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Ár nDraíocht Féin
Three Cranes
Chaos Matrix

June 14th, 2016

01:36 pm - Speaking When Words Cannot Be Found
A photo of the candles on my altar, stating: Flames lit for those whose flame has gone out, whose voices may never again be heard. Victims of hate and fear: we remember you.
A prayer for Orlando
It is worth saying at the outset that truly, deeply, my heart goes out to those who have lost loved ones, friends, and a sense of safety in the tragedy in Orlando that spawned this post. My altar is bright for you, as it is bright of us all.

There are things that happen that make no sense. They defy the words we have to offer, and the comfort we wish to share. They break our hearts, and they beat down our spirits. When you cannot think of anything to do, it is even harder to think of something to say.

When awful things happen to a community we are not a part of, but are allied with, it becomes even more complicated: how do you speak to a community that is hurting without speaking for them, and silencing them in the process?

I've spent a lot of time considering these questions. I don't know that I have all the answers, but I think that I've come to a place where I grok a sembalance of some answers, mostly as they relate to the work I do as an ADF Priest.

There are often discussions in online fora about the "need" for Pagan clergy, for Priests, and for institutionalized training. Generally, as a priest in ADF, I come down on the side of "people don't require priests for much of anything, theologically." Anyone from the eldest of elders to the most novice of beginners has the inherent ability to access the divine, and that's a cornerstone of my theology, actually.

But there are times when having skilled priests becomes an advantage. It's good to have a priest when you get married, for example, or when your child is born, or when you die. There, priests are certainly useful, even if you can probably do all the things you need to do yourself (except for that pesky "your own funeral" part). There's a subset of the "skills one learns when learning to be a priest" that can perhaps be best described as "making your important life event less of a clusterfuck."

A prayer for Paris,
Nov. 13, 2016
It's not a course you take or get credit for. It's just something you learn through a weird combination of experience, coursework, and through being there for others over time. It's a valuable thing, a worthwhile thing; that's why most priests charge for weddings and funerals: the ability to have someone else handle the details and not screw things up has value and utility to folks.

But what that skillset does is prepare you in ways you never expected for things that no one should ever have to expect in life. When tragedy strikes, we are the ones who are expected to have words, to have actions, and to have ways of transmitting something meaningful in a world seemingly gone mad.

And that has been happening far too often recently.

I mentioned above, I don't think that I, as an ADF Priest, am necessarily uniquely qualified to do these sorts of things. But through experience and work, I've found that there are ways to interact with tragedy that help people come together, rather than fall apart.

None of this is perfect, or easy, or even necessarily something you can duplicate more than once. But I want to share some of the ways I work to help others when something large happens, because I think it's important, and I think it's something I can learn more from explaining, and hopefully others can learn more about by reading.

I will also point out that I was not at all very good at this when I began my work as clergy. I was, in fact, terrible. I still think I'm not really very good at this, but I also think that no one is very good at this: the people who appear to be are just more practiced in their process.

There are a few things I have picked up on in the process of working for individuals that have been important to carry forward into my work for larger groups, trying to help others through grief and fear. These are what I consider the starting point for any attempt to act as priest in a moment of tragedy, whether personal or international in nature:

  1. Read up on "things not to say to people who are grieving" - Seriously, I'll wait. Here are a couple of resources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 (Trigger Warning: if you've recently gone through a grieving process, some of these might be hard to read because they are insensitive). The act of reading through those lists will do more for your ability to speak with meaningful support than anything else, because those lists are full of people speaking backhanded compliments, minimizing the person's feelings, and turning someone else's tragedy into their own. And why are the lists so similar? Because people keep saying these things. Break the cycle.

  2. Act on the information you know is true, not on speculation or gossip - Never approach someone with an assumption that you know what's going on. You don't have to know details to offer support, and you don't have to make an assumption about what a person is going through to tell them you're there for them. Also, don't assume hard data tells the whole story: people have broad circles, and it's not just people in France who were affected by the Paris attacks last November, for instance. Also, don't post about someone's death until you're certain of two things: 1) they've actually passed, and 2) their family has all been notified.

  3. Work on formulas, and develop a practice for tragedy -  When it comes to people who have personal tragedies, the internet norm is to comment "*hugs*" and move on. You might reach out via a private message, or post something a bit longer if you know the person well. Know this: that person will get a lot of social media messages, and they can seem empty when they are all the same. Build a practice for this sort of thing. Mine is not complicated, but it's personal and meaningful: I often light a candle, take a picture, and send it to the person with a note letting them know it's for them. Because it is personal and meaninful, it lets the person know that they are special, and that their cares and feelings matter.

  4. Value the person experiencing the tragedy - They reach out because whatever the tragedy is (and whatever your understanding of the level of "tragedy" in this case), it's real to them. Even if you think it's a "first world problem," look at it through their eyes. Don't devalue the tragedy and devalue the person at the same time.

  5. Choose which tragedies you can respond to, and how deeply you can respond - This is the hardest bit of advice. If you reach out and say, "If you need anything, I'm here," and then you go on a fishing trip and don't check your email, you've done worse than if you had not reached out at all. We all have a capacity to deal with a certain amount, and if you can't manage this level of tragedy, let someone else handle it. If the person reaches out to you directly for support and you can't handle it, that's okay. Have a place to refer them to, and be clear that you value them, but you cannot manage it right now. If you can't handle it, you need to outsource it, or risk making the problem worse.

On a personal level, these things are small, meaningful gestures. What I've been very surprised about recently is how well they scale for large groups of people, and how well they can reach people when applied well. But trying to share things broadly has some pitfalls, too:

  1. Create something easy to share - I want to be clear: this isn't about popular posts, or shares or likes or reblogs. Those are metrics and data that can help you understand how helpful your post is, but that's all they are. What this is about is crafting something that people can take action and ownership over, and giving them something they can control. Text is hard to share; graphics are easy. Video requires attention to tragedy, something a lot of people don't want to do. Rememer that lit candle? Look at what I did above for both Paris and Orlando. Paris was a Snapchat photo, saved and uploaded to Facebook and Tumblr. Orlando was a few candles on my altar. What you do doesn't have to be elaborate and staged. It just has to show action and provide a light in the darkness.

  2. Keep your theme on point - Simple messaging is key. In the 24-hour news cycle we have, it's impossible to have all the details when you first want to say something. Speak to the value of those affected, and avoid specific detail (with most tragedies, death tolls fluctuate wildly in the first 24 hours, and so do motives and understandings of whether the tragedy is over or still ongoing). If your message contains too many details, the fact that you care will get lost in them. Your first and most important theme? "I care. You're valuable. We're in this together." (If you can't honestly say those things, don't post about it.)

  3. Be timely - If you let the sun set on a tragedy, you're likely moving too slowly. Temper this with the knowledge that you can't always respond to everything, because there is too much. It's okay not to provide words for absolutely everything. By the same token, don't rush something out to "beat the crowd." Be considerate and careful about what you say.

  4. Recognize that sometimes, someone else says it better - It's okay for an ADF Priest to "say something" by reblogging another Priest's post, or even to reblog another church's (Pagan or not) post on a tragedy if it says what you wish you could say. Lean on others who have experience and voice, because, frankly, none of us has enough experience (or enough words) to speak to every tragedy, and there are no rivalries worth fighting over when tragedy strikes. There's no need for every person to speak, in their own words, about every tragedy. Simply put, we can't do that. And that's okay.

  5. Don't talk over the victims - Don't assume your post, your condolences, or your words will resolve the problem for everyone, or that it will cover every need. Check in with people in the area. Discuss with someone from that community. Make sure your statement gives ample space for their statement.

  6. Make more than one post, when appropriate - If you're going to be both timely and on point, you might miss details that come out later. There's nothing saying that two or three days later, you can't put out another prayer or thought on the event: one that is more informed, more direct, and that speaks to the issues that have been raised in the intervening time. See below, for my second post about Paris, as an example of how different a "first post" and "followup post" might be. The first post allowed me to get something out that was simple and effective, and the second one allowed me to spend some time. Both were helpful to a lot of people, each in their own way.

These are a few lessons i've learned about this "Helping Others With Tragedy" thing. Again, it's hard. It's practically impossible. It's stupid and dumb and we shouldn't have to do this, not in a sane world. But the power of being there for each other is immense.

I care. You're valuable. We're in this together.

May your fire burn brightly.
Current Location: Southeast of Disorder
Current Mood: tiredtired
Current Music: "I Used To Have Money One Time", -JB

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May 17th, 2016

10:25 am - Growing Up, Learning the Path
Before the twins were born, I wrote a bit about my "Changling Bane" plan, and I wanted to give a bit of an update.

The Changeling Banes are still doing their job, standing guard. We've moved to a new house, and the little figures came right along with the kids. It's funny: I let the kids choose their spirit themselves, and my daughter chose the older, bearded, male spirit, while my son chose the female spirit.

There's been a nifty change, though, in the way that the kids interact with them, just in the past week or two: now, the kids understand that these figures are home to spirits that protect them.

My kids love the movie "Song of the Sea," but it turns out that the owls in the flim are a bit scary for them at their current, tender age of two-and-a-half. We were having some trouble putting them to sleep, so my wife showed them the spirits who were still in their window (and who have been with them since they were taken out of the delivery room), and told them about how the spirits were there to protect them.

Now, my daughter has to give her spirit a hug and a kiss each night, just like she gives to me, and then her spirit goes back up into the window to guard the room. My son asks for his spirit to sleep with him, and he clutches her all night, and occasionally converses with her in the dark, and I have to hug and kiss both him and the spirit before bed.

It's amazing, the kinds of little things that we don't really expect to have a lasting impression, but do.

I mostly made these Changeling Banes for my own piece of mind, to control the uncontrolable, to keep curious things out in the world full of spirits that I live in. My half-rational, half-religious mind is split down the middle on their function: I have a deep belief that the Spirits are there for me and my psychological well-being, and also a deep belief that they're protecting the kids from things that might go "bump" in the night ("Ghoulies and Ghosties and Long-Leggity Beasties," if you will). It's a strange place, but I'm in love with the fact that the kids have given these little spirit figures a real, deep life my rational mind resists giving them... and that makes their reality all that much more deep for me, too.
Current Location: Southeast of Disorder
Current Mood: goodgood
Current Music: "Off To See the Lizard", -JB

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November 9th, 2015

11:48 am - Answers are the easy part: Questions raise the doubt
TL;DR: The kinds of questions we field about Druidry can tell us a lot about how our values differ from the broader contexts of other, mainstream religions. Here's what I discovered.

Last week, I was privileged to speak to a number of high school students in an alternative humanities program here in Columbus, on the topic of Druidry. I gather that they get to write response papers to my presentation, but something struck me today as I was thinking about the experience: I sort of want to write a response to the experience of speaking to them.

One of the interesting things about this particular group of kids is that they always come with good, high quality questions. I've been coming to speak to them for about six years (since 2009, though one year my slot got snowed out), and it's always been fun.

This year was no different in the fun department, but I did lead a basic Two Powers meditation for the class this time, which I had not done before. Typically, this class hears from a number of speakers and has a number of experiences with non-mainstream religions as part of their world religions section. Very often, those presentations inform the sorts of questions I receive.

Thinking about the questions that they asked (on the afterlife, on what a ritual is like and why we do those things, on an example of "working" magic, and on how we strive for "perfection"), I began to look at them in the broader religious and spiritual context that these questions represented. What I realized is that Druidry is very different from a lot of other religions, in its basic premise: we are far more concerned with how we act in relation to others and the cosmos than other religions are.

Most religions are, on balance, interested in the self. The assumptions made about where they're coming from and where they're going are very different. Other religions place emphasis on things like:

  • These are the things I have to do or believe for me to get to X kind of afterlife, or to ensure that I'll see my loved ones when I get there.

  • There's an external sort of thing to strive for, a "perfection" we might wish to achieve, or an escape from the state that is this world.

  • Things are best divided, between spiritual and physical, between sacred and profane, between self and other.

These sorts of ideas aren't as important in Druidry. We don't start from these kinds of places, and we don't ask these sorts of questions, mostly.

Instead, we focus almost exclusively on our relationships in this life:

  • How do my actions affect the cosmos? How do we affect the world we live in?

  • What is the affect of my actions on others? Is this behavior ethical, given all that I know about how the world can and should work?

  • It's okay to make mistakes: the important thing is to take ownership of them.

  • The functional divide between that which is "spiritual" and that which is "physical" is hardly important: both the physical and the spiritual are equally important in our lives. Indeed, both of them have equal value in our lives.

  • Do what works for you, not what someone tells you will work; your quirks might form an interesting and powerful relationship.

Part of this is knowing that right action is vitally important to the way the cosmos maintains itself. Part of this is know that we don't know anything about the afterlife, and we can't (though we can make some educated guesses). Part of it, too, is a healthy dose of "I can make my own decisions."

But a lot of it is being aware that others are not a vehicle to our own benefit. We are, instead, in this together, and entering into relationships with one another. As humans, we're engaged in a broader web, one we may not always understand, but which we clearly feel that we gain from and give back to. We only gain when others gain. We don't have to improve our lives at the expense of others: we can best improve them when we bring others with us.

A lot of that has to do with offering help where we can, being kind to others, and being open to the possibility of a *Ghos-ti- relationship (indeed, it is important to take the first step in forming a relationship even when there is not one). This seems to be important on both a local scale, and on a broader cosmic scale. Doing so, we think, will improve and enrich our lives in ways that it is often hard to describe, but easy to relate to.

Other religions are often concerned with these things as well: kindness is not rare as a virtue among religions, for example. Yet it seems that the focus on creating relationships because they improve the cosmos instead of the self seems to be something strange and out of step, particularly with mainstream religions and the culture that they provide. . . and the questions about our religion that they seem to raise most often.
Current Location: Southeast of Disorder
Current Mood: goodgood
Current Music: "Off To See the Lizard", -JB

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October 14th, 2015

10:56 am - Druidry, as a "thing explained."
Today, I stumbled onto the XKCD Thing Explainer "Word Checker" and decided to try and write a description of Druidry using it. The Word Checker tells you when you're using a word that is not in the 1,000 most common words in English, and prompts you to figure out some other way to explain what you're talking about (check out the graphic that explains how a Saturn V rocket works done with this limitation).

With no real plan, I came up with this very simple description of Druidry. Hope you enjoy it:

I'd like to talk about the beliefs of the old "land across the sea" people. These are the people who were around before the now "land across the sea" people, and they did a lot of moving around, going from place to place until finally stopping at their now place, which is really more of a "then" place, since it was before now.

There were many groups of these people, each talking their own way and having their own ideas about who lives in the world beyond ours, just out of our reach. It is said that they went to fights without clothing, gave gifts to the people living in the world beyond ours, and gathered around fires and trees and things to be together.

Today, we do a lot of these things, sort of like they did them then. We gather on certain important days, do work with moon faces and part-faces, and remember the people living in the world beyond ours, and hope they hear us when we speak. We sing to the Earth Mother, Her children, the Spirits of Place, and our Mothers and Fathers.

We light a fire at the center of the world, and we give gifts to the spirits around it. We hope they will come to visit us there, as we speak to them, and hope that our work will help keep the world working, and ordered.

Even though we have moved across the sea to be where we are now, we remember where we came from, and bring it with us to this place we now live.

It was an interesting exercise. I'd do it again.

Current Location: Southeast of Disorder
Current Mood: amusedamused
Current Music: "Lucky Stars", -JB

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June 27th, 2015

07:33 am - Equality and Joy: revising yesterday's prayer just a bit

I heard the news yesterday that the SCOTUS had, in a 5-4 decision, approved same-sex marriage nationwide.

And I heard it early enough that I got to tell a few people about it first. That was pretty awesome.

I was down at ComFest, which meant limited access to keyboards and internet, but I managed to get this prayer up onto Tumblr:

Kindreds, Spirits all:
We have persevered.
In joy, we sing out for love!
May all our voices be bright together
As we sing praises to Justice,
To Joy, and to Liberty!

I wanted to write more, and I thought my words completely failed when I wrote it, but looking back, it is not really half-bad as a prayer. Still, I wanted to give it another shot, today. So:

I sing praise first to Love,
You, who is greater than Heaven and Earth,
You have brightened our lives this day.
You, who is greater than all that lives,
And who was here before all else.
We are one people before your might,
Raised up, healed, and overflowing with you!

I sing praise next to Joy,
Whose voice has filled my heart,
Singing out from my lips!
The folk join together, hand in hand,
Brightened by the rising star of Love.
May we never forget you, Joy,
Especially as we share you with others!

I sing praise next to Liberty,
You, who have fought so hard to be heard.
We see you persevere through bigotry,
Your march steady, conquering,
And full of faith to the last.
May we never forget this day
Where your shining light touched us all!

I sing praise finally to Justice,
You have been well served today.
We have seen what your hand can do,
Righting the scales of those crushed
Beneath the heel of fundamentalism.
Know we heed your call this day,
And your triumph here brings new challenges.

That's about what the prayer would have looked like with a full keyboard and a decent internet connection. It's what I thought as I stood there in our tent, stunned with joy and love.

Love has won, but there is still work to do on this front. Let us not forget that discrimination is still allowed in this country based on sexual orientation.

This fight is not just about love; it is also about human dignity.

We keep fighting.
Current Location: Southeast of Disorder
Current Mood: ecstaticecstatic
Current Music: "If I Could Just Get It On Paper", -JB

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June 25th, 2015

12:02 pm - On Flags and "Distraction"
So, lemme get this straight: you believe we're being "distracted" from "real stories" about "the government" and "corporations" by "the media" with "things that don't matter". . .

If that's true, I have news for you:

  1. If the media, whose biggest scoop is whistleblowing on the government and corporations; and corporations, who hate to be controlled by the government and can't stand journalists; and government, who hates "gotcha journalism" and breaks monopolies, are all in bed together. . . does it really matter what they're covering up? Your Facebook posts aren't going to dent that armor.

  2. Black lives matter.

Now, I haven't arragned these in any particular order. It just so happens that Point 1 provides a nice springboard for Point 2.

Let's start with Point 1. This isn't the first time I've seen this: apparently, we're distracted by a lot of things, according to a few of my friendly conspiracy nuts (I mean that in the nicest possible way; think of it as an endearment): the media distracts us from
BigGovermentThingX and/or BigCorporateThingY with InsignificantThingZ all the time. News of the Pluto exploration mission (New Horizons, launched nearly a decade ago) is designed to distract us from fracking. News of the divorce of some big celebrity provides a smoke screen for government surveillance. News of the Sony hack distracts us from CIA torture camps in Afghanistan.

And news about a little orange flag on the SC capitol grounds distracts us from the TPP, pyramids on Ceres that were built by aliens, or ISIS going on the offensive now. This brings us to Point 2.

I have to be honest, a lot of my friends (a lot of my white, privileged friends) have a lot to say about how this controversy over the Battle Flag of the Army of Northern Virginia is "just a distraction." It's not. The killing of black kids by police isn't a "distraction." The fact that this flag was brandished by a white kid before he killed nine black people in a church is not a "distraction."

It sounds like a distraction to you, because you feel it is unimportant. Let that sink in for a moment: you think that a person using the old "Stars and Bars" as a symbol of hate is isolated, "improper," and at the end of the day, unimportant. That's what you're saying when you call it a "distraction."

The worst form of this is the open-ended, "More about this silly flag. What else might they be distracting us from?" This line says to me: "I'm so uninformed, I cannot find a single thing that is worth caring about less than the way minorities feel about this flag."

I know, you didn't choose to see it as "unimportant." You think the issue is different, that there's something else going on than racism here. You might even think that it's "reverse racism" (note the quotes: that's because we're using a made-up phrase; sorry, but that's true). You might feel that the flag in question is "misrepresented," but your feelings are born of your ideas about the flag, and doesn't take into account anyone else's perceptions (which, of course, means you must be right).

Your "distractions," when your cute little conspiracy nut head gets ahold of them, are expressions of how you interact with institutional racism. And in your privilege, you say it doesn't matter.

But it does matter. To all of us. And you're in the wrong on this one.

Current Location: Southeast of Disorder
Current Mood: awake
Current Music: 'When the Coast Is Clear", -JB

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April 3rd, 2015

11:11 am - The Power of the Winds
So, we had a couple of people in the shop, and a lovely young lady comes in. I saw her walking around the corner and looking up at the shop, and she comes in. And we greet her in the usual way we do, "Hi, welcome, let us know if you're looking for anything in particular, we make most of our stuff, etc. etc."

And she says it's been a long, rough day. See, she's been going door to door telling people about the wonders of wind power.

Now, I've been in the store for a bit already, so I've been talking to people and having the kinds of conversations we often have, and we start engaging in small talk about wind power and how neat it is and all this stuff.

And about 3 minutes into the conversation, I realize that she's going door to door for a utility company, *not* describing the power of the North Wind as it relates to the power of the East Wind, or the directionality of wind in general.

And I feel really, really silly.

But here's the best part: she didn't really seem to notice that she was talking physics and renewable energy, and I was talking metaphysics and energy direction.

I very often love working at the Shop.
Current Location: Southeast of Disorder
Current Mood: amusedamused
Current Music: "Woman Goin' Crazy on Caroline Street", -JB

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August 2nd, 2014

03:11 pm - Raising children via constructed mythic drama
Over the last several months, I've been doing what most people do when they have kids: obsessing a little bit over whether or not I'm "doing it right," realizing it doesn't matter, and then obsessing a bit again.

One thing that I have found, though, is that there is a standard by which I can judge my own work, and as a result, also a template I can copy. I have a story created by photos and anecdotes that provide me with information about how I can raise these kids appropriately, and get them to turn out "right." Or, I guess, at least like I did.

A sort of "mythic drama," if you will.

Engaging in mythic drama, to me, is the act of taking stories or actions and repeating them because either

  1. They have been memorized and you unconsciously follow the directions they provide, like understanding the world in relation to myths, ritualized actions, or even song lyrics.
  2. Finding maps and clues about ways to accomplish things you have no context for by creating a story out of thin air, and diving into it wholeheartedly.

What I realized is that I have many of the photos, and I learn more anecdotes all the time, that detail how I was raised, and the things we did. And in having access to them, I have access to a sort of myth about how I became the person I am today.

One of the first things I looked to was a particular photo of my dad feeding me. Fortunately, it was dated, so I know when it took place: two days short of my two month birthday.

Dad and Me

I set it up with my wife to match the photo. It was a sort of silly thing: posing with my kids just like that original photo. But creating and engaging in mythic drama is not about being serious or even necessarily having belief. It is, instead, about understanding (either consciously or unconsciously) what has been done before and respecting it as a useful and joyful experience.

And so, when my twins were two days shy of their two month birthday, I sat down and we took some photos.

Amelia Ann | Leo Colin 

It made me feel better, like I was doing the right thing, that I was a good dad. More than that, it actually made me into a good dad, because to me, this is a picture good dads take with their kids. The proof is irrefutable: my dad did it, right?

The process of "making myself into a good dad" is not an easy one. There aren't textbooks or qualified experts (contrary to the belief you might form if you look at all the parenting books in the bookstore). All you can do is what you know is right. (Of course, I also had some help and a bear hunt)

But I'm getting there, and every little thing that makes me feel like I've "made it" is huge to me.
Current Location: Southeast of Disorder
Current Mood: satisfiedsatisfied
Current Music: "Little Miss Magic", -JB

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May 15th, 2014

10:25 am - An alphabet of uncommon (but fun to say) words
I'm tired of "A is for Apple" and similar things. So here's a better, less common alphabet that I'll be reciting to my kids.

A is for "Aglet," the tip of shoe's lace,
B is for "Bulbous," the nose on your face.
C is for "Clockwork," the gears that go 'round,
D is for "Differ," unlike those you've found.
E is for "Equal," the way we all are,
F is for "Fragment," a piece or a shard.
G is for "Gremlin," breaks planes in the sky,
H is for "Hoodwink," a trick of the eye.
I is for "Irksome," annoying as heck,
J is for "Junction," that helps us connect.
K is for "Kindle," the fire's brithright,
L is for "Levin," electrical light.
M is for "Mulish," stubborn and set,
N is for "Nexus," where all things have met.
O is for "Omen," the portents we seek,
P is for "Pippin," the apple we eat.
Q is for "Queuing," to stand in a line,
R is for "Rondel," was pairing the rhyme.
S is for "Scraggly," a raggedy guy,
T is for "Tittle," the dot on an "i."
U is for "Ullage," got lost on the sea,
V is for "Vatic," like much prophecy.
W is for "Wyvern," a dragon of sort,
X is for "Xiphoid," shaped up like a sword.
Y is for "Yonder," like some far away land,
Z is for "Zarf," protecting your hand!
Current Location: Southeast of Disorder
Current Mood: amusedamused
Current Music: "Blowin' In the Wind", -JB

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May 14th, 2014

12:09 pm - Eight sort-of-odd things having kids in 2013/2014 means that you probably haven't thought about
Having just had twins (a boy and a girl, as most of my readers know), I got to thinking about the ways the world is going to be different for them, and the sorts of things that will be radically different for them than they were for me. And this is what I came up with:

1) They will never understand the "white noise" signal on a TV thanks to High Definition TV. Also, dial tones and ring-backs are no longer real.

We no longer get static or snow: now, your signal is either there or it isn't. It really hit me when I was thinking about all the classic horror movies that will be the only experience they get to have with this phenomenon.

Sure, you can still get a dial tone on some phones that are hard-wired in, but how long that tone will be available is hard to tell. Already, it's nearly completely disappeared from most of our daily lives (I no longer own or use a phone, even at work, that has a dial tone). Ring-backs are also almost entirely fake: when you hear a ring when you call someone, that doesn't mean that their phone is actually ringing. It's entirely possible that the false-ringbacks will start to fade entirely from phones as well as we grow more comfortable with the notion that we don't actually need that signal.

2) The act of being "good with computers" is more complicated because technology is so darn easy.

Now, it's really easy to get technology to do what you want it to: it takes so little skill to engage in electronic media that literally everyone can do it. . . but most people can't do it well. People can get jobs as system administrators without ever administering a system these days, and it's easier than ever to cover up a lack of technical skill. I fear that the "easy way" in technology will be so tempting my kids won't even bother with the more complicated aspects that can so deeply enrich (and improve) their experiences.

3) Thor and Loki will forever be at least as much superheros as gods to them.

I don't mind this one that much, really, but when you think about the ways people interact with mythology, and add to this that there are two more Avengers movies and another Thor movie due out, it's going to be hard to teach these kids about Norse myth and have them separate out their impressions. I'm really interested to see how this affects the way they view the myth and stories I tell them as they grow up.

4) Spoken and written communication are no longer the best way to get your point across. And methods for written communication have changed dramatically.

We love to think back on the old 5-paragraph essay. Ah, yes: intro, points 1-3, and conclusion. Simple, efficient, and elegant. But people no longer communicate in that manner.

A large block of text (for example, a paragraph) gets a TL;DR moniker ("Too Long; Didn't Read). Note the paragraphs here: they're short, maybe three sentences long at their peak for the most part, and they're probably too long already. Complex thoughts have to be delivered in shorter bites, and one-sentence paragraphs are pretty normal: just read an NPR story sometime.

More important is this: an article on a topic is nowhere near as useful as a graphic, video, or even a gif. If you want to get your message out, it's got to be concise, and it has to catch your eye when you scroll past it. If you can't consume it and grasp it in 3 seconds, you've designed it poorly and it won't go anywhere; if you're really good, you can get the consumer of your message to get to your secondary content: the article you actually want them to read.

5) Teaching kids about sex is going to be very different.

There are two categories here that I'm thinking of, in particular:

A) Teaching kids "not to rape" is a big thing, and rightfully so, and our kids are of that pinnacle generation where this will be taught. I hope it makes a difference. Teaching this to both a boy and a girl who are the same age is going to be an interesting exercise, for me, as it will involve teaching them about this in different ways based on our society.

B) Teaching kids how to properly handle another person's sexually explicit selfies is another thing we're not talking about nearly as much, but is also important. Right now my cardinal rules are, "Don't ever share them or keep them in an accessible place, and as soon as you no longer want them, delete them!" I suspect I'll also have to teach them about responsible sharing of their own sexually explicit selfies, too.

6) Music is a fundamentally different experience.

The way we consumed music as kids, dating back to "just about everyone," was pretty straightforward: you could purchase an album, you could make a mixed tape, and you could listen to the radio play things without your input. Today, while albums are still created and radios still play pre-determined mixes, there's much less of a need to consume songs you don't like, or are not familiar with: you can buy just one song if you want.

I hope this doesn't lead to a reduced "musical diversity" or narrower tastes, but I suspect that most kids just "get that song I like" rather than buying/consuming a multitude of songs they aren't sure of. You can define your tastes in music now and never hear any music outside that genre.

7) Critical thinking and source-vetting are more important than ever.

Related to point 4 above, where I mentioned that "consume it in 3 seconds or it's not effective," consider just how easy it is to create terrible information and give it "authenticity" in that short period of time.

"I saw a graphic about X on Facebook, it must be true!" It really isn't enough tell kids what is right, to fill their heads with facts and figures. The problem is that it's so darn easy to deceive, and we're getting better at it all the time. I need to show my kids how to determine if there's a source for something, and if there isn't, how to determine if the information is real.

I've picked this skill up over years of being introduced to internet hoax after internet hoax, slowly, but my Facebook feed (and holy cow, my Tumblr dash) is covered in crackpot ideas about fluoridation, vaccines causing autism, bad history, and a variety of other oddities. Just yesterday, I saw a graphic about how we somehow paid for everything until the Income Tax was established in the Constitution (1913) without any issues and implying that there were no taxes at all. . . conveniently ignoring the fact that we levied income taxes to pay for the Civil War and have had sales/excise taxes since the beginning of the country. Teaching someone how to determine something is fishy, and then how to find information on it (which may not exist) and then be polite about pointing out its flaws. . . I have no idea how to do that yet.

8) Ben Afleck will be their Batman.

Sure, there could be another one that comes along, just like Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, George Clooney, and Christian Bale replaced Adam West for our generation. Then again, looking at that list in hindsight, maybe time and change won't result in a better Batman for a long while.
Current Location: Southeast of Disorder
Current Mood: optimisticoptimistic
Current Music: "One Particular Harbor", -JB

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