Reading!

To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…
• What are you currently reading?
• What did you recently finish reading?
• What do you think you’ll read next?

Let’s see, if I look at my goodreads account I am reading several books and apparently none of them are things I’ve picked up in the last two weeks. Whoops! So what am I actually reading?
The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

This is the first of what is planned to be 10-15 books in a series called The Stormlight Archive. Brandon Sanderson has been thinking and writing this series since he first started writing as a teenager. Even with only one book out (the 2nd should be coming out late this year, yay!) it’s clear that Sanderson knows where he’s going and what’s going to happen and has developed his writing enough that it promises to be a great high, epic fantasy story. I’m actually re-re-reading it right now along with several hundred other fans through a Tor sponsored guided re-read thing where everyone gets to have details they missed pointed out to them. I’m loving it! I’m also going through my kindle copy of the book and highlighting all the things that I feel are important to reference later or beg questions that may be answered later.

He’s a Stud, She’s a Slut, and 49 Other Double Standards Every Woman Should Know by Jessica Valenti

I’m sort of on this feminism kick and have been finding all sorts of interesting things to ponder and think about. This book has been feeding some of that interest and desire to know moar.

So then what did I just finish? Funny I should mention Jessica Valenti. My most recent finished book was another one she published, The Purity Myth: How America’s Obsession with Virginity is Hurting Young Women.

It was really eye opening. I hadn’t realized just how lucky I was to grow up in the county and state I did. It also pisses me off to realize just how much this country is being dragged backwards by people who really have absolutely no right to be determining what is best for others. But I’m going to stop here before I go all grr argh so late at night.

Anywho, what’s on my to-read list?
Well, I need to finish my Star Wars stuff.

I have more Robert Heinlein to read.

And of course, I have a whole bunch of steampunk authors to catch up on, starting with this book:


From there, I’ve got several other books on my to-get and read list including the other two Penny Dread Tales books. Yay for books!

What is Wrong With This Way of Thinking?

I’ve been reading The Purity Myth by Jessica Valenti off and on the last few weeks. It’s not something I can read for extended periods of time because I get pretty upset as I go from one point to the next. I despair for the generations of kids that have been taught so many lies-condoms don’t work, abstinence is the only answer, birth control is wrong, etc. I am angry, truly angry, at the legislatures and lawmakers who have decided they know more about human anatomy, physiology, conscious, and emotional well being than dozens of well respected organizations like the American Medical Society and other similar organizations of professionals. I want to shake the doctors, nurses and pharmacists who put their own “morals” above that of doing what is right by their patients. Medical professionals have no right, no right at all, to force a woman to a particular treatment and should not deny a treatment just because it is morally ambiguous rather than medically wrong. I’m sure some could argue that birth control or the morning after pill or abortions (mostly abortions) are medically wrong, but they would be arguing against their peers and would have less to stand upon than their damn morality argument.

However, the part that makes all of this worse is how destructive the entire culture we live in is when it comes to rape and any sexual violence. As I was reading a chapter that focused on this topic, I couldn’t help but remember an exercise I did in my high school home economics class. The chapter noted how as soon as drugs or alcohol are involved people are significantly less likely to sympathize with the victim and instead condemn them. The exercise from my class was a thought game where supposedly fictional situations were presented. In all but one scenario the possible victim of sexual assault was female. More often than not the majority of the class agreed on what scenarios were or were sexual assault/rape regardless of the presence of drugs or alcohol. The one that stands out the most in my memory though is when the teacher asked if a male teenager who was intoxicated and unable to walk straight was raped by a teenage girl who convinced him to have sex with her. I was one of three students out of 30 or so that said it was rape. Even the teacher said that if the guy agreed and was capable of maintaining an erection then he probably wasn’t intoxicated enough to have been raped. I was appalled at the double standard she presented as not two questions before everyone had agreed that if we switched the roles of the male and female it was rape. It doesn’t matter the gender of the individual who is being coerced into any actions that lead up to sex, including sex, it is and will always be rape.

Mind you in some ways I was happy that most of my class was able to recognize when a woman is a victim of sexual assault/rape. However, the fact that few recognized that men can be victims too, and that I argued with a teacher about this, just solidified my opinion that most people don’t actually know what rape or sexual assault is. Maybe I’m reaching, but it would not surprise me if the majority of the people in that class would not recognize a victim of sexual assault/rape when these things actually happen in real life where the information is not as clear and obvious as it was in those classroom scenarios. When we have everything presented to us by the media it requires more than just glancing at a story to understand what happened. We have to read through the perspective of the journalist and what is sensationalizing the story and actually try to understand what happened.

The most recent example of a rape case that received national attention (as of the writing of this post) was what has come to be known as the Steubenville rape case. The national coverage did not start until late into the case but that didn’t stop the media from reporting directly from what can only be called the victim-blaming pulpit. When the guilty verdict was finally read by a juvenile court judge the coverage from CNN epitomized the rape-culture of America. They sympathized with the rapists for the majority of the 6 minutes of their initial “breaking news” broadcast. The victim was mentioned twice, both times in passing. “Lives were destroyed” was stated multiple times by several different reporters but always in regards to the rapists. Never once was anything said about the victim and what she must have been experiencing, what she must have gone through or anything at all about how her life had been destroyed. Luckily, in my opinion at least, CNN received a huge backlash for how they reported on the verdict and their focus on the rapists. The reporters involved were extremely upset that they were accused of sympathizing with the rapists despite the fact that yes, that was what they did. (For more on the entire case go ahead and start here.)

How could two female reporters who do not consider themselves part of the misogynistic culture that is part of the American way of life end up in such a position? It’s really easy when you consider that most people don’t even realize that the way that they reported was possibly wrong. It was only after it was pointed out to them that this was wrong that they even stopped to think about it. Consider this – these two boys were charged and found guilty of accidental man slaughter or whatever the legal equivalent would be. It would be easy to say yes, what they did was wrong and they deserve jail time, even if it was an accident. There would be sympathizing with them, but the victim and the victim’s family would be mentioned and have just as much coverage as the two who were found guilty of that crime. However, the coverage of rape is always different. These two boys consciously chose to act as they did and used their victim as they saw fit. There was nothing about any of their actions that was an accident. They didn’t “accidentally” remove her clothes. They didn’t “accidentally” carry her from one party to the next. They didn’t “accidentally” take pictures or videos of her. They didn’t “accidentally” insert foreign objects into her body. None of their actions were accidents, but because the charges were for “rape” they were seen with much more sympathy than they otherwise should have been. We don’t want to admit that rape happens, that we all take part in this rape culture, or that how we view rape is skewed and wrong. We especially don’t want to admit that high school, star football players are capable of rape because it completely goes against our ideas of what “all-American” boy are and what they are capable of doing. That requires admitting that they can be wrong and that they are not perfect and that they are not the ones being led down the path of the dark side by the “wrong kind of girl”.

I must count myself as part of that culture too. I am aware and conscious of the fact that I was raised in a society that dehumanizes victims and disregards acts of violence against women (or men) if sex was involved. If I do not stop and think about what I am reading or hearing it is too easy to fall into that misogynistic and paternalistic way of thinking. My parents did a pretty good job of raising me in such a way that I question a lot of things I read, see or hear. While it makes me more aware, it doesn’t necessarily help when the society they are raising me in, as enlightened as Boulder County was, is still overwhelmingly full of negative messages for women, especially women who dare to step outside what has been designated for them, and elevating men, especially those who not only fulfill their role as men but “encourage” women to fulfill theirs as well. Awareness at least makes me wary and I can take my time to really think about what is going on and what I can do to help/stop/make others aware.

I hope the kids I grew up with in high school have had some of the same insights that I have as they’ve become adults. I hope that maybe they are able to recognize rape and sexual assault and who is the victim and who is the aggressor in real life. I hope that they don’t blame the victim getting raped after drinking or using drugs or wearing the wrong clothes or being out in the wrong place at the wrong time. I hope they are working with their friends and families to help be part of the slow change in our culture. I hope… it sounds so small when working against something so large.

Trying to Understand.

There are things that happen in this world that really do not make any sense. There are acts of violence that occur that confuse me. Why do people do things that have no purpose beyond inciting chaos, death and injuries?

I don’t think we will truly ever have the answer to that question. Most people are not capable of so wanton disregard for the well being of others, whether they know their would-be victims personally or not. Vandalism, burglary, theft, street and bar fights are crimes, but more often than not, they are isolated incidents. They are not designed to injure or kill a dozen, two dozen or more people.

Looking exclusively at events that have occurred in the US like the tragedy in Boston yesterday (Monday, 4/15/13) or the 9/11 twin towers destruction or the Oklahoma City bombing on 4/19/95 were all planned by individuals to harm the greatest number of people. That’s without looking at the hundreds of terrorist attacks that have occurred around the world. They were carried out by people who had some sort of motive whether it is understood or not. Mass shootings are typically also planned but there is a different component involved. The individuals that fired those weapons were able to see who they were injuring. In most cases they could have spoken or yelled at their victims. They had to seek them out. The terrorist attacks that used bombs or other means to harm and kill were more impersonal. In a way, those are easier to understand.

Is there something wrong with the people in the world now that wasn’t here a few decades ago? I don’t think so. I think we are more aware, it’s easier to carry out those impersonal attacks, there’s more notoriety in the personal attacks. Things still happened decades ago, but they impacted individual, small communities more than nations or the world. There is the Troubles in Ireland. The nations in the middle-east have been involved in some sort of conflict for decades. There were two World Wars that started out with smaller acts against individuals or towns which then grew into much, much larger conflicts.

Conflict and terror and war have been a part of the collective human culture as far as we can look back. It’s no surprise that these things are still happening. Only now they have a greater impact on more people, the national and global community. What is important to remember is that these are not acts committed by a majority. These all are acts of a small minority of people. There are always going to be far more brave people committing small and large acts of compassion, mercy and extraordinary courage to help in times of need.

Mr. Rogers, a man with compassion and understanding on par with Mother Teresa, shared some of the best advice I have ever heard.

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.”

This is what needs to be remembered, what needs to be passed on, what needs to be spoken about. Yes, we need to be aware that tragedies, terrorism, acts of violence all happen. What needs to be spoken about more is what people have done to come together, to help, to reassure, to comfort and heal the physical and emotional wounds of all those who were involved. There is kindness in humanity, let’s share and celebrate it more than we share and despair of the hatred and violence of individuals or small groups.

The Bungled Media Response to the Boston Marathon Bombing

My husband and I were discussing nearly all of these last night as we listened to radio broadcasts and all the people calling in. So much disinformation. So many people trying to come up with reasons to explain something when there is truly little of the investigation completed. Wouldn’t it be better to let the police and FBI work on their investigation and let Boston take care of the injured before we start jumping to conclusions?

oohlaladeborah

Yesterday, an act of pure malice occurred. At around 2:50 pm, 2 bombs (and a little later, an unrelated explosion), exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. The current casualty count is 3 deaths (including an 8 year old boy) and 144 injuries, many of which are amputations caused by the nearby bombs.

I was on the phone with my friend in California when my mom told me to turn on the TV. When I first saw the early coverage a few minutes after the bombs detonated, I said to my friend and to my mom, “This looks like a coordinated attack”. Police and other officials were very careful in the first few hours about calling the event any kind of attack or concerted effort. When Vice President Biden used the term
“act of terror”–which is what this was–the media went crazy about the significance of this term…

View original post 1,275 more words

Bits and Pieces of Thoughts While I Think on my Next Bit o’Fiction

First things first, or at least things that excite me – My English teach really liked my video game essay. There are a few teensy things I need to clean up, mainly a few awkward word choices and left over “on”s and things from my massive number of edits. Once I’ve done that, she wants me to enter it into an essay contest that happens at the school every year. The winner gets $50 and entrants get to put their name out there for teachers to get to know. When it comes to more subjective classes like English, psych, etc. I feel it’s important to have your name associated with the idea that you are a good writer before you enter a teacher’s classroom. Perception means so much and teachers are more willing to gloss over errors if they already “know” you can write, as humans are wont to do. Even my current teacher did something like that for my 2nd essay when I had two really bad cut/copy/paste-based errors. She didn’t take off points for those like what I would have expected her to because she knew that they were editing fails, not writing fails, if that makes any sense.

I’ve been trying to figure out what I’m going to use as my topic for my next argument essay, but haven’t really had anything stick out to me. Well, I’ve got two things, but I can’t decide if I really can argue either of them effectively because I am just a wee bit passionate about them.
The first is equal marriage rights. I’d end arguing for a case that would include marriage licenses being granted to two or more people above the legal age of consent who are willingly entering into the civil contract regardless of gender, sex, procreation status etc. Most people have an issue once the “more” part is added in, and to be fair, with the way current laws are written that affect civil marriage law contracts it would get really convoluted and tricksy. Especially things like inheritance and social security benefits and whatnot. Especially if the primary bread winner/head of house passes or decides to divorce one or more of the other parties. What happens to the rest of the contracts? Are they will that primary person or binding amongst all parties? Oy, such a headache and the primary argument against such marriages.
The second is abstinence only versus full disclosure sex ed. I (luckily) grew up in county that taught full disclosure sex ed by default and started in fifth grade. Yes, parents always had to sign permission slips to say “sure, teach my kid about sex” or “find them something else to do cause I want to be the one to educate them about sex” or not educate them as the case would likely be. I think I only saw maybe three kids not have permission to be educated in sex ed from fifth through twelfth grade. That’s pretty awesome in my opinion, especially considering that it was a requirement for every year of school up to high school and then was taught in bio and two or three other classes that were required for graduation.
Anywho, the point is that I feel pretty strongly about these topics, but think I could maybe argue either one of them. My teacher did give me the okay to write my essays on more divisive topics should I choose to because I could “handle” them maturely. On the other hand, this next essay is going to be sent out to the rest of the English dept. and I’m not sure that I want to write about anything so politically charged, no matter how well written, and be known as the student that is too opinionated/liberal/socialist/controversial at the end of my first semester of school.

On a completely unrelated note, I’m excited about the weather here. We’re supposed to get a pretty decent amount of snow between tonight and tomorrow night and I have nowhere to go and no one to meet until Wednesday morning, which means I get to just enjoy the snowfall. Huzzah! Pretty weather will be nice.

Conflict and why it sucks

Let me front all of this with a few things first. I hate conflict. I avoid it at all costs. It is physically and mentally painful and I carry guilt and feelings of failure for days, if not weeks. I am, at the same time, deeply protective of things, big idea, big concepts, big causes, that are important to me. The particular thing that started this whole post was related to a discussion, or something that vaguely resembled a discussion, about rape, rape culture and stupid people writing letters to authors. This is a topic I am passionate about. Even that may be too weak a word for how I feel about it and the need to breakdown the naievity that propagates and encourages rape/rape culture. For further understanding, I should also point out I’m an INFP, which is basically short hand in Jungian or Myers-Briggs personality typing for what is written above. A quote I found on a personality description website (www.personalitypage.com/INFP.htm) sums up what happened last night. ” INFPs are flexible and laid-back, until one of their values is violated. In the face of their value system being threatened, INFPs can become aggressive defenders, fighting passionately for their cause.” though here they described it as something heroic. Last night it was just bad. My biggest problem right now is that I’m in recovery mode. I’m upset, I feel guilty and I feel like I was wrong, oh so very wrong, in what I did and how I reacted. I also feel like it could have been much worse. As soon as I had realized that I was not just discussing something, but raising my voice and was unable to line my thoughts up in a coherent order I knew I needed to leave. I didn’t give any warning though. I just said I needed to go away and left. I didn’t go far, just to the bedroom, but it was enough that Nathan didn’t feel like he could come in. He fell asleep on the couch until I woke up at 245 and pulled him to the bedroom. I feel bad for the fact that he didn’t feel safe enough to come to the bedroom even just to check if it was cool to be in the same room. I may have been a bit abrupt and would not have spoken much, but I never would want him to sleep elsewhere just because I needed a bit of space. That’s what cars are for. I guess that is adding to the guilt. I have tried a few round-a-bout ways to see if he wants to talk or process what happened last night. Not the actual reason for me getting upset, but what happened, why, the fallout, the results and what can be done in the future. But the impression I’m getting is that he’s kinda confused but doesn’t really want to rehash anything. I kind of need something, but feel guilty enough for causing it all that I can’t actually say anything further about it. Ugh. I’m something of a mess right now. I apologize for the disorganized post and thinking and not so pleasant topic. I’m going off to bed in hopes I’ll feel better in the morning. Please excuse typos and bad grammar. I’m not sure what autocorrect on my phone does sometimes, but it really doesn’t like what I write or my style. Thanks for reading my whining. Oh, if you come to this one from fb, I’d appreciate any comments or feedback being left here rather than fb. Thanks.

Victim blaming, slut shaming, rape culture, these are all things we need to start discussions about so that in a few decades, we may actually be able to not have them or awareness and support days/months.

Writing Prompt: There Were Three, But Now There’s Only One

Again, unedited, first draft. This one is kinda meh, but could be worse I guess. Methinks I should stick with something a little more silly.

There were three, but now there’s only one.

The lump in his throat had been there for weeks. No amount of swallowing or drinking made it go away. Sometimes he could forget it was there, but that only lasted as long as it took him to find another bottle. Anna lectures… lectured me all the time about drinking this stuff. He didn’t know what else to do.
It had taken weeks to get courage to do more than stand in the doorway to their small bedroom. He stood at the foot of the bed, staring at bed covers that were still tossed back and rumpled. The mobile above the crib still spun, sending stars and moons running across the walls and ceiling.

They were gone. Anna and Tony, both gone.

This was the last place that had any bit of their presence, their things, their scents. He had scoured the rest of the tiny house the same night he lost both of them. He had gotten rid of everything, scrubbed and painting the walls and ceiling. He had bought only the most minimal amenities, an air mattress, a single set of dishes and a mini-fridge. He kept telling himself that he would toss everything from the bedroom and sell the house, go back to the days when he wandered. There was something he had to do first.

Vengeance was not typically his style. He had been a loner and had learned the hard way when he was young that the only way he would survive was if he kept his nose down and avoided all contact with the locals. He and Anna both knew that lesson. They had made sure to find a place that was considered free territory and kept out of the local and regional politics. They made a living doing normal things, he as a substitute teacher, she as an assistant librarian. Tony, barely 18 months old, was either watched by their neighbor down the street who had her own baby or happily played with the other babies at the library. Nothing they did ever drew attention. They even made sure Tony never overheard discussions or saw their less human tendencies so that he wouldn’t say anything out of his naivety.

He only had two leads: the rental car he had found outside town with their scents all over it and the small cross he had found around the neck of the third thing he had called. Few of their kind followed a human faith, least of all the Christian faith.

He expected that he would find them tonight. After all, it was a full moon. They had to be upset about losing five of their coven to only two wolves even if one had not made it. And they had forgotten that he could track them, even six weeks later. Witches always left imprints of their presence everywhere they went. Five together, well their trail would be there for months longer.

“Watch me tonight, love. Be ready to guide me home, please,” he whispered to the empty room. He turned around and left without touching anything, leaving this last tangible memory to keep them here. He needed them still. If he failed, he hoped they would understand.

Play Video Games, It’s Good For You – An Argument Essay

This is mostly for Ed, but also for any others who would be interested/curious. Many, many thanks go to Jeff for editing and helping me to make it much better and spiffier than its previous incarnations.

Play Video Games, It’s Good For You

Video games have been accused of contributing too many acts of violence or aggression for decades. What the media misses is that video games have many benefits we haven’t found in any other media. Society should stop being afraid of video games and instead start looking forward to how we can best use them to benefit ourselves and our children. Anyone who doesn’t understand why needs only take a quick look at our society. Surveys have shown that 90% of children in the United States play video games. 70% of heads of households play video games, too. That leads to the average age of video gamers to be 33 years old (Bavelier, “TED”). Society is changing and non-gamers are being left behind.

Millennials, those born between 1978 and 2000 (Madland 1), grew up playing video games. Home video game systems (known as platforms) such as Atari, Nintendo, Sega, Playstation, and don’t forget computers, were well established before they began primary school. These young adults have participated in the rapid development of video games from the most simple of games like Pong, released by Atari in 1973 (Winter), all the way to games like the super-realistic BioShock Infinite, released across multiple platforms in 2013 (Take-Two). To play Pong players manipulated a wheel on a controller to move a white line (the paddle) up and down one side of their television screen to prevent a white dot (the ball) from getting past their paddle. The graphics were incredibly simple. By contrast, games like BioShock Infinite are action-packed, fast-paced, and full of realistic scenery and characters. There are dozens of genres of video games, but most can be split into several broad categories, the most controversial of which are “first person shooters”, also known as FPS. These games use the perspective of the character being played; pulling the gamer from the more remote godlike view frequently described as third person perspective. FPS games also have a focus on violent game play where the main objective Leroy Jenkins is to shoot enemies. Today’s young adults play many of these genres, including FPS, and have gained skills from video games that were never anticipated. Depending upon the type of games they play, they may have a greater ability to: track visual information, process and make quick decisions, focus and complete complex tasks.

Some of the most controversial video games are also the ones with the greatest potential benefits. Fast-paced, FPS like BioShock Infinite, Halo, Doom, Half-Life, Borderlands and third-person equivalents like God of War: Ascension, Dragon Age, Mass Effect, and Force Unleashed have all been accused of being too violent, but the benefits gamers gain from playing them are astounding. Researchers like Daphne Bavelier and C. Shawn Green have pwned been able to demonstrate in multiple laboratory tests that playing these fast-paced games increases a person’s ability to track multiple pieces of visual information and decrease reaction time. They also have worked with another researcher, Alexandre Pouget, and showed that fast-action games also decrease decision making time. Basically, these games have so much going on all the time that for someone not used to following and tracking so much information it can be overwhelming. Gamers have no trouble keeping up with this information overload. This essay was found on a blog and was used without permission, therefore it was plagiarized. The players are able to assess, make decisions and react quickly because they had to learn how to do so in order to play and advance. Here is a list of all the things they must keep track of for themselves, their allies and their enemies: physical place within the world, their objective, ammunition, health status, where they need to go, what obstacles are in the way and what objects may help. If they are playing by themselves they may have to give orders to their computer allies. If they are playing with other humans then they have to be able to communicate effectively with them while tracking all the other data. Oh, and they’re getting shot at while doing all this.

The typical human’s brain is completely incapable of coping with processing all this information. However, the brains of gamers adapt so that they can keep track of all the information they need to. Bavelier and her team found that a video gamer’s brain physically changes so that the player can process all of this information, and, most importantly, use it. A video gamer is capable of making accurate, informed decisions faster than a non-gamer with the same percentage of right answers. Bavelier and Green demonstrated that this benefit from fast-action video games sticks around for at least six months after a test subject has played only 10 hours over the course of 2 weeks. This means that every person can gain this benefit without actually being a gamer, as long as he or she is willing to put in a few hours a week to train his or her brains. This is really exciting because many of these changes have immediate benefits off with her head outside our living rooms, the most obvious of which is driving. When driving, the increased awareness, ability to track the many things going on around us and to make correct, fast decisions about likely outcomes of movements is invaluable in the prevention of car accidents. Playing video games has a huge impact on an individual’s brain and as a result has a direct impact on how gamers interact with and navigate our world.

Many gamers are told over and over that they have trouble focusing, and that they must have ADD because they do so well in focusing when there is so much happening on their screens all the time. However, exciting new research, again from Daphne Bavelier and her team, is showing that gamers’ attention and focus is actually better than that of non-gamers. They are capable of resolving visual conflicts faster, which is frequently used in the lab to determine attention and focus capabilities. However, video game detractors point to information released by the Centers of Disease Control (CDC) regarding increased Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) diagnosis rates since 1997 with growth rates as high as 22% between 2003 and 2007. They argue that more and more children are being exposed to video games and more and more educators and parents are complaining that their children are unable to focus on things like classroom instruction the female orgasm and homework (Klass). What has been found, though, is that these child gamers’ brains, as well as the brains of their already adult counterparts, are very capable of focusing and they can maintain the same level of performance in stimuli-rich environments like what we find in many video games like World of Warcraft, much of the Final Fantasy series, and the previously mentioned first person shooters for hours. Detractors like Dr. Klass actually point to this seeming contradiction as part of the causal relationship between ADHD and video game play. However, Gabe Zicherman, a leader in the development and application of “gamification” or how to apply video game concepts to real life, disagrees with such views. He suggests that it is adults that need to catch up and keep up with kids, not slow down kids to their slower pace:

Is it that our children have ADD or is our world just too freakin’ slow for our children to appreciate? … The evidence is found in the games that they play. Consider the video game World of Warcraft. When I was growing up the maximum skill that I was expected to display in a video game was simple hand-eye coordination, a joystick and like a firing button. Today’s kids play games in which they’re expected to chat in text and voice, operate a character, follow long and short term objectives, and deal with their parents interrupting them all the time to talk to them. Kids have to have an extraordinary multi-tasking skill to be able to achieve things today. We never had to have that.

It should then not be a surprise to discover that children who have become excellent learners in high-stimulus virtual environments may have trouble settling down into a sedate classroom with other children who are also conditioned to learning through video games. Tom Chatfield has written multiple articles and a book on how video games are the perfect education and motivation tools. He points out that children are constantly learning in a virtual environment where there are consequences to not accomplishing a task, e.g. losing a life, a tool, or not meeting a time requirement. There are also clearly stated rewards to completing the task as well as possible unexpected rewards that are doled out at calculated increments. Video game designers have been fine tweaking the ratio of difficulty, rewards and consequences to being a dumbass so that they know exactly how much to throw at a gamer at what level in each game in order to keep that person engaged and coming back for more. Educators could learn a lot from what these designers already know; children who are engaged and rewarded in an interactive learning process can and do give their entire attention and focus.

The fact that video games are a tool that can be used for education, and therefore do have an impact on the human brain, means we do need to be aware of what the potential negative impacts of those changes could be. What most every person has heard as an argument against video games is that they encourage violence and aggression in the people who play them. Multiple studies have been published on the topic, but when those studies have been reviewed and compared, it was found that they contradicted each other, and in many cases, used flawed methods to reach their conclusion regardless of the results (Mitrofan). Christopher J. Ferguson with Texas A&M University used meta-analysis to review 12 studies available to him at the time of his publishing (2008) and found that researchers often used flawed methodology, drew conclusions that were not supported by their evidence, or in general could find no link between video games and violence. Of all the research that I could find on the subject, the most conclusive causal link was that violent video game or media exposure does decrease a person’s response time to help someone after they suffered a violent event, if they noticed that something violent was going on at all (Anderson). If this were an effect that lasted for an extended period of time, this would be concerning to me. However, Holly Bowen and Julia Spaniol of the Dept. of Psychology with Ryerson University found that there is no indication that people who play violent video games have any long-term emotional desensitization to violence in their immediate surroundings. They do acknowledge that there may be a period immediately after playing these violent games that a gamer may be desensitized, but it is not an effect that could be attributed to an increase violence and aggressive behavior in those test subjects. Essentially, the evidence so far is showing that video games have a short-term impact on how people respond to violence and are likely desensitized to violence and possibly even reading for a short period after they play violent video games, but there is little evidence that there is a long-term impact. The heart of the argument against violent video games is based on the idea of a long-term, negative impact on gamers. Research just does not support that position.

Video games have become a part of our culture and a part of our lives in many ways. As a society we need to focus our energy and attention on is how to use them to make our lives better. We’ve already seen research that shows how video games can be used to help with several tasks with real world applications. We can use video games to increase our ability to track multiple objects and thus be able to monitor more of our surroundings while driving. They teach people how to be able to focus and maintain attention in situations where there is a lot of information to absorb in very short period of time. Video games can help us to better analyze what is going on around us and make quick decisions about the best action to take in a variety of situations. New research about the benefits of video games is coming out every year. It is time for us all to step forward and embrace the technology around us that has so many benefits and work together to mitigate the deficits that are present. Our society will not be ruined by this action, but will instead be enhanced further. There is one further thing we need to do. We need to sit down and pick up a controller. We leave ourselves at a disadvantage if we refuse to play out of false concerns regarding violence and aggression. Video games are here to stay.

Writing Prompt: It Was Just A Normal September Day, Except

Unedited, first draft, first writing prompt in forever and a day.

It was just a normal September day, except…

It wasn’t September. Or rather, it was September, as far as she could tell by leaves on the trees, but it wasn’t supposed to be. Last she knew it was April and she had just gone to sleep. She had no idea where she was or how she got there or what was going on. Actually, she did know what was going on; she was in her pajamas in the middle of the day getting robbed. She just didn’t know why.

“I don’t have any money, really! No pockets, no jewelry, nada, nothing, zilch,” she said in a rush. The man holding the knife did not look very impressed.

“Who the hell goes outside with nothing of value? What am I supposed to do, just let you go?” he said, frowning at her. She could only figure this was a foreign idea to him and she would have to work hard to convince him that it was a good idea.

“I didn’t mean to be outside. It just sort of happened,” again, she added to herself though she dared not say it out loud. “Last I knew I was going to bed and then I was, well, here. You wouldn’t mind telling me where here is, would you?” Maybe if she distracted and confused him enough he would just give up and go find a less difficult victim.

“So… You’re crazy then,” he stated more than asked.

“No, well, maybe? I guess. I don’t know,” she thought for a moment before deciding that was the best way to make him go away. No one wants to rob a crazy lady. “Yes. I must be crazy. After all, you pointed out that no one in their right mind goes out and carries nothing of value. Therefore, I must be crazy. Thank you for pointing that out to me,” she said and smiled brightly. It was better than the other explanation she could tell him. At least this one he could believe.

He thought for what was the longest minute of her life before coming to some sort of decision. He turned his whole body away from her and looked up the street before saying, “Listen, lady, I don’t want to get mixed up with nothing weird, okay? Just… forget about it. Don’t tell no one, bad for business, get it?” She nodded vehemently. He never saw it though. He had already turned around and was walking away. Fast. She didn’t really care. She was just happy the crazy lady argument worked so well.

Am I crazy? How many people wake up missing months of their lives? Maybe it’s the best explanation for what’s going on. Except she knew what really happened to her. She knew because she had lied to him about not having anything of value with her. There was the earring she had bought at some dusty, hole in the wall thrift store a few years ago. Ever since, she seemed to have started experiencing odd things. Like waking up on a different day besides “tomorrow”. Or finding notes addressed to her in someone else’s handwriting. Or setting things on fire on accident. Luckily the fire one had only happened twice. She figured out how to avoid that one at least.

“Come on, Toto, let’s follow the yellow brick road,” she said to no one in particular as she started walking.