Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Non-wedding-related goals for this summer:

 I am taking one class and planning my wedding, but I want to do other things too. Specifically:

1. Start learning Japanese. I've checked out some books from the library, including one of those "complete course"s with audio CD. It helps that Adam likes teaching me. I might not be literate for a while, but I can at least say "I'm sorry, I don't speak Japanese." (I'm still working on "Where is the nearest bus stop?" and "Where is my suitcase?")

2. Read fiction that is not for a class. I started on this one by reading Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. I'm almost done with Oblivion, and then I have some books my professor lent me (which are for fun I promise). I'm also trying to read more "serious" graphic novels so I can have something to say when I read manga. These include The Sandman series and random new graphic novels that appear in the BYU library. Currently Epileptic is one of these.

3. Start research for thesis. This should include playing text-based adventure games... but honestly, they're not my favorite type of game. Usually they are so hard! I think I just have to make myself get used to them. I've also ordered some books that have to do with ergodic literature (interactive text), hypertext, narrative in computer games, and other related subjects, which hopefully will be interesting even not in conjunction with my thesis. I'm excited for the book Twisty Little Passages.  I've also decided that The Eleventh Hour is definitely ergodic literature and as such I should probably spend some time studying it. That and the annotated Alice in Wonderland.

4. Play more video games. Related to (3), I do think that playing video games will help inspire my thesis ideas. I'm still not sure what exactly I can say about how text-based adventure games are cool. Do they use fantasy in a way different from literature? How are the puzzles related to the meaning of the game, if there is any connection? So, for example, Chrono Trigger has some puzzles that do not seem very meaningful. In the prehistoric era you have to refrain from fighting the beetles right away so they can dig a hole in the ground for you, and choosing which hole to go down is pretty much random until you get an idea of what the dungeon is like. But the cooler puzzles are the ones that require time-travel. The one with the castle ghost and Frog is especially interesting. So, you can visit the castle in the present and try to fight the ghost there, but you can't beat him. Instead, you have to go back in time and give some tools to this carpenter (okay, that part was lame) and kill all the monsters there in the past. Well... now that I'm writing it that doesn't really make sense either. Can you think of examples of cool puzzles in video games that contributed to the meaning of the game?

5. Keep up on Latin and Russian (and Spanish?)? This is a more secondary goal that I'm always thinking about and feel badly about when I realize how much I've forgotten. I was thinking of buying Wheelock's Latin (I have Freundlich, which has a gorgeous cover design, so maybe I don't need Wheelock), but instead I found this Latin reader called Lingua Latina and I am SO EXCITED for it to come in the mail. It is entirely in Latin (except for an word index in the back) and tries to teach Latin in a more fluid, organic way, (with lots of pictures) rather than the rote memorization and decoding that I learned in high school (yes, we worked on The Aenied, but I never ever thought in Latin; all the time I was translating it into English in my head). I have one of those silly Latin phrasebooks somewhere I bought on sale at the bookstore, which was cool, but I hope this will be EVEN COOLER.

As for Russian... I have plenty of materials. One time I was at DI and found like three Russian books! I have some children's books in Russian along with a collection of stories, but they're really hard to read! I also have a collection of Russian animated cartoons (which have no subtitles and are also hard to understand). I have a "First 1,000 words" book and that nice book of Russian roots (I love word roots, which probably explains my excitement about Latin). I have some Pimsleur mp3s, and while I appreciate their pedagogical soundness, they are incredibly boring to listen to. I also have a dictionary for foreigners. It defines the word in Russian and also has one-word definitions in English, French, Spanish, and... probably German. The downside is that it's not very fun to read. One of my very favorite books to read has been the Russian Graded Readers I-V. It is so cool! It defines each word the first time it appears, and then gradually introduces more words and tenses. The first one is a story from A Hero of Our Time dumbed-down into all present tense. They add in past tenses as you go on along with more vocabulary. All of the selections are from easily read famous Russian authors with the vocabulary simplified so you're not always looking words up (which to me is one of the most boring parts of reading things in a different language). The tragic thing about this reader is that it is out of print. (One of my Russian profs sent us the PDF files of the first two parts, which I would say is totally fair use. I have my own copy of the reader which I miraculously found at DI. I had another copy too, and I sold it to a classmate.) On the subject of "things I am passionate about" I think we can add "language acquisition tools that take advantage of cognitive science."

Anyway, if you're still there, I still want to know your opinions on meaningful video game puzzles and any amazing foreign language materials you've encountered.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Limited possibilites

When I was a child I didn't think too hard about how furniture and fabric come about. I assumed that everything was easily instantly customizable. I don't know why I thought this - I had been to a fabric store myself, and I knew there weren't infinite varieties. Maybe the sheer variety of types of furniture and blankets I'd seen convinced me that a high variation was possible.

Now that I'm actually kind of shopping for things like furniture and bedspreads, it occurs to me how limited I am in my choices. While the internet adds a lot of options, it also adds a lot of shipping and a lot of "maybe the photo just looks good." Maybe custom designs are possible, but prohibitively expensive. It feels weird to invest time and energy into buying things that reflect my personality that others will buy. I guess that's the price of mass production, and maybe that's why some people like quilting (so they really can make their own designs).

Friday, April 02, 2010

in which I whine again

"When's the big day?" is a phrase many conversation partners have decided to use to replace the question "What is your wedding date?" Does it feel so weird to say that I'm getting married? Is it a way to make a perfectly good question more conversational? Maybe it's hard to make appropriate jokes about me getting married, so my interlocutors must resort to colloquialisms to keep a serious subject light-hearted. Anyway, I think it's kind of weird that probably 80% of the people I talk to about myself ask when I'm getting married in those exact words.

Something mostly unrelated that has been bothering me: I still don't really have an occupation. I don't want to teach freshman English for the rest of my life. I wonder if I could become a bibliotherapist ("oh, well, if you have insomnia, you should try reading Proust, it puts forty percent of readers to sleep within ten pages"). Sometimes my classes just feel like book clubs glorified with some background reading and justified with a degree. It's fine for a hobby (for me). I still don't really understand how literary criticism makes the world a better place (Scottish independence notwithstanding). Maybe a more entertaining place. Also - this is possibly bad of me, but it's such a relief to have in the future a husband who will support me in my entertaining indecision.