe I even use the microphone function to record a part of the session because I am so bad at using my touchscreen keyboard. At the end of the day, I log on to my laptop, open Evernote and sync my account. All of the notes that I’ve taken throughout the day on my Nook and my phone are now there on my computer where I can edit them. There’s also a social function where you can share notebooks with other people, which has been great at conferences. I went to a session that a friend could not attend, so I just shared the notebook with her so she could have all of my notes.

Here’re a few screenshots (pardon the typos, non-traditional keyboards are tough for me). This is what my account looks like on the website (click on the picture to embiggen it):

evernote webThe PC version looks pretty similar:

evernotepcAnd here it is on my Droid phone (my Nook battery is dead right now, so no screenshot from there)

evernotedroidYou can also highlight, color code, use your mic to dictate messages, snip a website, and use your camera to take a picture. Basically, there’s a lot to this little app and it’s definitely worth playing around in it.

Evernote is free and available for iOS, Android, Kindle, and desktop and web.

New Book Wednesday – Ghostly Edition

We need a little supernatural something-or-other for the Halloween weekend, right? So, here’s Cornelia Funke’s Ghost Knight.

ghostThis is a really fun story about Jon, a young man recently sent to boarding school. Everything seems to be going okay, until a pack of bloody ghosts come after him. They’re out for revenge, but Jon has no idea why. He teams up with Ella, who comes from a rather, shall we say, “non-traditional” family to figure out why he’s been targeted and how they can make it stop.

I loved this book! I listened to the audiobook a while ago when this won an Odyssey honor. Suspenseful. Funny. All around awesome. Cornelia Funke also wrote the Inkheart series, so you know she does fantasy really well. (And for the record, Inkheart is one of the top examples of “never judge a book by its movie.”)

And since some of you are into this now, thanks to Mr. Betteridge, you can check out my Goodreads review.

App of the Week – Flipgram

Time to get a little artsy with our apps, I think. I just stumble across this one and I am in love with it!!


Flipgram (available for iOS and Adnroid) lets you take photos from your phone, Facebook, Instagram, or any other social account, put them together, add music, and make a quick video. It’s easy-peasy. To try it out, I just grabbed a couple of photos I had on my phone from the cross country meet against DelVal on the 17th. It’s short, because I only had a few photos, but you get the idea.

That took me about 2 minutes to put together. You can set up a free account so that you don’t need to save everything on your phone. Having an account also allows you to go back and edit your Flipgram. I foresee lots of time spent playing with this app!

Classic Book Friday – Fright Edition

Every year when October rolls around, I have a visceral urge to read scary stories. I’m currently in the middle of a book whose review claimed that the last 30-pages of the book are some of the scariest every written.

And with the Halloween sleepover tonight, I thought it would be a good time to remind you all of one of the most classic scary books.

scaryI know full-grown adults who still have nightmares over these stories.

Solar Eclipse!!


There’s going to be a partial solar eclipse this afternoon. I think this is so cool, and it may help make up for the fact that I kinda missed the lunar eclipse a week or so ago. (Actually, I did see it when I went out for a run that morning, I just didn’t know that there was going to be an eclipse, so I was confused because I thought the moon was supposed to be full. What can I say? Running makes you stupid.)

Anyway, if the skies clear up (I’m an optimist), it will be visible between 5.50 and 6.10 this evening.

You should never look directly at a sun during an eclipse (unless it’s a full solar eclipse, then you can look at it when it’s fully eclipsed). But this website has info on how to safely view it.

I love reading stuff by Phil Plait. And it was his article where I first learned of the eclipse. At the end of the article, he has a list of places that will be live streaming the eclipse in case the sun doesn’t come out this afternoon. So, go to this article and then scroll to the bottom. And it turns out that there’s a monster sunspot that’s supposed to make the eclipse that much more awesome!!