The Warp Part 1

       “Tick tick tick tick”. As the clock turns closer, the whole class of middle schoolers prepares to bolt, except for one. Sitting in the corner with his hoodie on, unaware of his surroundings.

       His name is Jacob Bacoj. He is an immigrant from Russia, hopping from country to country with his father. So far, he has been in almost 15 different schools, but every time he gets to make friends, his father is fired or offered a better position somewhere else. Because of this, Jacob decided to stay neutral; not making friends, otherwise, they would get ripped away from him when he had to move.

       Now, back to the story. Jacob had fallen asleep. As the time passed, it grew dark and the schools closed. When Jacob woke up, he saw that it was already dark out and there was nobody in the parking lots. He bolted to the door and tried the handle, but it wouldn’t budge. He ran to the window, but it was locked. Jacob wandered around the room, accepting defeat and decided not to waste any time snooping around the classroom. In the closet, he didn’t find anything interesting, except for a few dead kids (just kidding). He sauntered over to the teacher’s desk. It was mostly covered with papers to grade. There was also a globe paperweight and a handful of pens and pencils. He slid open one of the drawers and found a grade-book containing all of the kids in his class’s grades. In the other drawer, there wasn’t anything inside. It was completely empty, but as Jacob looked inside, he saw what looked like a light switch inside.

       He stuck his arm inside and flipped the lever. Immediately, the wall behind him came apart to reveal a stairway down into blackness. Since Jacob knew that he was going to leave in a few days, he decided to have some adventure in his dull life.

He crept down the cold stairs. Each step he took made him colder. Down, deeper, lower, the steps never seemed to end. Finally, he came to a sleek white door with a light, not something that Jacob was expecting. Next to the door was a keypad and a palm scanner. Since Jacob didn’t probably have the right palm print for the scanner, he unscrewed the bolts and ripped out all of the wires. I know what you are thinking. “Isn’t that vandalism?” Yes, it is, now stop talking. As Jacob looked at the keypad, he realized that there were numbers and symbols. He tried his teacher’s first and last name, but none of them worked. Then he tried the classroom number. The slid open silently. Inside the door, it was almost completely dark, except for the light coming from the doorway. Jacob groped around in the darkness, feeling for a switch and found one, but it was the fan. Next to that was the light switch.

       The whole room was practically empty except for a big light-blue ball. It was covered in hexagonal patterns with grey highlights between the hexagons. As Jacob walked closer to the ball, a door formed from the hexagons and opened, revealing the inside of the ball. It was bare except for a chair that sat in the middle. Being the sneaky kid that he was, he sat in the chair and waited. Nothing happened. He waited for more. After some time, he saw the door slide shut silently and a container slid out of the ceiling with a pair of glasses in it. Suddenly, tendrils shot out from the sides of the seat and restrained Jacob’s body to it. He tried twisting around and cutting through them with his teeth, but it was no use. He decided to put on the glasses in front of him. All of a sudden, a pleasant voice cut through the silence. It said, “Please refrain from defacing the restraints. Look to your right.” Jacob looked and saw a green cube. “Look to your left.” Jacob saw a red cube. “Look up.” Jacob saw a black cube. “Touch your hands to the side of your chair.” The instant Jacob touched the sides of his chair, the mysterious voice said, “You are calibrated. Please have a pleasant journey.” Journey? What journey?

       All of a sudden, a globe of the Earth came into the view of Jacob. Underneath it was a timeline of all the major events, with the farthest to the left, the present. He lifted up his hands, but there wasn’t anything there. When he swiped at the globe, it spun and showed up on his old home. As he zoomed in, he could see his old life; his school, his home, his friends’ homes, and the candy shop that he would always go to after school with his friends and try the free samples. He tapped on the shop and out of nowhere, the lights flashed off and Jacob pulled off his glasses. He jerked back and his eyes seemed to go to the back of his head. He was flung around like a rag doll, and for once, he was thankful for the restraints. It stopped as abruptly as it came. The tendrils around his chest loosened and retracted back into the sides of the seat. Jacob got up nervously and stumbled dizzily to the exit that appeared. After his eyes adjusted to the light, he saw that he was no longer in the room he was in before.

This room was completely white-washed with more than one exit. Also, the words above the exits were words that Jacob remembered seeing before but forgot how to read or speak. Where was he?

What if you were blind?

What if you were blind? Imagine groping your way through a labyrinth of darkness, not knowing where it will lead you. If you were blind, you wouldn’t be able to see your family or friends. You would never know what they look like or how they act around you. If you were blind, there would be no light. You would never experience any colors. There would be no sunsets or rainbows. If you were blind, you would hear things others don’t. You could tell how someone was feeling when they talk, even if they don’t know how they feel. If you were blind, people would treat you differently, like you are a black hole, trying to suck all of the colors out of the world. Imagine never seeing anything. Your entire life. Nothing. Ever.

Minecraft Review

Minecraft was the biggest game in the world for a while. In the game, you have two modes; survival and creative. In survival, you try to survive against hunger, zombies, creepers, and spiders. In creative, you can fly and you can build whatever you feel like. There are also mods that you can download online that add additional items into the game. Another cool function the game has is multiplayer, where you can play on servers that other people created. On other peoples’ servers, you can play mini-games and connect with friends. In total, there have been 250 million copies of the game sold worldwide and more than 40 million people play it monthly. Overall, the game is actually very good, considering that it was released in 2009. Mojang is adding many updates to the game every year, fixing bugs and adding new items and animals. If there was anything I would change about the game, it would be for it to have better graphics and for a way to recover what you lost when you die in lava (in survival). Even though the game itself is relatively old, many people (including me) still play it.

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane

 

Dear Kate DiCamillo,

 

    Most books I’ve read are just finished and forgotten. Your book showed me a new perspective. I have many differences with Edward, but also many similarities. After a long journey, Edward finally realizes how lucky he was before he fell in the ocean. After moving to a wealthy neighborhood, I realize how lucky I am.

Edward has tragedy after tragedy happen to him and his mind keeps changing. Even though I don’t have tragedies happen to me, I still changed. Maybe if Edward wasn’t thrown off a boat, he would never learn to appreciate what he had. I used to have a friend in my old neighborhood. After I moved away, we grew farther and farther apart. After reading your book, I learned to appreciate things that you have while you still have them.  Every time Edward moves to a new place, he loses things he had, but also gains things from his new owners. He learns to appreciate what he has while he still has it. Reading your book changed the way I look at things now. Eventually, Edward gets back to his old owners and they don’t recognize him. He thinks differently about everything he does after his journey.

I think if I hadn’t read your book, I wouldn’t know what the world looked like in a different perspective.

Sincerely,

 

Joseph Zhang, 5th Grade

Refugee by Alan Gratz Letter

Dear Mrs.Washburn (my teacher),

    Hi! How are you doing? I am doing well. I have just finished the book Refugee by Alan Gratz. My favorite character is Josef, not because we have the same name, but because of how interesting his background was and what kind of person he was. He showed bravery by speaking up when the other mutineers were giving in. He also slapped his father even though he didn’t want to so he would be quiet when the doctor inspected him. If I didn’t know how old he was, I would think he was an adult.

   

       When Josef went into the “German” part of the train, I knew things were not going to end well. He got caught by a Hitler youth, a person sworn to live and die for Hitler, but got lucky because the boy still had a sliver of good in him and let Josef off with no more than a warning. Although it was tempting to see how people would treat him if he wasn’t a Jew, it still wasn’t wise for Josef to go to the German part of the train because he could have been caught by someone less forgiving and gotten his family thrown off the train because he was being selfish. Later in the book when he agreed to storm the captain, Josef wasn’t open-minded enough to see that there wasn’t anybody to drive the boat if they held the captain hostage. When his fellow mutineers decided to give in, he still stayed angry, even if the captain wasn’t bringing them back to Germany. One event that changed Josef was slapping his father in the face. When Josef slapped his father he saved his life, but not without changing their relationship. Afterward, his father feels betrayed because the Germans came and ransacked their room, even though Josef says that if he stayed still, the Germans would leave him alone. After being accused of lying by his father, Josef feels guilty that he ever brought back memories of the concentration camp back to his father.

       

        One theme I observed in the book is “What you do affects others more than you think”. Examples of this are when the Hitler youth on the train lets Josef leave without punishment. To him, it is just an act of kindness, but to Josef, it could mean the difference between life and death for him and his family. When the people in the boat rushed past Mahmoud (a refugee from Syria), he pleaded them to take his mom’s baby so she wouldn’t drown. Reluctantly, they eventually accepted the baby. Although there has to be someone to take care of the baby, her mom is in no condition to take care of her. By accepting the baby, they might have just saved her life if the waters became too dangerous. Lito, the policeman who rescued Josef’s father risked his own life for somebody who didn’t want theirs. If Josef’s father hadn’t jumped, he might not have had to risk his life. If Josef’s father had gotten killed, the entire ship (except for some of the crew) would be in a sour mood. Josef’s father is like the domino that could knock over the entire line with one mishap.

       

        I feel that refugees are overlooked, even if they are in plain sight. Most refugees stay in camps for years, even decades just to be accepted into a new country. It is my responsibility to help refugees who need food or clothing. Austin can help with the refugee crisis by accepting refugees and starting programs that provide refugees with food, water, and shelter. Our government is also capable of helping refugees by allowing them into our country. If everybody does these things, we can help refugees begone. From reading this novel, I opened my eyes to the life of refugees, hiding and running in fear. Everybody deserves human rights, regardless of their differences. I also learned about many cases of refugees that are similar and different in many different ways. I would recommend this book to others because other than being a good book, it teaches you about what it is like being a refugee and the different cultures of different people.

       

       This book showed me a new way to look at not just refugees, but everybody that feels out of place and needs something they don’t have.

                                                              From,

                                                                    Joseph Zhang


 

The Creature

Boom! The thunder reverberates through your skull. The rain patters on your neck and down your shirt, freezing your bones. The trees’ branches reach for you as you fly through the thick foliage. You can hear the heavy breathing of whatever is chasing you. As you run, you hear it’s feet snapping branches that you were lucky enough not to trip on. You see a field with tall grass in the distance. You scrape up whatever energy you have left and force yourself to reach the grass. As you hunker down into the grass, hoping not to be spotted, you finally catch a glimpse of the creature chasing you. It looks around for a moment and sniffs the air. You hold your breath and hope you didn’t eat garlic that day. As the creature approaches you, you hear it’s heavy feet landing on the rocks, causing its claws to clack. You can almost see the rancid smell of the creature’s breath. It’s hot breath and water drips onto your neck, making the hairs stick up. You finally can’t hold your breathe in any longer and slowly crawl away. The creature behind you growls and you feel it tense its body like a rubber band. It pounces and you bolt.

Chocolate Milk Letter

Dear Mrs. Phelps (my principal),

My name is Joseph Zhang. You came to our classroom to explain the problem with chocolate milk. You said that chocolate milk was going to be discontinued at Barton Creek Elementary. You asked us what we thought of the problem and asked us to write to the school board what we thought. I believe that chocolate milk shouldn’t be discontinued because of how all the good things in it outweigh the bad. It contains all of the essential nutrients that kids need to grow. Also, many kids like the flavor of chocolate milk. Chocolate milk does not have as much added sugar as many people think


One reason that chocolate milk shouldn’t be abolished is because it also has the essential nutrients in white milk that kids need to grow. One cup of TruMoo chocolate milk contains as much calcium as 5 cups of broccoli, which helps children build a strong skeleton. It also contains as much potassium as a small banana. Potassium lowers blood pressure. Also, a cup of TruMoo chocolate milk has as much vitamin A and D as 2 baby carrots and 3.5 ounces of cooked salmon. Vitamin A is a vitamin that strengthens your immune system so you wont get sick as easily. It also improves the health of you bones and teeth. Vitamin D is a vitamin that can be produced in your body when you’re exposed to the sun, or in this case, chocolate milk.


Although many websites say that chocolate milk causes obesity, it can be easily avoided by only serving 2% chocolate milk at school. Chocolate milk shouldn’t be stopped is because it‘s a creamy chocolat-ey flavor that everyone loves. Studies show that children that drink chocolate milk aren’t necessarily heavier than white milk drinkers. Also, chocolate milk drinkers take in more essential nutrients than white milk drinkers. Chocolate milk also helps kids age 5-15 build a better quality diet.

 

Many critics claim that chocolate milk contains way too much sugar. While it might be true with some brands, chocolate milk does not have as much sugar as many people think. One 8 ounce serving of TruMoo chocolate milk only contains 1.5 teaspoons of added sugars. These extra calories can be easily burned off. Many companies claim that chocolate milk is the best recovery drink. I agree for many reasons. After a tiring swim practice, I always have a bottle of chocolate milk to refresh me. I have tried other things such as water, white milk and sports drinks, but chocolate milk is evidently the best recovery drink out there. The facts behind the drink are almost unbelievable. Compared to white milk, chocolate milk has twice as much carbohydrates and protein, making it the perfect recovery drink. Our lunch is after specials, so if we had PE, we could just buy a bottle of chocolate milk to replenish our tired muscles. If chocolate milk was removed, children would be more tired throughout the rest of the day after PE. They could drink other things, but none of the other drinks will re-energize them as much as chocolate milk.

 

Having chocolate milk at school is not just important for the kids. All milk productions will decrease by 10% just by removing chocolate milk from schools. Studies show that in schools that removed chocolate milk, the kids mostly bought white milk, but not drink it or bring their own chocolate milk. Chocolate milk has to stay! Thank you for reading my opinion on this problem.

 

Sincerely,

Joseph Zhang

 

The Ski Trip

It seemed like every other car trip. We drove off in our rental car for a very long time. We were going to Colorado for a ski trip. The drive was 11 hours to Winter Park, Colorado. We were staying in a rental home with another family. We would drive to the mountain every day and meet our other friends there. On the drive to the rental home, my brother and I built a bed in the car trunk. It was actually all of our luggage under a couple thick blankets with a couple pillows on top. At the gas stations, we would stay in the back of the car and play card games. After going to the bathroom, I fell asleep. I was awoken by my brother putting his icy pillow on my face.

We only had about 3 hours left to drive. My brother begged my mom to let him play on the iPad we brought, and she finally agreed to let him play. We took turns playing a game called Geometry Dash. Later, he fell asleep and I started playing on the Ipad by myself. After half an hour, my mom decided that I should stop playing. I decided to play a trick on my brother. I took one of the bottles of frozen water and sort of froze my pillow. Then, I put it on the ice cold pillow to make it stiff and cold. After I made sure that my brother was asleep, I smashed the pillow in his face. He looked like he was having a spaz attack. When he found out what I did, he slugged me in the shoulder. I decided not to do that again.

By the time we got to the rental house, the other family was already there. We were on the second floor. After we got all of our luggage settled in, we went to the ski and snowboard rental shop to get my snowboard. It was going to be the first time that I went snowboarding. We drove 10 minutes to the mountain and picked up the tags that we ordered online. I got on my snowboard and fell down. I slid to the least steep slope and went up the lift. The lift had rubber strips which were used as grips. I went to the top and strapped my other foot onto the snowboard. I took a deep breath and slid down the slope. Even though the slope was tiny, the snowboard went insanely fast. Maybe I should’ve learned how to stop before that. I crashed into the fence at full speed, creating a snow explosion. After a few more failed attempts, I went back to the cafeteria.

We would always sort of set up at the cafeteria and we would put all of our equipment and snacks there. I met one of my other friends named Sonny. He asked me if I wanted to go snowboarding with him. I wanted to, but I didn’t know how to snowboard yet. I asked if he would teach me and he seemed surprised, but he said yes. We went up the biggest lift all the way up to the top. I have to admit, I felt a little nervous going up the biggest lift without knowing how to stop.

We both got to the top of the mountain and he took a selfie of us. We first went down the greens, which are the easiest. He said that to stop, you swing your front leg back and make the angle of your snowboard to the slope acute. The back edge of your snowboard should be digging into the snow to slow you down. I inched down the slope and Sonny had to probably wait for me 10 times. When we go to the bottom, Sonny asked me if I wanted a challenge. Now that I finished the greens, I felt ready to take on anything.

So, we went back up to the top of the mountain and he said that he wanted to teach me how to do moguls. Moguls are basically large bumps in the snow that speed you up if you go over, and slow you down if you go between them. The current slope that we were going on was called “Outhouse.” Sonny taught me to sit down if I was tired and to go through the moguls unless you want to go uncontrollably fast. My brother was too lazy to teach me how to snowboard. He came speeding down the mountain, over the moguls like a madman. My friend Sonny helped me finish the whole slope, inch, by inch, by inch. When I got to the bottom of the slope, my legs felt like spaghetti. Sonny waited with me at the bottom patiently. After I could stand up, Sonny said this is the fun part. He took off his snowboard and sat on it like a sled. We went down a very small slope, but my snowboard was too slippery.

I managed to jump off before the board sailed off the edge of a cliff. I didn’t want to have to tell the people who rented it to us what happened, so I went after it. Bad idea. The snow where my board got stuck was very soft, so I couldn’t just jump out. After a couple minutes, I started panicking. I tried shoving my board out, but the cliff was too deep. I tried making holes in the cliff side as footholds and handholds, but whenever I got on one, it would just fall apart. The more I struggled, the deeper I got. I decided on holding my board in the air so that if someone saw it, they would see me. By the time I got my board in the air, a snowmobile had already passed. I saw an occasional person pass, but none of them saw me. I looked down at the land under me. There was no sign of civilization. I was stuck. Now I really started freaking out. I would yell at anybody passing, but none of them went slow enough to hear or see me. I started feeling sleepy and tired. I felt like I was going to die.

Finally, after what felt like a day, a skier heard me yelling on the side. She looked like she just saw a ghost. She helped me out by first grabbing by the board out. Then, she had me grab onto her ski pole and pulled me out as hard as she could. I slowly got lifted out an inch, by inch. When I got out, I was covered head to toe in snow. I thanked the woman one more time and went off, this time, standing on my board.

After a couple of minutes, I saw a couple of people sitting on the side of the slope. I suddenly tripped on a chunk of ice on the slope. When I got back up, the people sitting down were moving towards me. As I looked closer, I noticed that the people were actually my friend Sonny, and my brother. They were waiting for me the whole time. Actually, my brother wanted to leave, but Sonny made him wait for me. They said that they were really worried, but I could tell my brother was really annoyed that he had to wait for me. He probably would have said that he could have gone up and down ten times in the time that he waited for me. I told them the story of me flying off a cliff after a snowboard. While they were waiting, they saw me coming down the corner covered in snow, but they didn’t know it was me. When I tripped, my brother said,“ Yeah, that’s him.” We made our way to the cafeteria, and I cleaned myself there. They took off my jacket and smashed it against a table. The ice flew off and we chucked the ice outside. I decided to take a break from snowboarding for a while.

We bought a couple of bottles of soda and mixed it with the clean snow outside and sold it to people passing by. Everytime that we sold a cup, we made a little profit. Then, we spent the income that we made on more bottles of soda and repeated the process until we made $20. We spent it all on candy and shared it with each other. I decided to go back up the mountain. We went back up the lift and went down all of the hardest slopes there were. We tried to fit as much fun as possible before the park closed. We finally had to go back to the home, but not before dinner. We went to an Irish restaurant and ordered our food. While we waited, we played games on Sonny’s phone. I ordered a shepherd’s pie. It was the best shepherd’s pie that I have ever eaten. Then, we said goodbye to Sonny and went back to the rental home. At home, my dad got the electric fire up and going. We watched movie after movie until we fell asleep.

The next day came by faster than you could say, “Where did the snow go?” After the day, Sonny came over to our home, and we built a snowman. It was more like a big lump of snow with an icicle as a nose and a couple sticks as eyes. I accidentally put the eyes on the snowman too low so it’s face looked deformed. Then, we took a shower inside and built a massive fort on the sofa. The next day, we had to leave. I felt like the trip passed by way too fast. We said goodbye to all of our friends and hit the road. I thought about the ski trip. All of the good things and bad things.

We drove for another couple of hours and met up with all of our friends at a hotel. We played games all night and ran around until our neighbors told us to be quiet. We all went to sleep, each of us in our own dream. The next day we ate breakfast and left. I also hoped that there wouldn’t be a blizzard like last time we went skiing. There wasn’t any gas at the gas stations so we couldn’t waste the gas on AC. I stayed up all night in my ski clothes to keep warm. Luckily, that didn’t happen and we got home safely. I couldn’t have been more happy about being at home. I realized that I was being a lot more cautious after I fell off the cliff. It may be that I didn’t want that to happen again. Maybe if I didn’t trust Sonny’s judgment more than my own, I wouldn’t have flown off the cliff. But either way, I learned that sometimes you just have to go with your gut!

Snagged

 

             Life is like fishing, you never know what you will get. We were driving out to the pond for a fishing trip. It was scorching outside, the AC wasn’t working and the road/dirt path we were driving on was covered in holes. When we got out of the car, the summer sun and the rancid smell of fish slapped us across our faces. My dad got out the fishing poles, and we walked down to the dock. We set up the lures and bait and started casting our lines. Everywhere around us, people were dragging in fish after fish. Every time someone pulled in a fish, I knew it was one less for us. Why were all the fish avoiding us? Minutes became hours. Time was slipping away, but I wasn’t leaving without a fish.

            My dad decided to let us reel in the next fish he caught. In no time, he handed my brother and me the rod and told us to check what was on the line. At first, we couldn’t pull the line free of whatever was on the end. Everybody thought it was snagged, but after a couple of seconds, we sensed a change in whatever was on the end of our line. We jerked back the pole to make sure that there was something on the end and started the fight. I was trying to reel in a fish the size of a truck. People were gathering around us like moths to a flame. I would pull the rod back and my brother would reel it in as the rod lowered, the perfect machine. The tip of the rod was in sync with the head shakes of the fish. At that moment, time seemed to slow down. Everything around us blurred to a stop and there was nothing but us with the fish.

          CRACK! The rod snapped. Why now, when the fight was almost over? Luckily, a person standing next to the rod managed to snatch it before it fell into the water. In the confusion, the line slacked and the fish set off on a run like its tail was on fire. We lost almost an hour of work in those crucial seconds. After what seemed like forever, we finally managed to see the fish; a blob of silver against the murky cold water around it. We pulled it up and saw something strange. When we set the hook, the lure somehow managed to catch the fish by the tail. If we had let it run a little longer, it may have been able to rip its tail free of the hook.

             After this incident, every time I would think of whining about how long a line was, or how boring an activity is, I would think about this moment. Most times, the best experiences in life take patience but pay off in more ways than you might imagine.