Book 32-35: Red Star Rogue (by Clint Richmond and Kenneth Sewell)

Book # 32-35                                    Words:  Approx. 210,000 words                                              Date: May 2015


Title: Red Star Rogue                                                                  Author: Clint Richmond and Kenneth Sewell                                 


Genre ~ Non-Fiction (the book advertises itself as non-fiction but after research might be fiction)          



  • Opening Sentence:

In the dark hours of March 7, 1968, a lone submarine slowly prowled the surface in open waters of the North Pacific.

  • Favourite word / phrase / sentence:
  • “The coat was much too large for his slight frame, and he was much too young to have attained that rank entitling him to wear the storm raglan coat, quilted pants, and expensive lined boots of a fleet officer.” (interesting inference)
  • “This single event set off an arms race that would ultimately break the bank in the Soviet Union, as Moscow desperately tried to keep up with the West.” (referring to the part that the Americans were able to launch missiles completely submerged)
  • “A war weary, lame-duck Johnson administration had little time left in office to deal with the implications of an attempted rogue attack on a major American city.”
  • “One name seems to surface each time some new dastardly deed is revealed about the Kremlin during that era. Although rarely in the forefront of the leadership, over the years this man was linked to every coup d’etat, purge, or liquidation. And he always seemed to have access to both the man power and the tools necessary for special projects of the darker kind.”




  • Vocabulary and new terms (with part of speech) and definition:
  • eminence (n.): fame or acknowledged superiority within a particular sphere.
  • pragmatic (adj.): dealing with things sensibly and realistically in a way that is based on practical rather than theoretical considerations.
  • sardonic (adj.): grimly mocking or cynical




  • Reflection, Connection & Personal Response:
  • After reading the book, I had a few questions about the factual accuracy of the book as some of the theories that were proposed by the author seemed quite far fetched and away from common sense. Therefore, I decided to go online to look at related unclassified CIA documents about this incident. I managed to identify a few discrepancies in the book when compared to the CIA material. For example, the author places the location of the submarine at around 350 miles away from Hawaii, whereas CIA documents indicated that the submarine was some 1800 miles away, which was out of the missile range on board the submarine whose captain purportedly wished to launch. Additionally, the authors appear to have gained much of the evidence about the submarine from former officers of the Soviet Navy and leaders within the Soviet party. However, I noticed that they were crudely referenced and that made me doubt the credibility of the information as the book was not using well documented facts and questionable sources.   Moreover, the book talks about two high level Russian party members, who are named, Suslov and Andropov. I couldn’t understand why these two still remained in power after such a disastrous plot took place, which suggests that those two were not actually in control and the whole story of the book is a hoax. Furthermore, the book states that an American submarine was trailing the Soviet submarine in question and was recording its acoustic signature for the American Navy Cray Database. However, the Cray Database was built in 1976 and this incident took place in 1968. Alternatively, the author claims that Soviet submarines were timed to sail in order to avoid the photo satellites that the US had. This completely undermines the credibility of the factual information in the book and has led me to conclude that this book is based mostly off of conjectures and speculations, which makes for an interesting fiction read but other readers should definitely not take it as a nonfiction book.

Book 28-31: The Autobiography of Malcolm X

   Book #  28-30                                   Words: Approx. 200k                                               Date: March 2015


Title: The Autobiography of Malcolm X                                            Author:  Malcolm X


Genre ~ Non-Fiction                                                             Type: Autobiography       



  • Opening Sentence:
  • The Sunday before he was to officially announce his rupture with Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm X came to my home to discuss his plans and give me some necessary documentation.


  • Favourite word / phrase / sentence:

I have never before seen sincere and true brotherhood practiced by all colors together, irrespective of their color.” (said by Malcolm X)

I am not a racist in any form whatever. I don’t believe in any form of racism. I don’t believe in any form of discrimination or segregation. I believe in Islam.” (said by Malcolm X)



  • Vocabulary and new terms (with part of speech) and definition:

-mulatto (n.): the offspring of a white and black parents

-connoisseur (n.): an expert that is able to appreciate a field.

-uncouth (adj.): lacking refinement or taste

-decorous (adj.): keeping in good taste

-virile (adj.): having strength and energy

-tutelage (n.): teaching pupils individually

-extemporaneous (adj.): impromptu



  • Reflection, Connection & Personal Response:
  • I originally started reading this book because I wanted to know more about the Black civil rights movement in America. Normally, I would only hear about things from MLK Jr. and only see his point of view. Therefore, I thought it was interesting to see the movement through Malcolm X’s perspective, as he had a different set of values than MLK. First of all, this book is very informative as it goes through all of the phases of Malcolm’s life and the reader to analyze how each phase affected his morals for his actions in the later years of his life. Another reason why I chose this book is because of the complexity of Malcolm’s character, which I found interesting as he is one of the most misunderstood characters in American history. Even though this book is written by Alex Haley, I found that he wrote with unprecedented accuracy and transmitted Malcolm’s thoughts and actions very realistically. After reading this book, I realized that the valley between Malcolm and the Nation of Islam was a great tragedy as the Nation brought Malcolm’s life to an abrupt end just as he was perceiving his real purpose. A few things that I felt was interesting about Malcolm X’s life was his unrelenting hatred for the “white devil”. Even though I disagree with his violent ways to solve the issue, I admire his persistence and initiative to do so.

Web Publishing Reflection – Project 1 (May 14, 2015)

Project 1 Reflection-

This project allowed me to combine and learn many new skills in different softwares, such as Photoshop, Dreamweaver and iPhoto. It also showed me what I could possibly do in the future with this suite of programs. Overall, I felt the project went smoothly as I figured out what I was designing right from the beginning and I didn’t have to restart during the middle of the project. I learned how to utilize functions such as the “AP Div” in Dreamweaver to insert various elements such as scrollable screens as well as Youtube videos. However, I still want to learn how to use languages such as HTML and CSS in order to further optimize my webpage to be more flexible with readers. For example, the current website could not adapt itself to browser sizes due to the fact that the background is an image instead of code. With that being said, I am still very glad as to how my project turned out and I also realize that more audio elements could further enhance the quality of the site. It would also make it more pleasurable for readers to view. The topic I chose this time was also novel and a very educational experience to me that could possibly benefit me in the future. With this topic, I felt that it was a challenge how to exhibit the information as it is something that I am not used to talking about.

Blog Post for Design Folder Questions (PBL 2014-2015 Energy)

Design Process:


As we have never attempted such a project of this calibre, we encountered countless hardships and challenges during the build process. For example, since we were modeling our project off of an image we found online, we quickly found that we could not get these materials in Hong Kong. Some of these materials included, the metal tubing (rails) and the spring loaded lever (to provide the initial velocity.) Furthermore, when trying to fit the raw materials together (such as the aluminium bars and the acrylic panels), we found that using the drills at home were not strong/sharp enough to go through the aluminium. Additionally, we found that we had to make many adjustments during the drilling process, which led to a decrease in the structural integrity of the model.


Cause of the difficulties:

Through this project, we realized that Hong Kong was a hard place to shop for hardware supplies as that is mostly a niche market in Hong Kong and thus there is little supply for it. Therefore, we were unable to obtain many of the special parts that were needed to form our project. In addition, the reason why we were unable to drill through the aluminum was because the drill-bits that were available to me at home were not ‘hard’ and ‘sharp’ enough to get through the aluminum accurately and efficiently. Last but not least, the imperfections that were caused by drilling was simply because we were not good at it/do not have a lot of practice with drilling.


How we overcome these difficulties:

After doing some research online, we found an online marketplace that could sell us ‘possible substitutes’ that had the similar functions to what the online picture showed. For example, instead of metal tubing for the rails, we found aluminum plates that would theoretically work just as well. This was also the case for the spring loaded lever, as we found compressed air to be a suitable substitute for the provider of initial velocity. We also managed to solve the problem of drilling the aluminum by finding machine shops in Hong Kong that had the drillbits that were hard and sharp enough to drill through them. As for the structural integrity that was compromised during drilling, we were able to find washers and nuts to hold the contraption more steadily in place.


Improvements and Alterations:

At the beginning, we bought a wooden board to place the shooting platform on. However, after hot glueing the components in place, we realized that the hot glue was not strong enough to take the ‘theoretical’ recoil from the gun. Thus, we acquired an old sturdy toolbox from Jeffrey’s house and used the original wooden board bolt down the acrylic-aluminum ‘sandwich’ in hopes that it would absorb some of the shock and provide some thermal protection to the toolbox. Furthermore, in the beginning, we were going to use a spring loaded lever to supply the initial velocity, but we realized that compressed air was easier to obtain, easier to use and was more powerful than the lever, so we opted to go with that.


What we could have done differently? (PBL Science Project 2014-2015)

Just by looking at the final product, I realized that there were so many mistakes that my partner and I made that accompanied the building process of our PBL project. These would be the things I would do different if I were to do this project again or in the future:

1) Be careful with online merchants. (Planning)

The main reason why our project failed to operate was because of the lack of charge from the capacitors that were bought online. When I contacted this merchant regarding the capacitors, he/she assured me that they could be used without charging. Therefore, I decided to go with this seller because I did not possess the equipment to charge these industrial-grade capacitors. However, when we finally mounted the capacitors to power our project, we discovered that the projectile was unable to move due to the shortage of electrical current/charge. This theory was later proved after we connected a capacitor to a voltmeter to check in class. This failure taught me to be more vigilant around online sellers as they are selling products behind a computer screen.

2) Have a contingency/backup plan ready in the event of unforeseen issues. (Planning)

Relating back to my first point, I realized that having a backup plan was essential to ensure the successful operation of our project. This is because you are unable to forecast all the issues that could occur, especially with all of the unknown variables involved and due to the lack of experience of carrying out such a plan by both of us. One major lesson that I have learned from building this project is that things are not always what you think they are/things do not always go according to plan. In the future, I also learned that under a deadline, how quickly can a backup plan be implemented is also an important factor to consider, so that when Plan A does not work, there would be no time wasted.

3) Be more aware of the logistical issues with materials. (Planning)

For a big portion of our ‘building’, we wasted a lot of precious class time by waiting for the materials to arrive, due to the fact that they were hard to acquire in Hong Kong. We did not foresee the amount of transit time for the materials to arrive. Because of the time wasted during the building process, we had a lot less time to deal with issues that we faced which translates to more problems left unsolved. I realized that this issue caused a massive “butterfly effect” that really affected the overall quality of our end product. For example, if we did not have to wait that long for our materials, we could have solved the problems such as the lack of charge in the capacitors as well as creating/executing a backup plan.

4) Get more practice with handling drills and other construction equipment. (Building)

One issue that constantly needed attention in the building process where the “lining up” of holes of the “launchpad” that we made. In the beginning, we tried to avoid as many errors by first drawing where the holes should be. During the drilling process, we found it very hard to handle the very large drill set, constantly veering to the left or the right. Thus, when finally lining up the holes at the end, we found that they did not line up at all, often with very large discrepancies. Therefore, we had to realign and re-drill the holes, which compromised the structural integrity as it gave the bolt the ability to shift when firing the projectile. This led us to conclude that more practice was needed to handle the drills “more” properly and to minimize the chance of corrections being made.

5) Be aware of the characteristics of the materials (Research & Building)

We encountered a huge setback with our building after finding our drills were unable to drill through the thick aluminium (or was impractical due to time constraints) due to the fact that the drill bits were originally designed to drill through walls and thus did not possess the hardness or sharpness to penetrate the aluminium. This issue showed that our research was inadequate to deal with this issue, as we did not evaluate the capabilities of the equipment we had. Thankfully, we managed to find a machine shop that was able to drill the holes for us, effectively mitigating the major issue. Because if that problem was not solved, then the whole project would have failed to even present.


Even with all the problems we encountered that are listed above, I felt that we were an effective and collaborative team that solved many of the major issues. Ultimately, we were still able to present our project and ideas to the class, which I (and hopefully Jeffrey) was very proud of.

PBL Energy plan for Mar. 2-6, 2015

We have already gathered the majority of our parts, and the delay is due to the lack of shipping during the days of Chinese New Year.


-Jeffrey will go to Lockhart Road to collect a big portion of the final parts.

-Research on the Information Evaluation document.


-Start building using materials obtained from the previous day.

-Discussion on the integration of other materials into the project.

-Research on the Information Evaluation document.


-Begin working on the essay and start merging various parts of my research document.

-Aluminum rails and acrylic panels should arrive by now and begin to start drilling.


-Finalising the design and begin testing over the weekends.

-Essay writing.

Book 17-18: The Maze Runner (by James Dashner)

Book #     17-18                                Words: 101182                                                Date: Dec 2014


Title: The Maze Runner                                                                  Author: James Dashner                                  


Genre ~ Fiction 



  • Opening Sentence: He began his new life standing up, surrounded by cold darkness and stale, dusty air.



  • Favourite word / phrase / sentence:




  • Vocabulary and new terms (with part of speech) and definition:
  • Reflection, Connection & Personal Response:

This book had a great hook and that took me into the story. However, this author makes a big deal of making obvious things like mysteries. For example, at one point I felt that there was going to be a major turn in the story but instead, the main character ‘suddenly’ figured out that he had to throw the ring into the mountain, which had been pretty obvious all along. Also, this author’s use of word choice was odd because at one point he described a character’s headache as “big” and “fat”. Additionally, I felt that everything “flowed” a bit too well for the main characters and it felt like the characters had nothing much to deal with.

Book 15-16: Life of Pi (by Yann Martel)

Book #                                     Words:                                                Date:


Title: Life of Pi                                                                 Author: Yann Martel                                 


Genre ~ Fiction                                                                           Type:        



  • Opening Sentence: My suffering left me sad and gloomy.


  • Favourite word / phrase / sentence:

“A good-natured smile is forever on its lips,” reported Tirler.




  • Vocabulary and new terms (with part of speech) and definition:

yogi: one who practices yoga and has achieved a high level of spiritual insight



  • Reflection, Connection & Personal Response:

This book has repeatedly been in my sights but I kept on putting it off. However, this time, someone convinced me that this was very enjoyable book and I picked it up. To be honest, for the first 100 pages, I was very into the book. But after that, the book’s plot began to become a bit too sluggish for my taste. This book was extremely realistic and I couldn’t believe that it was just a fiction story. At the end of this book, I confronted with an unanswerable question. What were the limits of faith? Why would God endanger a person like him?

Book 12-13: Columbia Disaster Report (by Columbia Accident Investigation Board)

Book #  12-13                                Words: Approx. 130000                                                Date: November 2014


Title:  Columbia Disaster Report                                                                    Author:  Columbia Accident Investigation Board                          


Genre ~ Non-Fiction                                                                                                                               Type:   Descriptive



  • Opening Sentence: 

    For all those who are inspired by flight, and for the nation where powered flight was first achieved, the year 2003 had long been anticipated as one of celebration – December 17 would mark the centennial of the day the Wright Flyer first took to the air.



  • Favourite word / phrase / sentence: 
  • Accordingly, the Board broadened its mandate at the outset to include an investigation of a wide range of historical and organizational issues, including political and budgetary considerations, compromises, and changing priorities over the life of the Space Shuttle Program.




  • Vocabulary and new terms (with part of speech) and definition:




  • Reflection, Connection & Personal Response:

Even though this was a document with no obligations to become story-like, the authors of this document reduced the vocabulary of the report therefore making everything more easy to understand, especially with all of the technicalities of the Space Shuttle Program. Additionally, this report was organised into sections that clearly outlined to the reader, allowing the reader to find their desired topic and subject. Furthermore, the document had thoughtfully put together various visuals that contributed greatly to the comprehension of this document. Last but not least, I had not previously experienced a kind of reading such as this. The overall information was novel to me; thus allowing me to pay more attention to its descriptors within the text. Collectively speaking, it was enjoyable to read and not ‘long and boring’ as I expected it to be.