The New Mouse in Town

In my pocket. That’s where I like to keep my books.

I mean, I like to keep all my things in my pockets–my phone, my keys, my wallet, you know, the usual stuff, but also my GameBoy and my DS and, yes, even my books.

But growing up and reading bigger books (and somehow wearing pants with fewer pockets… RIP the days of cargo shorts being in style), it was just no longer practical.

At least until I joined the Mouse Book Club.

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Pokemon Go: A Retrospective

One year and two days ago, Pokemon Go reinvented the mobile gaming landscape and reignited a craze that has gone on for over two decades. But in the wake of early crashes and frenzied, frustrated players, how far has the game come, and how much further must it go not only to satisfy its fans but also to survive?

In this retrospective, we will confront the major problems still blighting players and lay forth some suggestions for how Nintendo and Niantic can overcame these ails. In particular, we will focus on three themes: player engagement through playing together, the updated Gym system and the game’s multiple currencies, and the inequality perpetuated by the game mechanics themselves.

So join me on this adventure and get ready to Go.

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Read Me

If I were Alice, I’d have exhausted my share of Drink Me’s and Eat Me’s with all the time life has made me feel bigger or smaller than I am. It’s a part of growing up (thinking you’re bigger than the world, to learn you’re not) and becoming an adult (thinking you’re too small for survival, to learn you’re not so small at all), but if I’ve got one thing on Alice, it’s all the Read Me’s piled up around me house.

On my nightstand. My coffee table. My kitchen table. The bookshelves. The floor.

Books abound, beneath my TV, beside my couch. It’s a glorious feeling.

Except all that Read Me is getting a bit too much to swallow. Would it be too apt a metaphor to say I’ve got the words stuck in my throat, sentences strung around my molars and tethered to my tongue?

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Game On

Today was a day. Literally my first step out the door I slipped on black ice and gave myself a possible slight concussion. So knowing I’m gonna be woken up throughout the night (because comas) while I plan for precalculus and wonder just how long I can put off grading those related rates calculus quizzes, I figured I might as well write a bit.

Because I had an amazing idea in the elevator this morning!

You know, three steps before I concussed myself.

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Erowenowe

The Death of Magic. This was the subtitle to my story “Erowenowe,” which I had written sometime during November 2014. It was part of my NaNoWriMo anthology: an attempt to write one story a day for one month. It was a burdensome challenge, but this post is not about the writing. It’s about the story. The Death of Magic.

Erowenowe (Erowen for short) was a young maiden chosen for sacrifice to the sun god: The kingdom’s fertility had begun to wane, and the gods, they feared, had stopped listening.

In actuality, they were not wrong: Following the end of the War of Fallen Stars (on which I wrote the beginning in my 2012 NaNoWriMo story, Starfall), the pantheon vowed to never meddle in the affairs of men again (a bit akin to Tolkien, I suppose, but he has always been a key inspirer for me)–and their absence, indeed, preluded the death of magic.

I feel the same sense of waning power as I write this as when I wrote Erowenowe.

Seven years ago today, I began the Writingwolf. It has grown so much in these seven years, and I have grown and evolved alongside (and at times because of) it. And since I joined Teach for America and started my training as a teacher, and then started teaching, the Writingwolf has been written silent: no words, no muffled howl, has escaped its muzzle.

Writing has been, is, and always will be my greatest passion and my biggest dream, but the responsibility of maintaining a blog–one enlivened by my readers for whom consistency and attention is one of the few ways I have to show them my respect and regard–requires more of my time than I am able to commit at present. I’m still learning to lesson plan efficiently. I’m still learning to manage a classroom skillfully. I’m still learning, quite literally, what it means to be a teacher (and I’m in grad school to prove it).

Writing, I’m afraid, has been pushed out of my circle of priorities.

This will not always be the case, but for the next six months, maybe even the next twelve or possibly eighteen until I finish my graduate program, keeping an regularly active blog seems as though it’s one responsibility too many. There is power is holding high expectations; but there is equal danger in clinging to unrealistic expectations.

One of the many unfortunate realities of teaching is that a handful of my kids will not graduate the ninth grade, and when our advisory moves on to the tenth grade next fall, they will not be joining us. For this small handful of students, my task now is not only to help them be as successful in the next six months as possible, but also prepare them to move on to another school or another advisory without me. Of course, I cannot change any person, let alone an adamant and strong-willed ninth grader, and I am certainly not the sole bearer of their future potential, but I feel it is imperative that I bestow upon these boys (by which I mean, help them to develop the qualities they already possess, somewhere inside them) the mindsets and skills that I never had when I was their age.

It took me many setbacks and failures and risky choices that may have had life-changing consequences for me to learn these things, and while it’s very likely that such lasting impressions can only be learned while wading through the fire (that same fate destined for Erowenowe, to be burned in sacrifice for brighter days), I believe I can at least provide them a strong foundation so even if they do not master these skills before they need them, when the time comes, they may remember these lessons and crash a little more softly, burn a little less brightly when they fail and fall and begin to fly again.

I say this because one of the activities I want to facilitate fits perfectly with the theme of this post. I want to come to class one day with a bucket of rocks. I want to ask each student to pick up one rock and hold it as tightly as he can. At first it’ll be easy–it’s just a rock, after all, hardly a few ounces heavy, barely the size of their palms. But as they hold it longer, the muscles in their hands will begin to ache and they’ll begin to feel the fatigue of holding on too tightly. I won’t stop here, nor will they: I’ll ask them instead to pick a second rock and hold it as tightly in their other hand as they can. While their second hand begins to tire, their first hand will begin to scream. And misery is best comforted with company, so I’ll ask them to do one final thing–something I know with certainty each of them can be successful with (under normal circumstances): I’ll ask them to write their names as neatly as possible without releasing the rocks in their hands.

Inevitably, they will, as I would, as you would, fail to perform this simple task.

So then I’ll ask them to set their pencils down (for those who managed to pick them up) and open their hands. Having clenched down upon those rocks for so long, their fingers will creak as they’re slowly peeled away, muscles locked in place protesting to remain, because by now holding on has become the norm, and letting go isn’t easy to do.

But once they’ve let go, once they’ve taken that first step, the blood of life rushes back to their fingertips, bringing with it fresh oxygen to sate the stomachs of every cell, sweeping aside the buildup of lactic acid and carbon dioxide that come naturally, but erode our capabilities. Within a few moments the stress and strain of clinging too tightly will pass, and when they reach for that pencil or pen, their names will flow forth upon the page like rivers of milk and honey raining down from the holiest of holy lands.

It isn’t easy to let go. It isn’t easy to watch the magic wither and die.

But sometimes it’s necessary to open our hands, flex our fingers, and feel again.

Sometimes it’s necessary to succumb to science over the mysteries of magic.

For now, my path has led me away from the Writingwolf, but no matter where my words and wonders take me, I will always be the Writingwolf, and in time my path will bring me back, reborn through my wanders, borne of new words and new stories to share.

the Novelist’s Dilemma

November approaches.

It’s no surprise, dear reader, that I’m a busy man: not only am I plowing through my first year of teaching (and all the lesson-planning, classroom-managing, relationship-building chaos that comes with that) I’m also attempting to balance being a grad student and still having something of a personal life (filled with a new relationship and lots of Pokemon).

It’s more than I can say in one breath, that’s for sure.

So comes NaNoWriMo. That one month a year I’ve pledged to the author inside to make writing my number one priority. Except lately I can’t even write for my blog.

What am I to do?

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Words on Words

So it’s been a month since I wrote last. And it’s been a week since I got home from Teach for America’s summer training, called Institute: a non-stop five weeks full of professional development (of questionable efficacy), lesson planning and execution, and getting to know my first class of students. It was intense. I’m still recovering.

Which means I’m still processing everything I learned and everything I experienced: It was information overload to its finest, and now that I’m “back in reality,” in addition to making sense of everything, the confusion is compounded by the quest to secure housing in Milwaukee, planning my move in two weeks, and arranging visits with my friends in North Carolina before I leave. It’s been incredibly overwhelming.

I intend–and we know what we say about intentions–to share my thoughts on Institute more fully at a later time (after I’ve considered more deeply what I’m willing to share, and what’s in my best interest to keep private), and with all the uncertainty in my life right now, it’s difficult to articulate any amount of profundity on current events.

So to write something, I’m writing a post on words–in particular, the words I’m reading.

The Five Books I'm Presently Reading

The five books I’m presently reading–and what the rest of this post is about.

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Psst! Do you like music?

So it’s been a while since I’ve posted–first I got sidetracked when I was told my thesis was due earlier than anticipated (by a month! but don’t worry, I finished it–and passed my defense), and then I had to catch up on homework, and then I’ve been attending a YOGA for Youth teacher training and it’s been busy (forty hours? two weekends? check!).

Excuses, excuses, of course, but it’s my way of saying if I could have been here, sharing ideas and experiences with all of you, I would have been. =)

I’m still in a frenzied state, of course, attempting to stay on top of everything as graduation and Teach for America barrel toward me, but I want to take a quick moment to share something with you–call it my three-day-early throwback Thursday.

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The Quest for Queer Lit

I was hanging around the guilds on HabitRPG when another user gave a heads up to queer writers: Have you heard about Strange Horizon’s “Our Queer Planet” issue?

The sci-fi e-zine is hosting a celebration of queer identity, specifically looking for “work that explores intersectional queer imaginaries and experiences around the world,” with an emphasis on stories set on Earth (timeline variable). So I looked through my past fiction, and some of my best sci-fi stories feature gay male leads or gender-non-binary aliens–but none of them take place on Earth.

So, I decided, I’ll just have to write something new.

But then, I asked myself, what’s queer literature?

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For the Love of Books

It’s Valentine’s Day, and since my husband-to-be and I are still some 1600 miles apart and both generally loathe the holiday anyways, I figured I’d play around with some of my other loves–such as my love of books, both writing them and reading them.

Because, honestly, who wants a box of chocolate when you can be given a book?

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