Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Magic (of the) Library

I have always loved the library, for many reasons. It's full of books, and I've always loved books (even when I couldn't read). It carries a very strong connection to the idea of "home" for me; when I lived overseas we would come back to the US for breaks and such, and my parents would always take me to the library. Also, when we came home in the summer, the library would always have its air-conditioning set to "Earth-Killing Mode", and you know that any place where they lower the internal temperature to that of a meat freezer is a place where you want to hang out (to help me appreciate this point, my family would always have us play on the playground across the street in the Human-Killing Humidity before we would go into the library itself).

My public library when I was growing up didn't have wireless Internet (nobody did) or a coffee shop or a play pen or avant-garde architecture; but it was clean, and big (to a child), and cold (did I mention it was always cold inside?) and it was full of books. The librarians (they were all ladies, and older ones too; I didn't meet a male or under-40 librarian until I was in high school) were friendly and never judgmental about my reading choices; they sponsored different events at the library, including a children's puppet show that came in and showed how evil developers turn primeval untouched thousand-year-old forests into strip malls if Kids Like You don't beg their Powerful Parents to stop being capitalists (I think I have that right).

At the public library I would check out 10 books at a time (mother's limit), and most of them were about a specific subject as I grew older:

1st grade: Cowboys
2nd grade: Cowboys
3rd grade: Submarines (Hunt for Red October is a life-altering movie, dude- "I would have liked to have seen Montana"- and it taught me that The Star-Spangled Banner is NOT, in fact, the coolest anthem in the world)
4th grade: Submarines, but with actual technical details instead of pretty drawings
5th grade: STAR WARS (my uncle gave me a copy of Specter of the Past, which blew my mind...there was a Star Wars after the movies? With years and about 10,000 pages of perspective (not kidding; I read through every one of the New Jedi Order novels except for Dark Journey, which was just too emo, and a lot of the "Classic" EU stuff too, X-Wing, Kevin Anderson's, etc.) I realized Specter of the Past and its sequel were about as good as it was going to get- maybe it's not good to start a kid there.
6th grade: Star Wars AND Star Trek (what, you think I thought all of science fiction was confined to the brainchild of George Lucas? Give me credit for refined tastes here). The two books I remember are Dreadnaught! (which, although I didn't know it at the time, is a perfect example of the Mary Sue archetype story) and The Great Starship Race, which was...amusing. Let's leave it at that. 

And on and on. We stopped going to the library often (although we supplemented it with trips to Barnes and Nobles), but the damage was done. I still love libraries, making the trek to the one around the corner from my house every month or so.

As with Used Book havens, I view libraries as a way to find things that are obscure, bizarre, or otherwise marvelously serendipidous. On today's trip, I went to find a couple of books on Sociology, and also Wolves of the Calla, and instead spent most of the time browsing Writer's Market, dreaming of glory (but that's another story). You never know what you'll find there (although there's a surprising number of people looking at...stuff on the computers).

Support your libraries! All I'm sayin'

Monday, July 11, 2011

Courses I Wish I Had Taken in College

Statistics: I don't actually give two s***s (+/-1 s***)  about standard deviation, but understanding statistics helps you to understand assumptions about correlation and causation, two things that are murkier than they seem. Also, it would help me to win arguments, as some people seem to think statistics make everything right.

A Broad Intro Sociology Course: Not just because my girlfriend is a sociology major, but because sociology is one of those murky and ill-defined subjects (like "Cultural Anthropology" and "Semiotics"), and a course I took on it (the applications of classic social capital and such to online social networks) didn't really help. 

Fencing: I tried fencing for a grand total of 45 minutes, and I was terrible at it. Like, terrible. But I think that the value that I add to the world would be immeasurably greater if I could stab people.

Any ROTC Course: Just to see what was up.

The Motion Video Course: Making montages with fancy editing and rotoscoping all day, for credit? YES. Except not at 8:45am, which is when this course was offered. My laziness regarding waking up in the mornings also prevented me from taking an intro to Statistics course, and from going insane my senior year.