Kistaro Windrider, Reptillian Situation Assessor (kistaro) wrote,
Kistaro Windrider, Reptillian Situation Assessor
kistaro

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Reflections on a toy

Trying to clean up this dump of a study (I am, as always, home for the weekend), I found a toy I hadn't seen in years. Nothing particularly complex, just your typical lump of molded plastic: a "Travel Spirograph." You are likely familliar with the full-size version; the portable version has a toothed circular frame that goes over a plastic platform on which one places a Post-it note, and that platform is slid away to reveal a chamber for gears, pens, and a pad of Post-It notes. I decided to take the time out to play with it- even after all this time, the pens still worked.

No, they weren't the original pens from when I got the toy thirteen and a half years ago for my fifth birthday, but I was still surprised to find them holding their own. I think they were the second set, from when the first ones ran completely dry. Many walls of my house- a different house, then- were decorated with pattern-covered Post-It notes.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. I'm 18 now. I'm in college. I'm not depressed anymore. I'm taller. (Still a bit short, but now I'm not a full head below others of the same age as myself. I'm still in a growth spurt, but it's slowing- it's still good my parents sprung for the second-largest meal plan. Especially after I went $400 over last semester, although that includes the $250 donated from a friend.) I've settled on computer science, as opposed to illusionist (stage magician), astronaut (although I might try for a NASA job, who knows?), author, zookeeper, police officer... In some ways, I suppose I was a typical five-year-old. (A five-year-old reading through my father's science fiction collection, but never mind that.)

But I haven't really changed much since then. Nothing fundamental. Through it all- the Hell of public schooling, the freedom of college, the experience of volunteering at the Science Center (something I'd wanted to do since I first went there, but I had to wait ten or eleven years to turn 14 first)- a lot is still the same. I'm still overly idealistic. I still think burps are funny. I still see little merit in not having fun just because other people don't think it befits you. I'm still facinated with and talented at using computers- I'd say I've taken that to an extreme. I still don't understand why people hurt each other. I'm still a sneaky little bastard. I still love games of all forms- and I still invent new rules for any particular game set within, on average, two days of obtaining the game, usually in a way that reduces luck, increases strategy, and makes for a better game. (There is a reason I love Piecepack and Icehouse.) I'm still a dragon. (I accepted it then, yes. Denying my identity fluctuated as public schooling got worse.)

And a four-inch Spirograph with a two-and-a-half inch drawing window can still keep me occupied for longer than it really has any right to. Of course, now, I've got the manual dexterity to use it right (I used to have extremely poor fine motor skills), and I have to conciously keep myself from observing the fact that the one-hole on any of the round gears results in almost a cycloid, or trying to figure out what parametric equation best describes the curve I'm plotting. But it's still a fun toy. A simple toy based on simple geometric pattern plotting.

Those aren't the toys one sees frequently pushed. The big flashing advertisements are video games- which I'm okay with, but I really do think that more creative pursuits are appropriate for younger children (yes, in retrospect, as much as I whined about it, my parents were right to refuse). Or they're these ridiculously structured LEGO sets- no longer a box of 2x4s and a slip of paper saying "here are a few ideas, but go and figure out the rest yourself", but these sets designed to create exactly one particular scene from one particular movie. I can't remember the last time I saw a board game advertised- I haven't seen a "Hasbro Game Night" ad that didn't refer to something that needed batteries for at least two years, and they were the only ads for that for a while. You never see books advertised on television. Instead, you see signs at schools and churches, begging children to read for at least 15 minutes a day.

That terrifies me. Once I figured out how to read- mostly from Wheel of Fortune and rather patient parents- I would usually read for six to eight hours a day. You couldn't stop me. Stories, books of facts, the manual for the VCR (which I programmed for my mother when she wanted something recorded- she didn't know how to use it, but I did, and if I got stuck, I'd just check the manual. I was age 2 at the time), whatever I could grab. I honestly believe that the "normal reading age" advertised for children is way too late- the concept of only beginning to be able to read at age 5 astounds me, and I sincerely don't believe it.

Egad. I really shouldn't be getting this nostalgic about my youth when I'm only 18, y'know?
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