Saturday, May 31, 2008

Games? In the Library? (Exercise 35)

HCPL's Next Generation lessons will focus on Games and Gaming, exercises 35 - 38. My goal is to complete the gaming exercises by the end of July. If you would like to join along, link here. Most public librarians are running fast to keep up with the gaming generation. We have learned that gaming is NOT an antisocial activity! Kids come running over to our library to use our computers after school, clearly craving the mental stimulation and satisfaction online games afford. True, growing children also need physical exercise, but a mix of both seems best.

I am a fan of the FreeRice vocabulary game. Links to the game spread like wildfire last year and everyone seemed to be playing it. It is a great way to build your vocabulary. Even when I don't consciously know the exact answer, I get such a kick out of getting it right through an educated guess. I was getting repeats of words until I found out you can go to Options to change that feature. I also learned that you can click on the speaker symbol to the right of each vocabulary word to hear its correct pronunciation. Best of all, playing the game helps aid the United Nations World Food program.

WordSplay is another fun word game. You are given a bunch of letters and challenged to form as many words as you can in three minutes. I don't particularly enjoy the race-against-the-clock dynamic, but it does get the mental adrenaline going. This game reminds me of one an exercise school teachers used to give us on rainy days. I loved competing to see who could come up with the most words from some group of letters or a word put up on the blackboard.

Of course, these kinds of word games are not the ones kids are racing over to the library to play. I imagine schools are using computer-based word games to teach reading, vocabulary or spelling. Most of the games I see the younger kids playing on the library computers seem to involve shooting at targets or assembling puzzles.

The game of Sudoku (on paper or online), has truly swept the country. I've tried Sudoku a few times just to see what it was all about. I enjoyed figuring them out but do not feel compelled to keep playing. Some of them are too hard -- they make my brain hurt! Maybe if I was stranded somewhere with nothing else to do, and someone gave me a Sudoku book, I might really go to town.

In future exercises, I hope to learn a lot more about online gaming. Summer is a busy time in our small library, but in between my Next Generation posts, I will continue to blog about books, authors, etc. I just started reading The Prince of Frogtown by Rick Bragg, and immediately felt a blog post coming on. That man can really sling a southern-fried metaphor!

manipulated photo: Purple Kaleidoscope by KAO

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Round Trip Travel

What do we learn when we travel? I've heard it said that we travel to to strange places only to learn it is we who are the stranger. Don't we tend to see ourselves more sharply against unfamiliar backdrops? I think so.

There are several truths about travel which come back to me every time I venture out into the world. First off, as soon as you leave home, shortly thereafter you will be in need of everything you left behind. A roof over your head, a bed to sleep in, food, bathing facilities, etc. Such basic elements of life are easy to take for granted until we go without them. If your travels are not prearranged, and have any element of making it up as you go along, this novelty, which at first can be entertaining, may become a chore. You may find yourself looking all over for something you usually have access to at home. Case in point: a heated swimming pool. I am fortunate enough to belong to a gym with year round swimming facilities. (Gosh, I'm spoiled!) On our recent road trip north, the weather was too cool for swimming outdoors. Only once did we end up in a motel with a heated pool. Yet swimming after a long day of driving is my version of a healthy lifestyle. Oh well, as my husband kept saying: "you can always go to the Y when we get home."

Anticipating travel, I forget about its discomforts. I love to get out the guide books and maps. The urge to head out and see a different part of the world seems inborn. Yet I think of travel as a privilege. Not so many decades ago, only the wealthiest people could afford to travel. I grew up without much exposure to the world beyond my native Long Island.

But returning home and resuming life under my own roof is always the cherry on top of any travel sundae. Yes, there were chocolate, whipped cream and ice cream moments during my time away, but I'll take the pleasures of a domestic life anytime. Would I have this exquisite sense of satisfaction with my own four walls and green yard if I didn't leave town from time to time? Probably not. I guess everyone has their own balance point about such matters. Right now it's a good feeling to be done with travel for awhile.

I am grateful for this: for going away and coming back, and for finding everything new again. There is an almost physical feeling of increased ballast, of being grounded after all the rambling. The sweetness of the familiar. Tomatoes on the vine. Grass needing mowing. Library books to return. An empty refrigerator to fill. Friends to call. Renewal. Let the long hot summer begin!

photo: Airstream Reflections @ the MOMA, NYC

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

East Texas Road Signs


East Texas road signs
say spring:
boiled peanuts
hot tamales
roasted peanuts
Earlene's Lounge
and Beer
new table potatoes
good used tires

by KAO
- previously published in EXIT 13 and the Texas Poetry Calender

"Speed of Light" is taking a late spring break.
Look for a new entry somewhere towards the end of May.

photo by KAO: Boiled Peanuts