Book Review: Holes (a reader revisit)

I had forgotten just how brilliant the novel Holes is until I had a chance this past week to read it with my youngest son. It’s been more than 10 years since I picked it up, although I do see quite a few of my sixth graders continuing to read it on a regular basis.

Midway through, I said to my son, this book is an onion. He looked at me like I was nutty, so I had to explain how the onion reference in the story is like the story itself — layer upon layer, all related together. I mean, Louis Sachar’s construction of Holes is a thing to behold as a reader and I wish I had a visualization of how the story strands slowly come together.

I have the sequel – Small Steps — ready for read-aloud and yet, I am little reluctant. What if the magic doesn’t hold up? My son wants to see the movie of Holes, too. Again … will that ruin the beauty of the book? We’ll see. For now, I am grateful I had another chance to read Holes and just find wonder at the writing of it.

I found this diagram online — the mapping out of the characters, and items, and their connections to each other. Pretty nifty.

Peace (in the hole),


When DS106 and Rube Goldberg Unite .. or how to put on a hat

Hat on Yer Head #ds106 #dailycreate
It’s cold this morning here in New England. Wind chill about negative 14. Walking the dog … not so much fun. So when the DS106 Daily Create came into my inbox with a note of explaining how to do something, I was reminded of a recent classroom activity/lesson around Rube Goldberg contraptions (my students had a blast with it).

Here, then, are my instructions for putting a winter hat on your head. (My attorney suggests I mention that you should not try this at home. Duh.) At the Daily Create, you could only write text, but I drew out the contraption in the Paper app (which I am still figuring out).

Winter. It sucks. So, you know, you need a winter hat on your head to keep your brains from freezing when you need to walk to the dog.

Here’s how you do it:

1. Superglue fishing line to a bowling ball
2. Stuff bowling ball inside winter hat
3. Place bowling ball/hat on the top of the stairs
4. Sit on the bottom step of the stairs, holding fishing line in hand
5. Pull on fishing line. Be sure to pull hard enough so that the ball and hat start tumbling down the stairs
6. Quickly pull fishing line a second time to dislodge the ball from the hat. Guide bowling ball around you (note: this is important)
7. Hat sails through the air, lands on head

If you set up pins on the ground near the bottom of the stairs, you may even get both a strike AND the hat on your head. Be careful that the bowling ball and the hat don’t change positions. If that happens, you might end up with the bowling ball on your head. If that happens, you won’t need to go outside on your own. The ambulance will take there and it is probably heated.

Peace (you deserve it),

Connected Poem: The End of the Internet

Anybody else read the fascinating article in The New Yorker about the work by the Internet Archives to make a database of the entire Internet? I know about the Internet Archives and its Wayback Machine, but the piece by Jill Lepore  — called The Cobweb — was intriguing in many ways. (See my own blog in the archives).

The article had me thinking and that thinking led me to a poem, in which I used Hypothesis annotation tool as a sort of connector between my poem and Lepore’s article — with comments in the annotations as the sort of glue that holds it together.

A Glimpse of The End of the Internet
A Connected Poem
Kevin Hodgson

This morning, just after dawn,
with the blue lights flashing like shooting stars,
we bid farewell to the archived Internet —
all twenty six thousands pounds of it packed tight
inside a shipping container —
and we began again.

Some of us worry about the loss of memory
while others of us wonder about the possibility
of reinvention of the world,
now that we know how to build what we built
before we knew what we were building,
and how all those little scraps of words and images
and sounds and videos had become a scattered
collection of us.

Someone popped the cork off the champagne,
passed the bottle around, as the ship sailed off,
and someone else raised up a glass in a toast
to the potential of finally living in
the moment.

What none of us saw or imagined was the debris
of the Internet left behind in all the far
corners of the world,
in places where no amount of scrubbing
ever made the place clean.
Here, there were echoes of the past, imbuing us with
false knowledge of false starts, so that what we are building
becomes is built on the bones
of what we already built, for some things are beyond
our understanding.

One hundred days later, we all forgot anyway.

Works cited (if only temporarily and with little value as to the permanence of this piece):

Lepore, Jill. “The Cobweb.” The Cobweb. The New Yorker, 26 Jan. 2015. Web. 24 Jan. 2015. Funny how I was able to access this before the publication date, as if I stepped back in time to gather the article about archiving the past ….


Peace (in the poem),

Going Nutty on a Flag


Alan Levine shared out this very cool suite of text/photo editors the other day called Picture to People, and this morning, after making a flag as part of the YouShow’s “The Daily” — a fun “make” activity each day on Twitter — I decided to see what I could do to my flag by putting it through a few of the image generators.

Unknown Country Flag Collage

Peace (in the tinker),


When Connected …

Joining in Nile Conference

I was able to join in a conversation taking place in Egypt yesterday, hosted by two friends named Maha. It was a conference called NileTESOL  and the session by Maha B. and Maha A. was about using online resources in the teaching of English. I participated in a Twitter chat for a bit and then jumped into a Google Hangout for a spell. (TESOL stands for Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages)

Think about that for a second: from my home in Massachusetts, USA, I was engaged in a discussion about teaching at a conference taking place simultaneously in the Middle East, chatting with folks in a hangout from South America (I think that’s where one of them was from) and listening to a student in France talk about how he uses digital media in the classroom (with my friend, Simon).

When we talk about the connected world and how it can open up new avenues for sharing, that’s the power of the connection.

Peace (across the world),

Slice of Life: Where No Dog Dared to Go

(This is a post for Slice of Life, a regular writing feature with Two Writing Teachers).

Neither the dog (his name is Duke) nor this dog (my nickname in social networks is Dogtrax) wanted to brave the great outdoors this morning. The blizzard is here, and even as I write this, I can hear the winds whipping around the neighborhood.

duke in winter

Juno has arrived.

We think we’re ready: extra food, extra water, generator near the garage door, a trip to the library to stock up on additional books, etc, etc. I sort of wish I had slept in a bit more but the howling winds and the antsy dog had me up and outside.

Outside this morning, Duke was nearly dragging me to get back home, jumping on his back legs as if he were kicking his motor into high gear. Honestly, it wasn’t that bad out there, and I hope the snow is cold enough that it won’t cause power lines to fall.

Hang tight, if Juno is near you. Stay warm.

Peace (in the winter),

PS — I brought my camera outside, but most of the shots didn’t come out. These two did, and the hues of the world are interesting, particularly against the black lab background of Duke.

Book Review: The Boundless

Maybe it was because I had recently watched the intriguing movie Snowpiercer with my older sons, but as I read aloud the latest book by Kenneth Oppel — The Boundless — I had some strange reverberations of story. Both tales involve a large train that seems to carry humanity forward into the great unknown. Unlike Snowpiercer, however, the world is not at an end in The Boundless. But our hero here — Will Everett – is on the adventure of a lifetime as he seeks to avoid murderous thieves and make his way to the front of the train where his father helps run the seven-mile train barreling its way through Canada.

Oppel is a fine storyteller (Check out Airborn) and he is in fine form with The Boundless. There is just enough magic and the unexpected here to keep the fires of the story burning, and the relentless hum of the train in motion nicely partners with Will’s predicament, in which he finds an old friend and joins a traveling circus … all just to stay alive, even as a larger plot unfolds to steal something that has echoes of the Fountain of Youth.

The Boundless has good adventure, and solid characters, and the pace makes for a perfect read-aloud.

Peace (on the train),

The Snow Tells Stories: A Video of Vines

After sharing yesterday’s post about using Vine to make a multimedia poem about Vine, Terry suggested that maybe a collaboration with Vine might be something to consider. Yep. We jumped right on that, with each of us shooting our 6 second segments and then pulling them together into this video story:

Director’s Notes


Terry set up a Hackpad for us to write collaboratively. He started with the beginnings of a poem about snow, and even linked to some published poems. That would have been great, but reading Terry’s poem and thinking of the snow falling outside, I hit on the idea of a short narrative about the stories of snow. The script came together quickly (helpful, when each scene is only a line or two long at most).

Video Shoot:

Terry, in Kentucky, and me, in Massachusetts — we each took our phone or device outside for a little walk. I went as far as my backyard, and had to time my shots with the sounds of the city plowing crew. Terry has more room to roam, although you can just glimpse the cat and hear the famous rooster crowing in the soundtrack. That rooster made my day. I don’t know about Terry, but my shots went pretty smooth. A few retakes but nothing too bad. The most difficult part is that Vine requires you to hold the screen with your finger and getting yourself in a shot while doing that is tricky. Terry has a few shots where the last word gets either clipped or cut, particularly in the last shot. I suspect the six second rule was challenging for him. But he took some beautiful footage of the snow.

Sharing of Files:

I suggested we use Dropbox for him to send me his files. Terry set up a shared folder and invited me in. He could have emailed them to me, too, I suppose.


Here’s where it got tricky for me. Terry’s files were in an odd format that my iPad did not want to accept as I tried to transfer the videos to my camera roll to use in the PicPlayPost app for a media collage. So, I had to get on my laptop, figure out the right file format and convert all of his files to something my iPad would like (which I first did as .mov but that didn’t work and then converted again to .mp4). I had to straighten out a few of his video files, too, which were taken with the lens on its side (although I thought about keeping them, just to add the odd effect). Then, I had to upload those back into Dropbox, then open my iPad and try again. (It worked).

Now I had all of the files — Terry’s and mine — on my iPad and in PicPlayPost, I began to discover another difficulty: the labels of the video files are not visible when importing into PicPlayPost, so you have to go through each one and figure out not just which video to import, but the sequence of the import (so that the overall collage will run in order). Terry sent me a lot of files of winter, so that took some time.


PicPlayPost allows you to publish directly to YouTube, so that was a snap. I decided to try out an alternative version with the Storehouse app, too, just so I could use more of Terry’s winter footage as buffers between the “story” we were telling. I still like the PicPlayPost better as a more seamless narrative, but Storehouse allows you to scroll through the story with a bit more agency. One drawback is the viewer has to allow the sound through, or it seems muted. Odd default setting that I can’t figure out how to change.

Peace (in the snow, with more on the way),