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Friday, February 14, 2020

History Behind Valentine's day

History Behind Valentine's Day

We all think of Valentine's day as a day of romance, roses, chocolates, and little heart shaped cards. What we rarely ask is how it all started. According to my research, it was not as romantic as it is now made out to be.While it is not certain exactly how this holiday started, many believe that it dates back to Ancient Roman traditions. 

The association to fertility and love comes from a holiday called Lupercalia that lasted from February 13th to 15th. During this occasion, men would draw a women's name from a bowl and they would be coupled for the time being (or longer if they wished). This "matchmaking lottery" was a favorable tradition and many young men and women looked forward to it. 

The name most likely comes from the two executions only a couple years apart. Both men were named Valentine and were executed on February 14th by Emperor Claudius II. The Catholic Church worshiped these martyrs with a celebration named St. Valentine's on their anniversaries.  

These aren't proven theories, but they seem pretty accurate. Why do you think we have this holiday?

Written by Amy C., Homework Assistant

Thursday, January 23, 2020

What attracts us to video games?

What attracts us to video games?

As we move towards an era dominated by high-speed streaming and video games, I think it is important to dissect what exactly gives these new medias, video games in particular, their seemingly universal appeal. This is a challenging task as values tend to vary from person to person as does their situation, thus the significance of video games tends to vary from person to person too. Despite these difficulties in pinpointing a common appeal, there are critical aspects of video games that tap into the core attraction people tend to feel.

1. Agency
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First and foremost, video games provide a sense of agency that no other medium can rival. Video games are designed to cede control to the player and allow them to experience hand-crafted worlds through their own eyes and mind. They can thus develop a more authentic sense of identity with the characters and the world at hand, as it feels as if they have the power to influence it. This appeal is not limited to video games either, in fact, it is true in reality as well. Those who feel like they can influence the world feel more authentically part of it, whereas those who feel like they extend no influence on others and the world at large often feel lonely and detached from others. The agency then of video games allows the consumers to feel connected to a world in its own right, and escape the often dull reality into a world more rich and vivid for the player.

2. Storytelling
Image result for storytelling video gamesVideo games open a whole new dimension of storytelling, choices. Where books tend to follow a consistent plotline or separate plotlines that weave back and forth, video games can support a more web-like structure that gives weight to your every choice, as they may affect the ending you find in progressing through the story. This also breeds a greater sense of identity with the work, as the weight of decisions and consequences makes the work more significant in the mind of the player. Additionally, this weblike choice-based structure paves the way for replayability, something not too common in other mediums except to jog your memory or reread a passage for lack of earlier understanding. Video games can be played over and over and still chug along outputting new risky opportunities, exhilarating thrill rides, and stimulating dialogues.

3. Video

Image result for storytelling video gamesFinally, as the name suggests, video games make use of the video medium which includes both auditory and graphical design. This means that video games can pretty authentically provide sensory data to create a world within a game. This is not possible with regular tabletop games, which cannot account for copious amounts of dynamic graphics and evocative soundtracks. It is these tools that give the game world more authenticity, and which allow for players to become truly absorbed in the contents of such a world, soaking in the world in such a way as to feel a connection to it. This is due to the intersection of agency and the video medium which is far more reactionary than common video, and thus establishes a greater sense of realism, presence and interaction with the world around you than typical videos in this day and age.

To conclude, video games boast a strong appeal, particularly to young audiences, likely as a result of the strong sense of identity, agency and thus immersion that video games provide.

Written By: Ken Vandeventer - Homework Assistant

Thursday, January 9, 2020

The Sad History of the Cubicle

The Sad History of the Cubicle

If you've ever watched The Office, Newsroom, or any other show that chronicles office life, you're probably familiar with the cubicle. If your parents work an office job, they might be working in one too. Either way, it's a staple of many companies that offer sit-down jobs.
But where did a cubicle, one of the first things that pops into mind when you picture office life, come from? Who thought such an invention was necessary, and why? And what do workers today think of all this?

It all starts with a man named Robert Propst. Propst never set out to create the cubicle as we know it today. Instead, his desire was to make the workplace more dynamic and adaptable. That's why in 1964, he, as part of a home furnishings company known as Herman Miller, designed 'The Action Office'. His first version didn't catch on, but the one released to the public in 1968 did a bit better.
First commercial installation, 1969The Action Office, as pictured to the left, combined office staples like desks and cabinets into one flexible panel system, making it the first of its kind in the country. The action office provided adjustable desks to promote standing while working and healthier blood flow. Even better, the design was colorful, with vibrant colors that would make the whole environment feel more alive. As far apart as Propst's initial vision may seem from what we know today, this is what would slowly adapt into our version of the cubicle.

Despite the many advantages Propst's design presented to workers, this is not what executives saw as the benefits of his design. Less concerned with health and better workflow, and more concerned with fitting as many people into as small a space as possible, many executives took advantage of Propst's designs or knock-offs of them to crowd large numbers of employees into the workplace.

Propst, appalled at what his design had turned into, started frantically composing memos about the office that went largely unheeded. By this point, it was out of his hands.

Propst was interviewed in 1998 for Metropolis magazine, where he said: "The dark side of this is that not all organizations are intelligent and progressive. Lots are run by crass people who can take the same kind of equipment and create hellholes."

by Roo Joshi
Homework Assistant in the Mountain View Public Library Teen Zone


Baer, Drake. “A Brief History Of How The Cubicle Took Over Offices Everywhere.” Business Insider, Business Insider, 23 Apr. 2014,

Blakemore, Erin. “Why the Inventor of the Cubicle Came to Despise His Own Creation.”, A&E Television Networks, 31 Aug. 2017,

“FORTUNE: The Great Escape.” CNNMoney, Cable News Network,

Saval, Nikil. “The Cubicle You Call Hell Was Designed to Set You Free.” Wired, Conde Nast, 3 June 2017,

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Names for Groups of Animals

One of the most creative applications of the English language is in naming groups of animals. From porcupines to puppies and everything in between, here are some names that I find particularly interesting!

Monday, December 23, 2019

20/20 Vision

     The phrase "20/20 vision" is commonly used in song lyrics, pop culture, and everyday discussions. It's being used even more now as we approach the year 2020. But what does 20/20 vision even mean? 

     Surprisingly, having 20/20 vision is not the same as having perfect vision. It is only a measure of visual acuity, or sharpness of vision, at 20 feet. This doesn't measure your vision of things close to you, your ability to see things in motion, side vision, depth perception, or ability to focus on objects. If you have 20/20 vision, you can see something 20 feet away with great sharpness and clarity. If your fraction has a small denominator, like 20/15 vision, it means you have better visual acuity. If your fraction has a greater denominator, like 20/60, your visual acuity is worse. The numerator, which is always 20, means that you can see something sharply from 20 feet away. The denominator, which can vary, is the distance from which the average person can see something sharply. If you have 20/200 vision, that means that you can see something clearly from 20 feet away when the average person would from 200 feet. 20/200 is also the qualification for being legally blind. Because the term "20/20 vision" refers to a distance in feet, countries that use the metric system say "6/6 vision," meaning visual acuity 6 meters away from something. 
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Written by Leigh Anne L., Homework Assistant

Thursday, December 19, 2019

The Mysterious Disappearance of Amelia Earhart

As a child Amelia Earhart was constantly seeking out brand-new experiences, exploring as much of the world surrounding her house in Kansas as she possibly could. She moved around a few times as a child, but always brought with her that same passion for exploration and adventure wherever she went. During World War I, when she was working as a nurse's aide in Canada, Earhart became fascinated by the airplanes she saw on exhibit at an airshow in Toronto. A few months later she got the chance to actually ride in one, and in that moment knew she wanted to become a pilot. 

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Amelia Earhart
Though she started with short, local flights, Earhart was soon presented with an opportunity to tackle one of the most difficult flights ever undertaken at that time: flying across the Atlantic Ocean. After Charles Lindbergh's successful flight across the ocean in 1927, Amelia Earhart received sponsorship to be the first woman to attempt the transatlantic flight. She set out from Canada along with her copilots in June 1928, and successfully landed in Wales after a 20-hour flight. 

Although it was an incredible accomplishment to have been the first woman to ever fly across the Atlantic, Earhart admitted that she did very little of the actual piloting of the plane, as she did not have the formal training that her copilots did. Still, Earhart was welcomed back to America as a celebrity.

After her transatlantic flight Earhart set her sights on achieving new records. In August 1928 she became the first woman to fly solo across North America; in 1930 she became an official of the National Aeronautic Association; in 1931 she set the world altitude record, flying high at over 18,000 feet. And in 1932, four years after her first attempt, Earhart succeeded in completing a transatlantic flight completely on her own.

Having achieved numerous world records, Earhart decided to set her sights higher: she wanted to circumnavigate the world. While others had flown completely around the world before, Earhart was especially ambitious: she wanted to take a route around the equator, which would make her flight the longest one ever attempted.
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Earhart's Planned Route to Circumnavigate the Globe
Along with navigator Fred Noonan, Earhart departed from Oakland, California in March 1937 in her plane called the Electra. However, her first attempt ended quickly, as her plane began to experience technical difficulties when it touched down in Hawaii, the first stop on the original route.

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Fred Noonan and Amelia Earhart
While the exact cause of the plane's malfunction remains unconfirmed (some blame a faulty tire, others say the landing gear collapsed), the issue was soon addressed. Earhart and Noonan raised funds for their second attempt, switched their route so they would fly west to east instead of the other way around, and set off for their second attempt in June 1937.

The first couple legs of the journey went off without a hitch, and soon the pair was departing from Papua New Guinea and heading towards their next landing spot on Howland Island. In preparation for Earhart's trip to the island the U.S. Coast Guard had stationed one of their ships, the USCGC Itasca, there. The ship would communicate via radio with Earhart's plane, and would transmit a homing signal allowing Earhart and Noonan to precisely navigate the plane to the island.

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Earhart's Flight Route from Papua New Guinea to Howland Island
Although it's unclear exactly why, the Electra's radio failed to establish two-way communication with the Itasca as it neared Howland Island. The Electra was able to send signals out, and a few of its messages were received by the Itasca, although they were full of static and hard to understand. However, the plane was not able to receive any transmission that the Itasca sent it. Because of this Earhart and Noonan never received the homing signal that would allow them to locate the island. 

While the Electra was fitted with its own navigation system, it was faulty and imprecise. Unable to precisely locate Howland Island, Earhart set their course in the general direction they believed the island to be in, hoping they would be able to successfully locate it before their plane ran out of fuel.

The Electra never arrived.

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The USCGC Itasca
An hour after receiving the final transmission from the Electra the Itasca set out on a search to the north and west of Howland Island. The Itasca was able to figure out the very general location of the plane from the transmissions they had been able to decipher from the Electra prior to its disappearance. They knew the plane was on dry land, as they were still receiving signals from the plane a few days after its disappearance; while completely indecipherable, they at least revealed the plane was not in water for the water would have shorted out the plane's electrical system. Their search ultimately proved to be fruitless, as the ship found nothing after 10 days of searching. They finally surrendered their search efforts, and Earhart and Noonan were officially declared missing on July 2nd, 1937. A year and a half after that, on January 5, 1939, Earhart was legally declared dead in absentia.

Even today, Earhart's disappearance remains controversial. Several theories exist about its cause: some believe the Electra ran out of fuel and simply crashed before they reached Howland Island. Others believe Earhart and Noonan, realizing they could not make it to Howland Island, decided to search for another island to land on instead. One theory even believes Earhart was a spy for President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Another is that she was captured by the Japanese navy and was either executed, or, as some believe, changed her name, returned to America, and lived the rest of her life as a New Jersey banker named Irene Craigmile Bolam.
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A side-by-side comparison of Earhart and Irene Craigmile Bolam, whom some believe to be Earhart's alias (This theory was denied by Bolam - read more about it here).
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An article from the local San Mateo Times reveals a theory that Earhart was captured by the Japanese and executed by a firing squad.
Theoretically speaking, any of these theories can be true. While some are crazier than others, the truth is we really don't know what happened to Earhart, and no evidence has ever been found to confirm any one theory. It's hard to tell if we'll ever be able to solve the mystery that is the disappearance of Amelia Earhart. All that can be done for now is theorize about her disappearance, and celebrate her legacy as a pioneer of aviation.

Written by Jessica A., Homework Assistant

If you'd like to read more about the theories surrounding her disappearance, here are some interesting articles:

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

My Favorite Apps

Here are a few of my favorite apps on my phone, in no particular order. This is not an exhaustive list, simply the ones that immediately popped into my mind!

I Love Hue
This is a game that I really enjoy. The concept is simple-- you're given a bunch of colorful tiles placed randomly and you have to organize them into a gradient based on a some markers that you're given. I thought this game would be boring at first, but it's actually quite fun and calming. I especially like to use it when I am on public transport or listening to a podcast. I Love Hue is low pressure because there are no time limits or goals to achieve. However, if you do want to challenge yourself, you can try to beat the average number of moves it takes to complete the level. I find that my mind is cleared while I sort the tiles into beautiful gradients. The punny name is pretty great, too!

I got this app about a year ago after a bunch of my friends suggested it to me, and it's been super helpful! Basically, you "plant" a tree in this app and it'll take a set amount of time to grow. Usually, I'll set it to 35-50 minutes. During that time, you can't open any other app on your phone or your tree will die. You have a forest, which shows all your trees, dead and alive. If you stay off your phone for the set amount of time, then your tree will grow to completion and a beautiful, live tree will be added to your forest. If you fail and kill your tree, then a brown, leafless tree is added to your forest. You earn coins for the minutes you stay focused. Those coins can be used to buy different types of trees. You're motivated to stay off your phone for however many minutes because you don't want your forest to be full of dead trees. I mostly use this app to focus when I'm studying. It's also nice to use when you simply want to have some time away from screens. Plus, the app is very simple and nice to look at.

Sleep Cycle

This app is an alarm that tracks your sleep and helps you wake up smoothly. It listens to your breathing as you sleep (sounds creepy, I know) and based on your sleeping cycle, will wake you up when it's most comfortable for you. You set a time frame to wake up and the app will sound an alarm for you within that time. Sleep cycle makes it easier to wake up early without being super tired and miserable and also helps you recognize trends in your sleep.

$1.99 for the version I use. There is a new version, Superimpose X for $4.99, but I don't know much about that one.
Though I use this app less than the others, I love it equally as much. Superimpose is a photo editing app which allows you to create masks of photos and lay them on top of each other. I often use it for editing photos of myself onto weird backgrounds or to clone myself. You can upload any photo and then remove parts of it so that it's kind of like a sticker. You can layer this photo onto a background and combine them into one photo. Superimpose makes this process really easy to do because it has really good tools for masking, resizing, and moving photos. It does take some practice, but you are able to create some really creative and interesting images.

Written by Leigh Anne L., Homework Assistant in the MVPL Teen Zone
Photo Sources:
I Love Hue
Sleep Cycle