And Now an Endorsement: Dark & Day by Israel Gray

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I’m realizing more and more that young adult fiction is a comfortable thing for me. The first fiction book I ever read for fun was for young adults. If you’re wondering, it was that ridiculously beloved series from J.K. Rowling. A few months ago, I was sent a copy of Dark & Day by Israel Gray and after stalling in it a few times because of my workload I finished it this week.

I found Dark and Day to be a pretty good book. You’re following Jono, a young boy who lives in Polari and is exactly the healthiest of guys. He has a normal family, but it’s clear he doesn’t feel that he measures up. He’s even more worried about what’ll happen when he joins The Dark’s military academy.

Dark and Day is a book that plays on your sensibilities. And writer Gray isn’t subtle about it. In between envisioning what it was like to visit the military academy I played around with the book’s themes in my head. Jono is forced by weak health to choose between serving in the military and getting the upgrades he needs or staying home and struggling with them for the rest of his life. At a sanctuary another character mentions in passing that how good can a government be if they require the sick to sacrifice they’re life to get what they need. I’m paraphrasing, but I’ll always remember that line.

Pacing, felt off in this book, particularly before arriving at the military academy. While some characters felt fleshed out and life-like, I was left wondering about motivation and a lack of character development. I’m hoping that Jono has a clearer progression from normal pre-teen to hero in the next book. I felt like that should have happened before this book’s finale, but Gray is planning a series and I can understand why I’d be left wanting more.

Dark and Day is worth every bit of $2.99, I know because even though I was sent a copy I purchased another halfway through so I could keep it in my Kindle library. It’s a great book that filled my need for twists and coming of age stories. If you share that same need, it can fill it for you too. Even now I’m still wondering which side is right, the Dark or the Day.

And Now an Endorsement: Startup The Podcast

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Every so often I have to remind myself that I’m part content writer and part business owner. As long as QuickBooks is working and the trains are running on time, I forget that I should probably be out there looking at new opportunities for paige aiden Media to grow and all. This week I started listening to Startup, a documentary-style podcast chronicling This American Life’s Alex Bloomberg’s decision to start his own podcast network.

Listen to the show folks. It doesn’t just make you feel good about being a business owner, it’s also a pretty decent chronicle of podcasting in general.

My only triumph

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For most people a triumph is something in the future. It’s always that next thing that’ll take them to a new point in their career. Maybe it’s that car that they’ve always wanted, but could never quite afford. It’s surviving that next medical treatment, or escaping from the office early enough that their children actually see them before bed time.

The strangest thing about triumphs is that people seem to barely remember them after they’ve made them happen. Every once in a while they stare off into the distance and recall that time when everything felt right and they achieved something they always wanted to, but it’s not constantly in the back of their mind.

I don’t do triumph. I’ve never been a guy to stare back at anything I’ve done in a positive light. There is always something that I could have done better. Some piece of the pie I could have thought of differently and truly done something epic. That is, except for one thing I did roughly fifteen years ago.

It was in the fifth grade. I’d always been a modest student. The thought of an education didn’t just bore me. It made me angry. Here were these people who’d gone off to some magical place outside of my turbulent, violence-ridden neighborhood and come back to educate me in ways I didn’t really care about. They’d semi-adopt you for 8 months and then they’d leave and go back to their cozy lives with nice cars, nice houses and dinner parties. I marveled at these teachers’ lives, their personalities and their mannerisms, but I flat out didn’t give a crap about the knowledge they had to share with me.

To be clear, it wasn’t that education was discouraged in my family. No, I wasn’t being trained for life as a field hand or anything. When you have two kids and you didn’t finish high school, clearly there were other things that came first. Chances are that if you ask any African American who grew up in the areas I lived in – we moved a lot – they’d tell you the same thing.

One day during that fifth grade year I went home and decided I’d play their game. I put down the Power Rangers in Space Red Action-Figure with glowing helmet and got to work. I read my history book all night, and when it was time for bed, I kept reading it despite getting stern warnings from my parents to go to bed or risk having all of my books taken.

Richmond Public Schools always had a love-hate relationship when it came to teachers sticking to text books for instruction and so months went by before I ever got the chance to actually use anything in that history book. In the spring of 1998, when John Glenn was making a return to space and Chicago was just as relevant for its sports team as it is now for people being shot in the ass, my fifth grade teacher handed me a test paper on American history. This wasn’t some lame movie. There were no voice overs declaring “I got this.” Instead, something magical happened. I looked down at the test in and knew the answers. Not just some of them. I knew the answer to every single question. They all came out like a burst of fire, an invisible energy that flowed from the tip of my Ticondegra #2 pencil. I signed it “Travis Pope” and took it to my fifth grade teacher Patricia Jackson.

Pat Jackson was an African American teacher in every sense. Forget cardigan sweaters, this woman had a closet full of garb that must have come in a box with a logo featuring a flat landscape and an African elephant. She wasn’t just stern. She was relentless. Did something wrong and she would serve up a hot tin can of verbal ass whopping like you wouldn’t believe. She was generous with her praise and stingy with her respect. In Pat Jackson’s world you were hers to do with however she pleased.

That day in 1998 I handed her back the test she’d handed to me six minutes before. I stood there frozen. I wanted to see her reaction. Her admiration for me finally showing some promise. Here was tangible proof that I wasn’t an idiot. She looked up at me and down at the paper I’d just handed to her. I saw a red pen appear from out of thin air. Checkmarks were made. First there was one correct answer, then two and twenty. All of them were right. Every single one.

Having also deduced that one of her poorest students had managed a perfect score on a test she hadn’t prepared any of them for, she looked at her watch. Jackson’s eyes poked out from underneath her mass of face and African cloth garments. She shook her head as if she was possibly thinking about the amount of time I’d wasted not participating in class for all these months. Instead of vocalizing her amazement, she called out to Sandra to ask how far along she was on the test. When Sandra replied question seven is when I realized things had gone wrong.

In a flash, my desk had been emptied to make sure there were no books open there. Before I knew it, my pockets were empty too, turn inside out by the beast herself. Pat Jackson forced me to stand there under the gaze of every clique and classmate as she interrogated me about my cheating techniques. “You couldn’t have finished this. She’s less than half done. I go with what I know,” she told me. Quickly it escalated into something else. I was escorted from the wall-less classroom that only had chalkboards dividing it from the classrooms of others. Disciplinary referrals were written and my mother was called to the school because I’d become a distraction in the classroom.

At that moment I felt it. The only time I’ve ever been perfectly satisfied with something that I’ve done. Since then, everything else I’ve achieved has felt minor, like little kick-knacks on a to-do list. I wasn’t satisfied about the test – she’d taken off points because I’d forgotten to write my middle initial between my first and last name and robbed me of my perfect score. I’d forced one of these teachers, these champions of extra reading and peddlers of gold stars to take everyone in the room seriously, not just the ones she expected to flourish. I’d gotten a reaction out of someone with my mind and the truth that I’d put on a sheet of notebook paper. Life doesn’t get more magical than that.

I Wrote This: Xbox Music Is Better Than Zune, But Not Really

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Microsoft’s plans for consumers has changed a lot in the past few years. The Xbox 360 is now old busted hotness, replaced by the Xbox One with its better performance and more accurate Kinect 2 sensor. Windows actually has a built-in store full of entertainment and productivity apps. That’s something we could only dream about just years ago. Xbox Music has finally replaced Zune. It has become the default, cloud-powered way that users get entertainment across all of Microsoft’s different products. But let’s not go talking crazy to Zune purists. They have a point.

From Quick Words: Xbox Music is Better Than Zune, But Not Really.

I Wrote This: Dust Up with Key Xbox One Feature Shows Why It’s Behind

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Earlier today comments made by an employee who works for Microsoft indicated that Microsoft had decided not to develop a key feature that would have helped the its Xbox One console stand out from the competition and created a new generation of developers. According to the employee, users shouldn’t have expect to be able to create games using their Xbox One as the company previously announced. According to the employee, users shouldn’t have expected that they’d be able to create games using their Xbox One as the company had previously announced. Don’t fret, Microsoft itself is now insisting that it hasn’t called the feature, but the debacle only further highlights one of the reasons it feels like the Xbox One is behind.

Read: Dust Up With Key Xbox One Feature Shows Why It’s Behind

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