Should We Focus on Reading Level?

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My friend’s like to post a lot of links to their facebook pages. Just like the last blog entry I wrote on the idea of fake geeks and whether or not the idea actually held any merit (by the way, I felt that it didn’t), I found this link on the facebook page of one of my friends. This one made my head spin and I cringed reading through the article. “Adults Should Read Adult Books” by Joel Stein is even more elitist and painfully offensive than the one on fake geeks.

Joel Stein writes about how painful it is to see adults reading texts like Harry Potter or The Hunger Games. Now, I have read the Harry Potter series. I have yet to read The Hunger Games but I do plan on doing so. In fact, I have the books sitting on my book shelf waiting to be read with all the other books that I have recently bought. Yes, I am one of those individuals with a massive book shelf and many of the books are ones I have yet to get to because I found another one that looked really good.

See, look at my crowded book shelfHowever, Joel Stein is actually not a fan of most of the books that I chose to read. In fact, I suspect that very few of the books on my shelf would be ones that he would want me to read, feeling that the rest of the texts are in fact below my reading level and intellectual level and only showing that I have no wish to obtain knowledge of any form. From my own mind, I feel that he would only be impressed by the one or two Shakespeare pieces that I have, the one collection of Chekhov plays (which I only have for theatre auditions by the way), my collection of Sherlock Holmes, my copy of Phantom of the Opera, and maybe my copies of The Three Musketeers and the two sequels that were written.

The rest of my collection (which is far far more than just this small list), includes college text books, roleplaying books, young adult fiction (The Inkheart Trilogy, The Inheritance Series, The Hunger Games Series, The Twilight Series, etc). I even have an entire shelf of kids books on the very top shelf, some I reread often because I like the book, though I will admit most are saved solely because I am looking for a job as an elementary school teacher and I wish to have good books for my students to be reading. But look at my book shelf in the picture. It is so full that I had to stack books in piles in front of books. I have since obtained far more books. When this picture was taken I had an entire shelf in my closet also overflowing with books. I still have that bookshelf that is overflowing in my closet. I have since gained a crate at the end of my bed that is also overflowing with books on roleplaying and knitting. What I’m saying here is, I am an avid reader and always will be.

However, to hear that this individual would classify my reading as proof that I was not trying to grow as an intellectual is insulting. There are plenty of texts that are not in the 3,000 years of adult texts that are intellectually stimulating (no matter what the targeted age group is). Not to mention, I will be dreadfully honest right now. Most books considered literary classics or considered as adult fiction (at least in Stein’s eyes) are books that I cannot stand. I don’t enjoy reading “The Illiad” or the “Oddessy”. I don’t enjoy reading “Everyman” or Emily Bronte. I hated reading “The Great Gatsby” and many of the other books that I read for class in both high school and college. I found them boring. I understand that books like “The Coquette” are books that show us an intellectual insight into the mindset of the time period. But I would be lying if I said that I did not want to chuck the book into a fire.

I read books because I enjoy them. I enjoy getting lost in the story. I enjoy deep characters who have personal motives that fight with their morals and their character history. I love round characters and complex plots and themes. You don’t need an adult novel to get all of this. I have found many books targeted for kids (not just adults) that provide with all the things I find fascinating and are intellectually stimulating, no matter what age group you are at.

We could start at the youngest age group and work our way older. Dr. Seuss is (reading level wise) targeted to some of the youngest kids around. With books like “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish” and “I Can Read With My Eyes Shut,” it is hard to argue that Theodor Giesel was not writing texts to further the reading level of the students. However, many of his books can be just as intellectually stimulating to the adult community as they are to the youth when one remembers many of his texts are allegories for very adult, very political situations. “The Butter Battle Book” is a political allegory for the Cold War. The Sneetches were created to discuss racisism. Gertrude McFuzz was created to show the world his opinion on body modification (to the level of plastic surgery, not just ear piercings) solely for pleasure was incredibly vain and a bad idea. Many books by Dr. Seuss were written with a message for adults in mind. Why else would “Oh The Places You’ll Go” be read to graduating high school and college students. Why else would he have been working on the manuscript that became “Hooray for Diffendoofer Day” when he died? The messages were for the adults just as much as the kids. And if anyone doubts this, just show them “The Lorax” and remind them of the “Go Green” message that is being passed around everywhere.

For a slightly older age group you have “The Phantom Tollbooth” which is a fascinating book by Norton Juster. I first read the book in 5th grade and have since reread the book almost yearly. The book is an incredible play on language as we know it. You visit the market where words are bought and created after they grew on trees. You find the characters, quite literally, eating their words. Even just opening the book to the first few pages can get an adult laughing at the clever use of language as well as getting them to think about the words they use and why they use them. For example, here is one of my favorite descriptions in the entire book:

Who could possibly have left such an enormous package and such a strange one? For, while it was not quite square, it was definitely not round, and for its size it was larger than almost any other big package of smaller dimension that he’d ever seen.

Right there is an incredible play on words. The description lets you know just how unique this package is, but just like the rest of the books, leaves so much up to the imagination. To me, I picture a package that must be bursting because it is so tightly packed (why else would it be not quite square but definitely not round). As for the size? I figure that it must be a medium size package, maybe like the one that housed the tv I have on my dresser. Far bigger than one that came in the mail, but still smaller than something that needed to be delivered from the store. All that in a description that plays on words. How can you not tell me that this description does not challenge an adult’s intellectual mind to think?

However, there are other reasons that I could argue against what Stein wrote? Let’s say that maybe he really did see an adult reading a young adult novel that is not good fiction. I will not argue that some books just aren’t good. I do not say this in terms of “I just don’t like them.” I mean in terms of, they are poorly written, have bad grammar, etc. Sometimes it exists. It is however, possible that there are still valid reasons why the individual is reading the text.

I may not be a parent yet, but when I am, I plan on reading every text that my kids read. I may not be a teacher with a job right now, but I am a teacher and I did student teach and I did read every text that we read in class as well as many of the texts that my students were reading for fun. I want to know what my kids are reading. I want to be able to discuss these books with them. I want to be able to see if the books are appropriate for my kids maturity level. These are things I want to think about in relationship to kids. I want kids reading, but there are some things that they just are not ready for. There may be some things that they need help to understand. I am not going to know how to help my kids or my students if I do not read the books that they chose.

There are so many reasons to read books and there are so many books to chose from. As for Stein being ashamed to see individuals reading, I honestly must say, if they are reading, I am happy. Too often individuals (adults included) are just enthralled with only video games, computer, internet, etc… Pick up a book and read. For those who are at lower reading levels, just the act of picking up the book to read will challenge their reading ability.

Just remember, Mr. Stein, the reasons why people might be reading it. Just because I’m not reading a copy of Time Magezine or a copy of a Chekhov play (because, even though I have them, I rarely read them) does not mean that I am not getting anything out of the book intellectually. Get off your high horse and read a book that might be beneath you. Who knows what you might learn.

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Fake geeks? Wait what?

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Earlier today I read an article entitled “Dear Fake Geek Girls: Please Go Away” and I must say, I was almost appalled by what I was reading.

The author Tara Tiger Brown discusses what it used to mean to be a geek and how that meaning has changed. She discussed its history in freak shows and how Geeks were originally individuals who worked for those shows. She discussed how in the 70s through early 90s, to admit that you were a geek was equal to social suicide. You just didn’t admit it. Which, at the time I understand.

However, with the stress upon diversity these days, there is a push to accept people for who they really are. We are finding classrooms and neighborhoods becoming more culturally diverse. We find teachers being taught to remember the different kinds of intelligences and the different ways that students learn. People are learning to accept the various world cultures that exist today that have nothing to do with nationality. You have the Ren Faire culture. The con culture. You have anime and manga. You have your gamers. You have your geeks.

Cultures in general are more accepting. So, what is it about the way cultures accept people now that Tara Tiger Brown can’t get past?

I can understand that part of her is jealous. She has been a geek for years. Now a large group of people are getting involved in geek culture and stealing the credit of geeks who have been at this for years. I have no issue with her jealousy. It makes perfect sense. She’s been trying to cultivate this hobby for years and had knowledge that many others did not have. Now suddenly a bunch of new people are coming around and no one is going to her for her knowledge anymore. Yes, she’s jealous.

But at the same time, just because some of us are newer to geek culture than she does not mean that we are less of a geek than she. When I was a kid, I was not involved in geek culture. Video games and Star Wars were my brother’s thing. We didn’t get along. So what one liked the other had to hate. Ren Faires, roleplaying games, LARP, etc… My parents considered those people freaks of nature and therefore wouldn’t bother with it. If my parents wouldn’t bother with it, then there was no way that I could find out about it.

I have been a geek in recent years. It wasn’t until recent years that I even was allowed to say “You know what, I frelling love science fiction.”  It wasn’t until recent years that I had a chance to go to ren faires and LARPs and all that. Yeah, I’m newer to geek culture and yeah I got that chance because the internet opened up an opportunity for me that I would not have been able to get otherwise. But that doesn’t mean that I’m less of a geek than you because you had the books before me.

That just makes you sound like a jealous hipster. Grow up! Remember that part of being a geek is accepting that we’re the ones with hobbys that make us not fit in to social norm. And accepting that maybe the social norm is that everyone has an oddball hobby that makes them a geek.

Personally, I’m proud of being a geek and if you have a problem with that, then it’s on you. Not me. I’m gonna go back to my D&D 3.5 game. My level 6 halfling rogue just got a quest from Wee Jas that was blessed by both Pellor and Obad-hai.

LARP Weaponry

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When it comes to LARPing, many people recognize that part of it involves combat. Sterotypically, you end up with the poorly made boffers. These are created from pvc pipe, pool noodles, and duct tape and rarely get more creative then just a sword. You all know the type that I am talking about.

These are some of the most commonly seen boffer weapons around. You have the basic sword. It is easy to make and since most LARPs are fantasy anyway, everyone has a sword to begin with. Besides, they are all nerds to begin with, so why does it really matter if they have anything more complex than that. It’s not like they have the money for it. They all live in their parent’s basements anyway.

Okay, sarcasm aside, using even the simple method of pipe, foam, and duct tape, there is actually quite a bit that you can do. In my own game alone, using this standard method, we have everything from very complex swords, axes, shovels, guitars (yes, we have two characters who fight with electric guitars), chainsaws, etc. There is  a huge variety in the kinds of weapons that you can build from this method. It helps that there are far more colors of duct tape than the commonly known silver. You have red, green, blue, pink, brown, white, silver, grey, zebra print, camo, peace signs, etc. There is such a wide variety of duct tape that you are limited to only what you’re mind can think of. Not to mention that you can use a soft open cell foam for variety. Even my own boffer creating experience (which is limited) has more variety than this due to the axe that I created.

However, then there are those who realize that creating the boffer with duct tape and foam can only reach a certain level of realism before it is stopped by the fact that it is still created out of duct tape. So, then you have those that go to websites like Dark Knight Armoury to buy weapons made with foam and latex. Not gonna lie, some of these are really cool and I do have some (specifically a staff called Rajin, the Magic Staff made by Calimacil). But they get expensive. Some run up to $100 plus for a single weapon. Right now, I don’t have that kind of money.

However, it isn’t that hard to make them. My boyfriend and I actually started making one last night. Little bit of foam. Some stuff called Plasti-dip. I can’t wait to finish it because it is looking awesome! Too bad I don’t have pics of any good latex weapons nor any pics of the weapon I started building last night. However, I will post pics when it is finished. But wow is it awesome!

Wait, seriously Stargate?

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Do you ever wonder what makes a TV show what it is? We each have specific genres or show types that we fall for and find immensely satisfying? Me personally? I love action adventure, science-fiction, legal drama. I cannot stand Soap Opera. I cannot stand relationship drama. I have enough relationship drama amongst my friends that I honestly don’t want to watch it on tv. The most I want in relationship drama is like in Stargate: Atlantis when Ronon Dex and Dr. Rodney McKay were competing for Dr. Jennifer’s hand. But it wasn’t the focus of the show. Not even close. The focus remained on the war with the wraith. And honestly, that is far more interesting to me than anything a soap opera could send me.

I was recently introduced to the Stargate franchise. I was instantly hooked by the movie. Science Fiction! Action Adventure! Mythology! It was such an amazing piece to me. I had fallen in love. Then I was introduced to Stargate: SG-1 and the love I had started to feel for the film was instantly growing. The Goa’uld threat and the issues with the alliance between Earth and the Tok’ra were amazing. I loved the characters. Even some of the characters that only existed for a few seasons. Even Jonas Quinn and Colonial Cameron Mitchell. I was hooked.

I watched through Ark of Truth and Continuum. I wanted Stargate: Atlantis. Heck, I was completely surprised in Stargate: Atlantis when I found a character who was able to knock Dr. Daniel Jackson out of my number one most loved Stargate character spot. Ronon Dex. I loved the shows. I had to finish all of them.

Then I started watching Stargate: Universe.

Stargate? What happened?

I will admit that the premise was fascinating and got me to watch through a few episodes. A large group of people, not trained for off-world travel are transported to a ship built by the ancients. The power supply is too low to ever dial back to earth. How do they survive? Okay, that is a pretty interesting concept. And, as I am a huge fan of Lost (with a very similar premise) I started watching a few episodes.

In seven episodes I saw travel to a total of 3 planets through the Stargate. And it was not about off-world exploration. It was “Find this necessary supply and survive a few more hours.” Excuse me, but isn’t the point of the franchise to explore the far reaches of the galaxy? Go and visit planets other than our own. Relationship drama is supposed to be on the backburner! Who is sleeping with who is not supposed to be a major point in the series. It isn’t what I want to see.

By the end of episode seven, I could not stomach another episode. So I switched to another show that had been suggested to me: Farscape.

At least I am back to watching a show that I can completely enjoy. Already John Crichton, Zhaan, D’argo, Pilot, and Rygoth (I think that’s his name) are fascinating me. I’m only around episode seven and I even love Moya the ship.

Seriously SG:U? What happened?

Wedding Gifts

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Is it just me, or is it incredibly difficult to figure out what to do as a wedding gift?

My boyfriend and I were just invited to the second wedding among our circle of friends. Each time, we have spent a lot of time trying to figure out what to do as a wedding gift. We have scoured the internet and the advice we find is not always helpful or fun to read.

How much should the gift cost? Internet says somewhere around $100. My mom says enough to cover what they paid for to have you as a guest. $100 is something my boyfriend and I cannot afford. Between the two of us he works a part time job and that’s it. I teach a piano lesson once a week, usually. In other words. We don’t have that kind of money. We just don’t. As for what my mom says, it makes sense. I actually like that idea. But on the other hand, how do we figure out that number? Outright asking seems rude and unnecessary, but guessing could make my gift completely unreasonable.

Then a lot of things say “Get his/her items.” Personally? I don’t like his/her items. I also refuse to get something for someone that I wouldn’t use myself. Unless I am 100% certain it is what they want, I think it is a horrible idea.

A lot of places say “Get items for them to use in their new home.” That makes a lot of sense, but so many things for the home are so expensive. Again, I don’t have that kind of money.

So, what do I do?

The first wedding we went to, we bought them a stained glass window hanging. It was simple and it had the celtic three pointed knot. The two of them love this knot and have it everywhere in their home. Luckily, they liked the item a lot. Then again, they were easy.

My upcoming friends and their wedding is a lot more tough. Though my current idea seems to be one that a few people have felt was an excellent idea. A hand knit afghan. Firstly, the bride is someone who loves fiber crafts. She knits. She sews. She even spins her own yarn. So, on that front, she’d love it. Not to mention the fact that I usually go to her when I have knitting questions and she helps me through my knitting difficulties. So, that is a great idea for her. I don’t know so much about him. But it would fit the “Get an item for the home” thing since many people have Afghans on their couches or love seats or what have you. Plus, it sort of fits the his/her thing because they can share it as they watch tv or cuddle in the evening together. So, on that hand, it seems to be a good idea.

Plus, a few other friends who I have run it by said it would be a good gift because of the amount of love and work that goes into making one. So, having a few other couples agree that it is a good gift, made me feel a lot better. So, now I just have to pick out a pattern and get to work.

Though, I must say, I really wish that weddings were so much easier to prepare for. And right now, I’m just the guest. Dear lord, what will my own wedding prep be like!

Ankle Update

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The result of my injured ankle from yesterday  So, remember how yesterday I injured my ankle? Well, was really hoping that it wouldn’t be too bad today. You know, wake up. Maybe have some residual soreness and nothing more? Yeah, no. Still could not walk this morning. Still could not put any weight on my right ankle. Still could not put pressure on my ankle or twist it or turn it. Nothing. Just a swollen ankle that continued to throb.

So, I spoke with my mom and decided to make an appointment with an orthopedist. Got an afternoon appointment. Spent the day laid up. Watched some Stargate: Atlantis. Got some knitting done. Played some Portal on the X-Box. Generally just relaxed as the day slowly went by. Finally got to go in for my appointment.

Doctor took some x-rays (of course) to check on whether or not the ankle was broken. “Good news. The ankle is not broken! Bad news. The ankle is not broken.” Apparently, x-rays only show bone issues. Any soft tissue damage is just guess work based on years of doctors treating ankle issues. (Not that this surprises me. But MRIs are expensive. So I’m not upset by this either). Due to the fact that one side of my ankle is swollen, the other bruised, and both are tender, the ruling says…

Drum Roll Please…

FULL ANKLE SPRAIN!

That’s right. I sprained the ligament going across the top of my ankle. Sprained it right good. Was blessed with this lovely boot to wear for the next month. Was told no Karate practice (which sucks), no participating in the Ren Faire as a cast member (which majorly sucks), no driving for the first week, etc.

Yup. That’s right. I’m laid up. And man does it suck!

Though, it could be worse. I could need surgery, right?

Day Less Than Planned

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Remember my post from the morning? You know, the one that said nothing could go wrong today? I had a great morning and was excited about the day. Everything seemed like it would be perfect. Great weather. Stuff to do: Cleaning, job applications, running outside, laundry, karate class. Everything would be awesome!

Well, do you know our good friend Murphy? You know the one who has that great law? You know the one, don’t you? Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.

And, it did.

I was out running this morning. It was beautiful out. Went out and started with the trail at the end of the road. Better workout if the terrain is varied than if it is flat, at least, in my mind it is. Who knows about that actually.

Well, I landed wrong on a root. My ankle gave out under me and I crashed to the ground. Hobbled back home and immediately iced it.

However, it wasn’t over at that. My ankle has since swelled up to the size of a tennis ball. I can barely walk. I actually had to pull out the crutches we had from my mom’s last surgery.

Murphy, I hate you.

Well, I guess I’m going to the doctor’s tomorrow.