Monday, June 30, 2014

Friend of the Court - Studying Abroad

So, from the people at the Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast, I learned of the Judge John Hodgeman podcast, in which people present their arguments to, well, John Hodgeman for resolution.  I found one episode about a guy who wanted to go abroad for university and ultimately, he thought, to live, but his brother thought that was a lot of distance and money to put toward something that may not be to his liking after all.  Ultimately the brothers were both happy with the outcome, so while I am not really quibbling with the decision, I wanted to present some points on behalf of folks who have dreams of going away to school. 
In the interest of disclosure, I went to the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, sight pretty much unseen.  It was not the only university I applied to, and it was not the only one I applied to I hadn't visited.  I was a DC resident, and, at the time, had no real state options (DC residents now have some refund options that return the difference between in and out of state tuition).  It was not the cheapest place I applied (there was Air Force Academy), but it was well in the middle.  I had watched video footage of the place, talked to recruiters (who, yes, have a bias), and I had traveled to other countries before.
Here are things that I can tell you.  College is a big deal.  It's a big change.  The bureaucracy always functions a little differently than you expect, the people are different, and to me it seemed immediately clear that I was expected to be quite a bit more in charge of myself.  This is going to be true no matter where you go. 
As I didn't end up attending anywhere I had visited, I can't speak to how much that would have helped.  St. Andrews provided an orientation for overseas students, there was also a week of intro to things like clubs and classes and such, so I felt pretty eased into the process.  I was in a small dorm where by the end of a few weeks I knew everyone's name, and I think that helped.  Another US student from near me, had taken his brother's advice to pick the dorm nearest his classes, which had a different vibe and he found his experience ultimately unsatisfying and transferred to a US college at the end of the year. 
But, I think that's pretty true of a lot of students.  It's hard to pick based on visits, or websites, or glossy brochures.  Sometimes you will pick well.  Sometimes you will decide to adapt or make it work.  And sometimes, you will find a better fit elsewhere. 
The podcast folks seemed particularly amazed at the idea that anyone would go so far to a place they'd never been for university.  And, I see what they were saying.  And the guy is a junior in high school so had time to possibly make some money to put towards a visit.  I don't mean to suggest that visiting is a bad idea.  But if he wanted to go to Florida for university I feel like no one would worry so much that he had no idea what he was getting into.  And yes, a different country is different.  More distance is different.  I had another classmate who ultimately took St. Andrews off her list, because she wanted to be able to get home in less than a day.
But, one friend of mine spent a lot of time being asked to provide cultural education to her classmate who was from a town about an our away from the university she attended, and so, he had never talked to a person of color before.  So, it isn't just distance that provides different experiences.  It isn't just the size of the town you are from or go to. 
Now sure, some people go to the same college that half their high school class goes to, and room with people they already know, and take classes with people they already know. So, the different-ness of college is muted a bit for them.  But college still is different.  I had the realization that none of these people knew who I had been in college and found that amazing.  It was true of teachers and professors as well as fellow students.  Had I gone somewhere I knew more people, that still would have held some truth. Teachers and professors don't get copies of the yearbook so they can figure out who their students used to be.  And even if half your high school class is there, there will still be new people and new experiences.  After all, that's the point. 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Three Interesting Things

1. I found this post about craft diversity being like crop rotation interesting, partly because it suggests that such diversity is not (just) a case of the ooh shinies, but a helpful process of stimulating different parts of the brain.
2. I think a lot of people get scared of social media, or dive in and use it one way, without examining any of the social norms involved.  So, while I don't think I'll start using this methodology, this post about using Instagram 'like a teen' was interesting.
3. I'm happy to hear the teen charged with a felony for testing a possible science project graduated (as did her twin) and is off to college.  Hopefully, her arrest record will eventually be expunged. 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Delirium Pilot, Pacing and Other Things

I had read Lauren Oliver's Delirium and liked it.  It was hard though, I loved Before I Fall so very much, and obviously, Delirium exists in a very different world.  I was getting to a bit of dytopian ennui, and the world building necessary for a dystopian can often drag down the pacing and I find myself pretty impatient with slower paced things these days.  So, part of what I was curious about was, would a TV version move faster than that. 
Short answer - oh yeah.  Longer answer, obviously a TV show is focused on a longer arc than a trilogy. So, the pilot episode burns through the highlights of the first book, and also introduces other characters (who I assume appear later, at least some of them).  This is partly because it's much easier to demonstrate the bigger political picture by actually showing you some of the people who might wish to keep the status quo. 
Judging a TV show from a pilot is often like judging a book by it's first chapter - you have a sense probably if it entertained you and if the storytellers seem to be setting up for your kind of story, but it's hard to tell more, sometimes.  I ultimately enjoyed the pilot and will definitely be looking for more episodes. 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Three Interesting Things

1. My lovey chaptermate Kimberly McCarron has a big rant about the "You complete me" line.  You know I love a good rant.
2.  I found this post on why traditional journalism may be failing to find or retain an audience made some interesting points.
3. And if you are somewhere that video watching can occur, this video featuring Bert from "Sesame Street" and Zachary Levi about going outside is quite fun.

Monday, June 16, 2014

A True Allegory

The other day I was walking behind a guy who had money - like actual dollars poking out of his pocket.  I could only see ones, but it looked like there might be more in the pocket.
So, I did not assume that this guy was wearing jeans with a back pocket to draw attention to his rear. 
I did not assume that in case the pockets did not do the trick, the money was there to draw further attention. 
I did not think that since the money was just poking out there for anyone to see, that it would be acceptable or even legal behavior for me to take said money. 
Instead, I left it and him alone. 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Three Interesting Things

1. So, a Florida school removed Cory Doctorow's book from the summer reading program (after, I might mention, the librarian and English teacher had planned several fall programs around it), and well, Doctorow sent 200 copies, plus I hear there's a free download.
2. So, you could buy a prom dress at a store. (I certainly did.)  Or, you could buy a plain dress and paint it to look like a Van Gogh painting perhaps.
3. One teen set up an anonymous twitter account to send compliments to fellow school goers. She allowed her identity to be revealed at graduation, and she has apparently handed the account over to someone who will continue it next year.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Reading is the Point, After All

I'm not sure why this even needs to be said, but the recent spate of articles suggests that it might.  I refuse to link to what I readily admit is likely clickbait, but suffice it to say, in recent weeks, those who read and write romance, and adults who dare to read YA, read comics, read sci fi and yes, even Pulitzer Prize winners, have all been told they should be ashamed and that they are not reaching as high as they ought to, by choosing to read things that may end happily and therefore provide nothing enlightening or edifying. 
This bothers me on so many levels it's hard to think straight, but I shall try. 
1. Reading is good for you.  There are lots of studies about readers being more empathetic, better wage earners, more aware of the world, etc.  As far as I'm aware, this is true whether you read Pulitzer Prize winners, Rita award winners, Newberry winners, or things that have never won awards. 
2. Reading is not vegetables.  The point of reading for pleasure, is, well, pleasure. If reading about people in war-torn countries or robot invasions makes you happy (or interests you) do that.  If you want to read about people falling in love, do that.  If you want to read about serial killers do that.  If you want to read about teenagers, do that. 
3. Generalizing about any category or genre of fiction is almost always a losing battle.  Sure, I understand that journalists have space constraints and time constraints.  A little simplification is bound to happen.  But, if you try to tell me that all YA novels end simplistically and happily, I know you haven't read many.  Or read with the intention of proving your pre-determined point.  And yes, by definition romance novels, and mystery novels provide, going in, a certain promise of resolution.  However, the journey is different each time.  Some may seem predictable, many aren't.  And if you try to tell me they are all the same, then, again, I know you haven't read many.
4. But let's pretend, for a moment, that people these days are reading books in great numbers.  (Oh, wouldn't that be lovely.)  But that everyone (whoever everyone is) was only reading things that had happy endings.  So what?  Why is that a problem?  There often seems to be a concern that readers will start expecting life to work like books do, they will start expecting shirtless men to sweep them off their feet, or expect that a kindly wizard will tell them an ancient prophecy indicates that they must save the world.  But I haven't seen any evidence that people have been waiting on street corners for these things to happen.  Just like I haven't seen that reading about death, despair, illness or abuse leads people to expect only the worst of humanity.
5. This is just my theorizing, but, hey, maybe people like books that promise a certain type of ending because real life often lacks the type of narrative closure you can sometimes count on books to provide. 
6. The other assertion I saw floating out there in the void is that reading isn't the whole point.  Only reading things that enlighten and educate you will make you stronger.  (Insert big grunt here!) Maybe this is so. But that assumes that the same kinds of books are enlightening and educating to all people.  Or that genre fiction, or fiction designed for younger readers cannot also be enlightening and educational.  I tend to stand on the side of reading anything is great, but even if it's not (I have seen no evidence of this) eliminating whole categories of books as bad for you seems ridiculous.  Remember, in it's time, Shakespeare was analogous to "General Hospital".  (Note: I am not at all suggesting there is anything wrong with "General Hospital".)
7. People tend to assume that adults who read YA are doing so out of nostalgia for the time period.  I have the utmost respect for teenagers, but there is not enough money in the world to make me be a teenager again.  I certainly did not have a tragic teenage experience, but no.  Hell to the no.  For me, YA books appeal because of the immediacy - both in their often speedy pacing, and because teenagers feel so deeply about things.  Reading about that time I get to relive it and then put the book down and return to my adult life. 
8. The thing people tend to forget about genre fiction readers - is that a lot of the readers within are super readers.  The average reader in the US reads about 5 books a year. (And remember, that excludes the folks who didn't read a book at all.)  Certainly the online reader community is skewed towards super readers, but the folks I know reading YA and romance are reading at much higher rates.  So rather than trying to shame them about their reading choices, I think they should be lauded.  (And not just because I happen to be one of them.) 
9.  Read at whim.  I saw this mentioned by several people on social media, and managed to track down the source.  From an essay in a collections about liberal arts for Christians, Alan Jacobs talks about reading widely, and concludes: "Reading for the sheer delight of it—reading at whim—is therefore
one of the most important kinds of reading there is. By all means strive to be a better reader, to grow in attentiveness, responsiveness, and charity; but whatever you do, don't forget to allow yourself to have fun." I couldn't have said it better myself.

Monday, June 09, 2014

Limping and Otherwise Slow-walking

Due to a series, or well, two, unfortunate and unrelated events, I've had the opportunity to spend a lot of time moving more slowly.  I tripped and injured my foot, which was a fairly invisible injury.  (Yes, I can hear my friends interjecting that my foot swelled and was fun bruisey colors, and I kept the toes wrapped for some time, but unless you looked closely at my shoes it was not super obvious.)  Next, I injured my knee in such a manner as to require a knee immobilizer, a lovely contraption that basically runs from just above the ankle to almost embarrassingly high on the thigh.  Now, in addition to more obvious limping, there was a more obvious cause to my slow pace.  Interestingly, people seem much more accommodating when they can see the reason for your slow pace which is a weird combination of lovely and sometimes over-protective.  (I should probably mention that I am terrible about asking for help, so my over-protective might resemble someone else's helpful.) 
It has also led to strangers feeling a greater need to comment and either give me advice, ir inquire how to avoid such a similar state for themselves.  I recognize that I am often endlessly curious and sometimes overbearing in my need to give advice, it can be a natural human response to try to both sympathize and fix people.  So, I share this understanding that most of it comes from a place of good. 
Things people say to the limping lady:
-And I thought I was slow.  (Slow-walking elderly lady, said with a smile.)
-My doctor told me to keep my knee flexed rather than straight.  (I gently responded that my doctor had advised me to keep my leg straight.) 
-Don't get a speeding ticket! (Knee-slapping gentleman.)
-Did that hurt? (A surprising number of people.)
-Oh, my.  I hope it gets better. (Also a number of people.)
-If you were mine I would carry you.  (Stranger on street.)
-Mom! Mom! Look at that lady! (Several understandably curious children.)
-I could take you home and give you a foot massage.  (Stranger on street.) 
-It will get better.  (Neighbor.)
-Hey, brace lady.  What did you do? (Neighbor wearing a similar knee brace.)

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Three Interesting Things

1. If you have missed my book rants about stupidly written sex scenes (spate of good reading lately, what can I say) - Wendy the Super Librarian has got one for you.  Sad, since it's an amnesia plot and I do love me an amnesia plot. 
2. Another week and someone wrote something stupid about romance.  (Actually there's been a few.  Actually it doesn't matter.  And to clarify, it's not stupid because I disagree with it, people can disagree with me smartly.) But, this article, talks a little about romance ending up as an easy target and notes that things like sports fandom often do not. 
3. It turns out that microbeads are often made of things that don't properly decompose, although there is some movement towards addressing that.

Monday, June 02, 2014

In Defense of Blondes

I confess that "Legally Blonde" and "Clueless" are two movies I love so much that I consider the mere knowledge that they are playing somewhere on TV an order to plunk down and watch them.  (See also "Bring it On".)  But I feel like there is a fundamental misunderstanding on the part of some people as to what these movies are about. 
Some people seem to think these movies are about ditzes or bimbos who triumph over people who think they are smarter.  When, in my opinion, these movies are about people who focused their energies on specific things - be it money, clothes, boyfriends, or meddling - and then, made a decision to re-focus their energies.  Elle doesn't manage to get into law school due to luck (I mean, okay, there was a little luck, and a little movie magic in getting into a school when acceptance letters had already gone out). Elle, as she says, has a high GPA.  Yes, it's in fashion merchandising, but that's because her original life plan was to get married and help the world be beautiful.  When Warner shows her that people don't take her seriously because she's pretty, she decides to prove she knows how to be serious by his definition.  And yes, in the end Elle's knowledge of hair care (and of who would be more likely to recognize her shoes) helps crack the case, but Elle had already figured out that the law had it's uses when she was able to help Pauline get her dog back from her ex-boyfriend. 
Similarly, yes, Cher decides to try to pay attention to world news when she realizes she has a thing for Josh, but she also had been getting good grades previously, although in her case, by bargaining her way into them.  Now, sure, Cher lacks self awareness, and has moments of selfishness and narcissism,  but none of this is because she's not smart enough to think big.  We could argue (debate, even) over the efficiency of Cher's process of pulling average grades and bargaining up versus studying a little harder, but she's found a way to her goal.  (And I say this having rolled my eyes repeatedly in biology class over the classmates who argued every point on every test.) Now Cher does learn to think outside herself and to help others without expecting satisfaction of seeing people take her advice, but again, this is Cher gaining wisdom about the world, not intelligence. 
Both "Legally Blonde" and "Clueless" play on the expectations that people have of blonde females, and both blondes are also not hurting for money and seem to have experienced minimal adversity in their lives so far.  But it saddens me when people tell me that "Legally Blonde" is about a ditz who snuck her way into law school, or suggest that "Clueless" is about a girl too stupid to understand immigration reform.  Both movies are about young women who demonstrate that with optimism and determination you can exceed the expectations that people have for you.