Thursday, May 29, 2014

Exclusive Nerdom

I'm back!  I've been thinking about blogging lots lately, but I was weighed down with "but it's been so long!" guilt.  And then today, whatever.  Forget guilt.  I just wanted to blog.

I've been thinking about "nerd culture" a lot lately, particularly about how interestingly defined of a community it is.  There's definitely some snobbishness to it at time.  "Are you familiar enough with these comic franchise story lines?"  "Have you ever even played Magic/D&D/etc.?"  "Have you memorized the Simarillion or did you even know it was a book?"  And so on.  These attitudes exist.

At the same time, there's often a level of apology for being a nerd.  Outside the nerd community, it's not uncommon for many to forget how high they are on the nerd totem pole and simply try to fly under the radar.

As I was thinking about this, I realized it all probably goes back to middle school, high school, for some of us elementary school.  It probably originates in our own marginalization and exclusion.  It was nothing more than the big kids forming a club we weren't invited to.  So we went off, as younger kids do, and formed the most exclusive club we could (of course only partially aware that no one else wanted to join).

And that's why, I think, nerd culture tends to be fairly territorial.  This community, these stories, these games are our prize for enduring exclusion, bullying, harassment, abuse.  Yes, being defensive and territorial is, at some level, mimicking the exclusion we ourselves endured.  On the other hand, though, I think those who connect to nerd culture are desperate for it to mean something, for it to be earned.  "How many lunches did you eat alone in 6th grade?" "How many times were you shoved, tripped, stuffed in a locker?" "Did anyone write insults on your school supplies with permanent marker?"  If you didn't pay the price, you shouldn't be admitted.

Yet, as I've grown up, I've realized that the older I get, the less exclusion matters.  The easier it is to win the title of "cool" or "funny," and the easier it is to gain access to most social groups.  The "cool kids," as it were, have opened the doors to their social circles while the nerd circle tends to get a little bitter if not offended whenever their material is appropriated and accepted by popular culture.  (And, granted, sometimes it's appropriated very, very badly.)

These ideas aren't really original, but I think they're worth posting.  I've been working on letting go of resentments lately.  And I've realized that after years of being left out of groups because of my passion for school, my teenage social awkwardness, and my weird interests, I've resorted to making an idol out of my intelligence and interests.  And I don't necessarily want anyone who isn't like me to have unfettered access.  I think much of what I see in other "nerds" is the same.  After years of wanting connection, now that it's offered, we'd rather hold onto resentments in our exclusive clubs than finally having it.  Were it to continue, our loneliness--this time--would be no one's fault but our own.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Why Goldie Blox are Worse than Barbies

A few months ago, I found out about this new toy.  It's like knex and legos met and made a baby franchise specifically aimed at girls.  I read about it, I got disgruntled, but then I let it drop.  This past week, though, a few different sources have posted an ad by Goldie Blox, and my facebook wall has been overflowing with interest in the product.

The commercial really demonstrates everything I find wrong with the product.  For about a minute and a half, in a parody of The Beastie Boys, three cute girls sing about how they're smart and creative and don't like that all the toys marketed to them are pink and frilly dolls and kitchen sets that imply that they have now future in STEM fields.  They're just as smart as boys and can do anything boys can do.  Great, right?  But then, we actually see the product.  These blocks and building parts are in pastel colors and have smooth, rounded edges.  If you look around the website, the girls all have long, flowing hair, and one is even wearing a tiara for a "parade float" set. 

What the product is saying is that girls might be interested in what boys are doing, but only if they can do it in a hyper-feminized way.  They claim to want women in men's fields, but what this toy is communicating is that the way to do this is to feminize these traditionally masculine fields.

This product is also overlooking something far more feminist that girls have been doing for decades: playing with boy's toys.  Smart girls love playing with hard edged, boldly colored lego blocks.  They love knex.  Basically, if a girl has a a brain to do it, she doesn't need pink and purple blocks to help her do it.  She needs to be told that it doesn't matter if toys are "girls" or "boys" toys--she can play with whatever she wants.

The answer to the poor options for boy and girls toys is not to make a masculine baby doll or feminine nerf gun.  The answer is to address the fact that we think that boys and girls need separate toys at all.

Friday, November 15, 2013

10--no 15!--favorite books

So I've been throwing the phrase "my top 10 books" around a lot lately.  Someone will mention a book, and I'll exclaim, "Oh!  That's one of my top 10 favorite books!"  It made me decide that I should probably sit down and make a list of my 10 favorite books.

Well, I had it down to 10.  But then I looked at the list of excluded books.  And I was sad.

So, I added 5 of the excluded books back.  Now I am not sad.  This is a good representation of the books I love.  I also liked that it happened to be a pretty nice distribution over my just-over-20 years of reading novels.

So, for no reason other than that I have fun thinking about books, I give you my list of 15 favorite books!

A Little Princess (1993)
Bridge to Terabithia (1997)
Watership Down (1998)
The Three Musketeers (2002)
The Lord of the Rings (2002)
Till We Have Faces (2003)
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (2003)
The Picture of Dorian Gray (2003)
Ender's Shadow (2005)
The Wise Virgins (2009)
The Years (2009)
Mill on the Floss (2011)
Story of an African Farm (2011)
Sons and Lovers (2012)
Brideshead Revisited (2012)

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Puppy Means of Grace

This morning was a rough morning with the puppy.  Long story short, I tried to take something out of his mouth that he really wanted to keep in his mouth, and he let me know it by biting down on the offending hand.  He's nipped before but never bitten, so I was pretty upset.  I also wished I had handled it differently to prevent the situation.  Plus, you know, my hand hurt.

I put him to bed right away (it was time for him to go down anyway) and rushed to take care of my hand.  Then I ran to my meeting, distracted and frustrated.  Mostly with myself.  When I came home, I went to get Samwise out of his crate.  I looked in, and I noticed that in my hurry to take care of my hand, I had left Samwise's leash, 200-dollar-collar-and-remote, and paper bowl (for feeding) way too close to the crate.  Normally, he'd have managed to get all of those items in the crate and would have chewed them to pieces.  I was already impressed.  But, then, as soon as I opened the door of his crate, he ran over to my hand and started licking the bandage, giving it kisses, and nudging it and looking at me.

It was such a sweet moment!  I had spent all morning worrying about the situation and being frustrated with myself for not preventing it, and here was my puppy saying "I'm sorry" in the sweetest way ever.  And it was also him saying "I love you" even though I felt like I had failed him.

I love my little puppy, and I am so grateful for the many ways that he brings grace and happiness into my life.

Monday, October 28, 2013

1 Peter 1:13-16

I've recently started reading through the book of I Peter.  And, because of some things that have been happening in my spiritual life over the past few months, I'm reading it with totally new eyes.  It's been awesome.  It's not like my former beliefs were wrong.  But certain things are coming more alive, and things which confused me are making such clear sense.  I spent hundreds of hours with 1 Peter in a college Greek course, and I've read it dozens of times since, but I'm now getting to experience it in a totally new way.  I love God.  I love that he does that for us.

Formerly, I tended to gloss over the second half of chapter 1.

Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

I always interpreted this passage to mean "God saved us, so we should strive to be like him."  And I know I had good reason to because I checked my commentaries.  I'm not alone in that interpretation.  But lately, as I've meditated, I think it also (maybe only) says, "God called you to himself, he will make you holy."  It was the word "sober" that led me to this thought.  It made me think of sobriety from an addiction.  Programs like AA believe that it's only through surrendering oneself to God's care that one will ever become sane, sober, and free from addiction.  Which, really, is the gospel.  We are powerless to save ourselves from sin and can only stop sinning by giving up control of our lives and letting God save us from sinning.

I've always been a little overwhelmed by the statement "You shall be holy, for I am holy."  "I know I shall be God, but how?  I'm trying?  It's not working?"  That's the conversation I'd have some days, but it's not the one I have now.  Now I see this as a promise as much if not more than a command.  "You will be holy because I am fashioning you after myself, and I am holy.  You will, of course, be holy."

That's the best news ever.

Sunday, October 27, 2013


In Georgia, I had a trainer I adored.  I really connected with her style and the way she related to both the humans and the dogs she was working with.  So, when I came to Minnesota, I asked her for a recommendation.  The trainer she recommended was almost an hour and a half away.  I looked around the cities, but wasn't able to find anyone.

Then, I found out that a friend of a friend had trained her dog for very similar tasks and for a very similar purpose as I was planning to train Samwise.  (And there really aren't many people out there that get what I need Samwise to do.)  She and I got together for coffee, and then I observed a class she was a part of.  I talked to the trainer, and I liked her quite a bit.  So I had an option!  Plus the friend-of-a-friend has also offered to help with some of the very-specific-tasks!  (SUCH a blessing!)

Today, I met with the trainer who is an hour and a half away.  Going down, I was a little hesitant because she was a little more expensive and she was so far away.  When I met her, though, things clicked.  Like, maybe even clicked better than I had ever clicked with my trainer in Georgia!  She uses an remote electronic collar, and that really scared me even though everyone I've talked to says it's fine.  I just didn't want to hurt my dog!  She placed it on my hand and had me feel it--it's no less intense that the STEM treatments I've received dozens of times!  And Samwise really reacts to it.  He actually seems to enjoy training more with it--I think because it's clear and direct communication.  Plus, he still gets cookies.

I also liked the pace at which the trainer worked.  Right now health wise, my brain moves more slowly than it has in the past, but I'm still motivated and intense at heart.  Annalissa moved fast enough to keep me feeling challenged but not so fast that I wanted to cry when I got home.  (I've done that.)  It feels realistic.  Also, with the PTSD being so intense right now, I have trouble in groups and in situations where I'm being observed.  A regular group class has both.  Annalissa obviously watches me work, but it's really laid back and supportive.  I also think our personalities click, so I'm less nervous working with her than I have been with any other trainer.  Which is good, because training is intense as it is.

Finally, she's goal oriented and realistic.  She realizes that I'm driving a long way, and she doesn't want this to drag on forever.  In fact, she thinks we might be able to do most of the work in as little as four sessions!

So far, I've taught Samwise sit, stay, down, heel, off, stand, come, and place, but things aren't always 100% as sharp as they need to be.  So, this week, we're stepping back and reviewing some of the basics with the new collar to help.  Even tonight, I noticed a huge difference.  I'm so excited to see my dog responding so well!  It's so fun to watch puppy Samwise slowly becoming big-boy-adult Samwise :-)

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Tornado Post

So first of all, I know my last few post have been really depressing.  Like, the last few months have been depressing.  I promise I'm not miserable all the time.  But I lost my job, and I moved halfway across the country, and I'm really, really sick . . . so I'll be positive soon.  But not tonight.
The tornado's really been weighing on my mind a lot lately.  Because I'm realizing that a lot of my current struggles can be traced back to it, can be traced back to the PTSD.  I actually had a doctor tell me that earlier this year--that some of my problems are magnified because of the untreated PTSD--and it was like a light went off in my brain.

Then, I thought, yay!  All I have to do is deal with the PTSD and my health, my emotions, my life will be SO MUCH BETTER!  But . . . that wasn't the case.

Because PTSD is big.  The tornado was big.  SO.  BIG!  So I can't wave a magic wand and make it all go away.  The tornado has had five and a half years to mess up my life in various ways (and my life has had five and a half years to mess itself up as a result of the tornado), so clean-up duty isn't going to happen overnight.

It's discouraging.  I've been angry.  I've been confused.  How could something that happened five years ago have such a huge affect on my life?  How could one night of trauma slowly undo so much?  Why do so many other people from Union lead normal lives while I live with my parents, working part time, and struggling to hold my health and my sanity together?

But something good has been happening, too.  I've been asking these questions, and God's been listening.  He hasn't always given me clear, concrete answers.  But he's made me very aware of his presence, of his omniscience. 

I know that at the heart of this, the problem is that I felt like I lost control over my life during the tornado, and that scared me to death.  I've known that that control is something I'm not supposed to have--God is.  I've had therapists, even, tell me, "Just give the control over to God!"  I've been trying to do that for five years, I promise you.  But I think at least one new thing has happened.  I now *want* to be in a place where I no longer need that control but am okay surrendering it to God's care.  I gues that's a pretty good first step.