Library buffet.

Libraries are like all you can eat buffets. You can fill up on all sorts of stuff that is good for you, or you can fill up on junk. It is your choice, but also you have to bear the responsibility of your choice. If you are what you eat, you certainly are what you read.

There is something for everyone at the library. No matter what your taste or inclination, there is something for you. Even in fiction, I am constantly amazed at the variety. There are not just multiple genres, but crossovers. Large print Christian Amish suspense. Urban historical Western romance. Zombie romantic comedy. We have it all.

There is a lot of fiction, but also a lot of non fiction. If you want to learn anything about how to improve your health, your business, your marriage, your community, or the world, the library has it.

The library was my salvation when I was a child. It still is. I learned about the secret of Santa Claus from the library. I learned about the secret of sex too. I have no idea if my parents were ever going to clue me in to either one of these things. I learned early on that if I wanted the truth, I was going to find it in a book rather than from them. Even now, if there is anything that I need to know more about, I find a book from the library and learn.

Libraries are also my escape. If life is a little bit heavy, then some Terry Pratchett will lighten it. If life is too predictable, then Neil Gaiman will make things more interesting. Libraries are a place to find new friends for my journey.

Libraries are the great equalizer. It doesn’t matter how poor you are or how uneducated your parents are. With a library you can escape the horrible pull of poverty and ignorance. Yet, just like with a buffet, you can make bad choices too. Well, maybe I shouldn’t say they are bad, but they certainly aren’t nutritious or uplifting.

I’m sad when people use their library to exclusively waste their time and thus their lives. I’m sad when poor parents don’t use the resource of the library to help their children escape the cycle of poverty. Nothing is more empowering than knowledge.

We have a limit of 10 movies that patrons can check out at a time, and there are a stunning amount of people who get that limit and watch them and get then more, every few days. Some people have their wives’ and child’s card and get 30 movies at a time.

What an amazing waste.

Then there is “urban erotic fiction”, with broken English and stereotyped scripts. I’ve already written about how damaging I find that genre. I’m upset that it teaches African-American women that they are things and not people. I’m upset that it teaches them that they aren’t anything unless they have a man, and they aren’t much then either. I’m upset that they are reading the literary equivalent of deep-fried Twinkies. I want them to be empowered, not enslaved.

There are also other choices that aren’t the best. Sure, you don’t have to get educational materials all the time. But I worry about parents who let their children only get comic books. Children are like plants. You have to support them and raise them. They can’t be allowed to just grow up like weeds. They have to have good information put in them.

It is stunning to see the difference between foreign born parents and American born parents. The foreign born ones get educational books for their children. The children learn early on that their job is to learn. They develop healthy habits about learning. The parents choose for their kids the majority of their books.

The American born parents let their children pick out whatever they want. While I’m all for kids having some say in what they read, I know that they aren’t going to push themselves at all. Some, generally lower income ones, let their kids get just movies. This will just continue the cycle of poverty. If they can’t read, they can’t get good jobs.

Library materials and food are the same. If you let a child choose what to eat, he is going to pick junk food and candy. No child picks broccoli and squash if he has had hot dogs and chocolate. I’m not for censorship at the library, the same way I’m not for eliminating fried food at Golden Corral. I am for people being mindful about the repercussions of their choices. Life is short. Choose wisely.

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The philosophy of adventure games.

When I was a child I had a Commodore VIC-20. It wasn’t a very powerful computer, but it was something. My phone can do more than this thing can, but that has more to say about technology today. I played very simple games on it because the computing power of it was so low.

There were text-only adventure games that I enjoyed. They went under the name “Scott Adams Adventure Games”. They were like the “Choose Your Own Adventure” books but you didn’t have to keep up with which page you were on.

One of my favorites was my first. It was called “Adventureland.” I’d played it for a few months and found only three of the treasures. I knew that there were ten more, and I’d been all over that world trying to figure out what I had missed. Because it was text only, I couldn’t go on any physical clues. It isn’t like today, where I can play a game with my husband and one of us will notice a glint or a shimmer on the side of the screen and know there is something there we need to pay attention to.

We had invited over a neighbor’s daughter for the evening. She was much older than I was, an adult. I’m not sure why I was allowed to put on my adventure game while she was there. It seems kind of rude to have on a game while visitors are present. It was in the living room, hooked up to the television. This was the monitor. As I said, it was a simple computer. The game took up so much computing power the game itself had to supply more RAM to make it work.

Perhaps I wanted to show it off. Perhaps we had run out of ways to entertain her but the evening was not over. I know that she wasn’t expected to play bridge with my parents, possibly because that requires four people and I didn’t know how to play.

I put in the game and explained how it worked. It is a little hard to keep up with where you are in the game, so I had written up a map. N, W, U, D – easy. I had in all the directions of how to get from “room” to “room” with a tiny description of what was in each area so I could re-orient myself if I put in the wrong directions. I showed her how the interface worked, with its simple commands.

And then she noticed the tree. There was a tree that was very prominent in one “room” of the game, and there had been a treasure in it. You had to climb the tree to get it. I’d quickly ignored the tree as a future source of other goodies. Generally you only get one thing in one area. But there was more to be found there – lots more.

Part of the game, like all adventure games, was that you picked up everything that wasn’t nailed down. In this game you could have an inventory of about six things at a time. One of the items that I had was an ax. I had no idea what I needed it for, but I had it, because that is what you do with adventure games.

Perhaps that is a little twisted about adventure games. They teach you to go into every room possible and to pick up everything you can. So they teach you breaking and entering and theft. They also teach you that if you fail, you can just hit the reset button and try it all over again. These lessons aren’t really healthy lessons to be imprinting on a young mind. But I digess.

Our visitor asked me to chop the tree down with the ax. I thought that was the silliest thing ever. That won’t do anything. But to humor her, I did. I put in the command in the way the game needed it – probably “Take AX. Use AX on TREE.” It had very finicky syntax needs. Half the game was figuring out how to talk to it.

The tree fell down. Then we “looked” at the tree again, and there was a rotten stump – the tree had been hollow. And then we went down into the tree – and the rest of the world opened up. There was a whole complex of tunnels and passages under there, filled with more puzzles to solve and treasure to find. That was what I’d been looking for all along and I just didn’t know it. I had the tool to do it, I just didn’t use it because I dismissed it.

It was because of a stranger’s “Why not?” that made it possible for me to solve the rest of the game. It took a few more weeks to solve it because there was so much to it and I had to barter time to use the TV to play my game. If I was playing my game, nobody else could watch TV.

Isn’t that the way it always is? We get set in our ways, thinking that our way is the only right way, and yet we know we are missing something. Then a stranger comes along and suggests something so off the wall that we are sure it has to be wrong. We get stuck up in our pride and we can’t move forward.

I just knew her idea had to be fruitless because she had never played any adventure game. I was showing it to her. It was my game. She was just a passenger, I was the driver. Who was she to tell me how to play this game and where to go? But she was totally right. Thank goodness I got over my pride and tried her suggestion. If it weren’t for her I would have probably just decided the game was too hard and given up.