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Here's something I've been thinking about for a while. The Diamond Age: Or, A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer is a cyberpunk (wikipedia says postcyberpunk) book by Neal Stephenson.  It tells the story of, among other things, a very cool technologically advanced book with the same name as this entry.  The book is designed to, over the years, interact with and teach a young girl the things necessary for her to become an educated and refined (it's created by a gentleman in a  Victorianesque society) young lady, but also an independent and downright badass girl with the skills to do anything she wants (which in Nell's case includes beating the crap out of a violent insurrectionist group and saving the world).  The original idea for the Primer came from a man who wanted to make sure that his granddaughter didn't grow up to be just another educated but mindless Victorian lady.
So here's what I've been thinking: even though we don't have the technology for a real Primer, shouldn't there be some way of producing a similar effect from a combination of things that are available to us?  You can't force exposure to all these things on a child, but you can encourage.  And of course different people will place importance on different areas, but here is my version of the Young Lady's Illustrated Primer.

A big part of it is about doing anything active, not spending every hour sitting in the house, watching TV, or even reading.  The best activities are ones that teach a skill or information, although it's important to find things that one actually enjoys.  Personally, I think the following things are important:
-exploration of the physical world, whether it's city streets or trees and streams
-some kind of self-defense - even if you think you will never need to use it, it can help with confidence and independence
-knowing how to make things and fix things that are important in daily life
-learning another language from a young age
-and, finally, partly due to my personal prejudice but also realistic, I think: lots of reading

The real purpose of this entry is to expand on the final suggestion about reading, because it is not enough to read just anything.  There's a lot of crap out there.  There's also a lot of stuff that isn't crap and definitely should be read, but doesn't contribute a lot towards the goal of the Primer.  So, from my completely biased perspective, here are the books I have read that do contribute towards that goal of opening the mind and/or guiding a person to resist sheephood.  (Given in order according to approximate age-appropriateness.  For a version with explanation of each choice see here.)

A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer:
Andrew Henry's Meadow, by Doris Burn
The Lorax, by Dr. Seuss
The King's Equal, by Katherine Paterson
Le Petit Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster
Island of the Blue Dolphins, by Scott O'Dell
Tuck Everlasting, by Natalie Babbitt
Gone Away Lake, by Elizabeth Enright
Journey to the River Sea, by Eva Ibbotson
Coraline, by Neil Gaiman
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll
Half Magic, by Edward Eager
The Magician's Nephew, by C. S. Lewis
The Giver, by Lois Lowry
The Dark is Rising, by Susan Cooper
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, by J. K. Rowling

Dealing with Dragons, by Patricia C. Wrede
Alanna: The First Adventure, by Tamora Pierce
Holes, by Louis Sacher
Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card
Stardust, by Neil Gaiman
The Golden Compass, by Philip Pullman
The Wind Singer, by William Nicholson
Abarat, by Clive Barker
The Host, by Stephenie Meyer
A Midsummer Night's Dream, by William Shakespeare

On the Origin of Species, by Charles Darwin
The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood
Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams
A Study in Scarlet, by Arthur Conan Doyle
Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman

Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson
American Gods, by Neil Gaiman
The Diamond Age: Or, A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer, by Neal Stephenson

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What Sort of Hat Are You? I am a Halo.I am a Halo.

I believe I am perfect. Others may not think so, but those others are wrong. What Sort of Hat Are You?

(If you were not a Halo you would be a Top-hat.)

What Sort of Hat Are You? I am a Top-hat.I am a Top-hat.

I'm a bit of a jack-of-all-trades; creative, in a stylistic sort of way, a little vain, a little dark, perhaps a little archaic. I get on alright with people, but I can take them or leave them. What Sort of Hat Are You?
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I am, of course, none other than blank verse.
I don't know where I'm going, yes, quite right;
And when I get there (if I ever do)
I might not recognise it. So? Your point?
Why should I have a destination set?
I'm relatively happy as I am,
And wouldn't want to be forever aimed
Towards some future path or special goal.
It's not to do with laziness, as such.
It's just that one the whole I'd rather not
Be bothered - so I drift contentedly;
An underrated way of life, I find.
What Poetry Form Are You?
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What Flavour Are You? I taste like Bread.I taste like Bread.

I am a staple in almost everyone's diet. Friends like me are a complement to any other friends I get on with almost everyone, remaining mostly in the background, but providing substance when it would otherwise be lacking. What Flavour Are You?

(If you were not Bread you would be Vanilla.)

What Flavour Are You? I am Vanilla Flavoured.I am Vanilla Flavoured.

I am one of the most popular flavours in the world. Subtle and smooth, I go reasonably with anyone, and rarely do anything to offend. I can be expected to be blending in in society. What Flavour Are You?
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yay! new ichigo userpics!

Current Mood: awake awake
Current Music: Piratesof the Caribbean

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Good pancakes.

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Current Music: Kyoudai

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