Monday, June 29, 2015

Something admirable.

And boy, is "admirable" getting hard to find these days.  But I felt particularly motivated to find something today- in view of the world-wide litanies of awfulness, and imminent awfulness.

There is something underway right this minute (8:48 AM US Central Daylight Time) that I believe we can all find admirable.  Quixotic, to be sure- but all the humans involved in this effort seem to be motivated not by greed or self-inflation; but by the pure desire to - move forward.

Ok, we don't want to get into "what is really forward?"; let's just enjoy the moment here.

One man in an astonishingly fragile machine is flying, at this moment, between Japan and Hawaii.  Slowly.  The trip is expected to require 120 hours.  And he is "past the point of no return" now.

The Solar Impulse craft is 100% solar powered, and keeps flying at night using electricity stored in batteries during the day.  To me, this is somewhat more daring than Lindbergh's flight across the Atlantic ocean, using a single gasoline engine powered plane- that kind of powered flight had far more years of development than this matchsticks and plastic wrap and flashlight batteries gizmo.

Ok, it's a lot more sophisticated than that.  :-)  But still - these folks, and this pilot, are sticking their necks way, way out.

Whimsical?  Quixotic?  Absolutely.  But also one of the good things about humans; we can sometimes poke at the Universe a bit, looking to find our more than we knew; even if it means risking our necks.


And, boy, am I grateful to see it.

Looking for an update- nope, it is SO not in the news.  It took me a little internet digging; but; there is a website that gives current information during the flight: Follow The Flight.

I think they definitely need a couple communications/advertising nerds to help with the web info (in the few minutes I've looked) - but; it's there.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Some progress, perhaps - and more possible.

Long time readers here will know and remember this topic, which sets me off into rants like few things do.  We've just had an event with nearly identical causes, to my mind.

I'm not going to rant here; having already done so on this blog, and you're welcome to dig out the various versions.

What I want to observe is that just possibly, there is some progress in public reaction.  On the day of the event, every media outlet on the planet screamed the news- with big photographs of the murderer, his name, his history, and where his mother learned how to blow her nose.

Two days later - this stuff has receded dramatically; no longer "above the fold", and with far less emphasis on pointless "analysis".

I would love to think this is because many other people are now doing what I do - turning them OFF - immediately.

The instant I see the face, name - I close that media window- and will not open it again for 24 hours.  Regardless of whether I actually wanted to use the site, or not.  I can of course live without them.  I will not use any website; for 24 hours, that posts names and photographs of murderers.  Most of them kill - specifically to get their name into the news.  Don't give them what they want.

Possibly - others are as sick of this as I - and just turn it off when it happens.  The media outlets now track their responses, of course- and if they can see a drop in readership in response to a news direction; they will change it.

When I started doing this; I also went to "Contact Us" on each site, and sent them an email explaining that I was turning them off, and why.  That can be useful, too.  The Washington Post sent me a whiney juvenile response; essentially "gee whiz, we have to report the news" - ignoring what everyone knows- that they control the news; they don't just report it.

Turn them off.  Pass it on.  Maybe, someday, they'll shut up.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

The Trouble With Kids Today...

That, of course, is intended as a laugh line.  The first commentary on that topic was written in Cuneiform, on clay tablets.  But it's still a workable headline, and appears in all major media, under various disguises, at least 4X per year, per newspaper, or talk show, or whatever.

Hi!  I'm still not dead yet!  This post will be, I hope, relatively brief; since a) short is better in this world, b) I have other urgent things I must do in the next few hours, and c) - it has dawned on me, finally, that even if I wrote about the "stuff" included in the post title at length, and to the extent of my expertise on the topic; I would not really be able to communicate even "most" of it.

Probably lost you already, with that one!  Back to the "Kids".

I have an unusual perspective available to me on the subject.  I remember being a kid myself, in considerable detail; I was paying attention to kidness at the time.  I have 2 from my first marriage, now both in their 30s (yes, I know B, closer to 40 for you, but I'm blocking, and prefer to keep it that way.)  I also have one right now who is 10.  Smack in the middle of Kid, for her, though as part of that experience, she denies it, and identifies far more as a "young lady".  And I teach, multiple ages.

The thing that triggered this blog post; I'm currently re-reading, for the umptieth iteration, a book that was written for kids; over 100 years ago, which is a very great favorite of mine.  I still read aloud to my 10 year old, though she frequently now reads some of whatever it is to me, too; we both like it a lot.

And I hesitated, about attempting to read this one, over 100 years old, to Smidgen.  Still hesitating.  Writing this, instead, half thinking perhaps writing it, or your comments, will clarify things.

Not, at all because she wouldn't understand the dialogues, embedded dialects, topics from pre-industrial cosmos, or that she wouldn't enjoy the book.  She handles all that kind of stuff already, just fine.  She would love to pick up some new tag-lines; and learn new, esoteric words.

I hesitate because I'm -just a bit- afraid of putting her on a path that will separate her even further from her classmates and peers.  The vast, vast majority of Kids these days are completely unfamiliar with the literature of the previous century, both words and concepts; and give you blank incomprehension if you try to communicate with them using such referents.  I need- you need - Smidgen needs - to communicate with them, and of course they are totally worth communicating with.  But cultural referents outside Twitter are now a barrier.

Smidgen already drops words and references that leave not only peers but many adults with blank faces.  Do I really want to make it worse?  The other horn of the dilemma (did you know dilemmas have horns?) is that I believe deeply that nothing you learn is ever a waste; at some point, it will enrich your life.

This sort of generational shift has happened many times, since the cuneiform editions, and we've survived.  But we have something different going on now, too.  Not only is there a possible barrier due to time passing and changing us- Kids Today have instant access to incomprehensibly more information, and varying cultural sources, than us ancients ever did.  It's very easy for this dumb kid who doesn't understand you at all - to be a PhD level expert, in grade school, on some topic you know nothing about yourself, have no frame of reference for, and no interest in.  Leaving both parties feeling the other is without worth.

That too has happened before, but never on the current scale.

Oddly- the best cure for incomprehension I've found is also a major part of the problem - YouTube, and its derivatives.  It's now my tool of choice, when my Kids (all 3) do not understand something I'm trying to explain.  It'll usually take me around 30 seconds to find a video that crosses and connects viewpoints.  The most frequent scenario is the Kid has to be dragged, by me, to the screen, and parented into wasting time watching something they're SO not interested in; halfway through the video they start to "get it"; and by the end, they're absorbed.

You can see the neurons connecting up.

But boy, is it a lot of work.

Ok, a tad longer than a good Tweet; but hey, short for me.