Tag Archives: Kids

Keeping Books For The Future

One of my recent purchases through the Humble Bundle was the complete Bloom County (which also included the complete Outland and Opus). I first learned about this series from my high-school history teacher Mr. Jordan after I’d expressed an interest in other things like Doonesbury. Over 2-3 years in college I managed to buy all of the original collections, and in later years I even picked up the first hardback of the complete Bloom County (which had some early material I hadn’t read before).

opusNow that I own literally every strip in digital form I’ve been reading from the very beginning. Oddly, 8-10 years after I first read these, I think these strips from the 80’s are surprisingly relevant. Even though I wasn’t born until about halfway through the strip’s run, a child of the 90’s has a lot in common with a child of the 80’s, especially characters like Oliver Wendell Jones and the rise of the hackers. But will my kid find these strips amusing or just boring?

See I’ve been doing the same thing with the complete Peanuts. I have a ton of individual collections I’m saving so I can give them to potential future offspring, while still maintaining my complete hardback collection until they’re old enough to treat them with the proper care. But I’ve also been practising the mantra of getting rid of a lot of things physically that I own digitally (even some things I don’t have digitally like most of my old Doonesbury books).

Should I get rid of my Bloom County books, which let’s face it, will be talking about events and people from 35-40 years in the past by the time these theoretical kids read them? Peanuts and Calvin and Hobbes are timeless, no question, and I like the oddness of Bloom County. But I’m weird.

Realistically I applied the rule I do with a lot of uncertain things. If I don’t know I want to get rid of it for sure, I keep it. Selling these collections won’t get me five bucks I’d expect, and even with the digital sometimes it’s still fun to page through the original. And there’s probably a few old forwards that aren’t available elsewhere unless I scan them.

For that matter, will kids even read the funnies in the same way I did? Most of the relevant comics these days are online, things like XKCD, SMBC and Dinosaur Comics (though calling some of these ground-breaking is a bit pushing it). None of them are winning Eisner awards for cartooning. Maybe Sandra and Woo has picked up the torch a little bit, being of the same peculiar breed as Bloom County which has animals talking to humans like nothing strange is happening.

Who knows, in the meantime I’ll be keeping my Bloom County next to Calvin and Hobbes and just below Pogo (“we have seen the enemy and he is us”).

BTW, on a further reading, despite loving some of the innocent naivete Opus brings to the strip, Oliver Wendell Jones is my favourite, particularly the strips where is so overwhelmed by the infinite vastness of the cosmos that he must wallow in the banality of a chocolate chip cookie. Same goes for me and contemplating are eventual technological future.

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15 Things You Didn’t Know About Me (Or Wish You Didn’t)

In the continuing spirit of “getting to know you” and my fondness for lists, here are some things you may not know about me:

1) The first story I ever wrote was about the Muppet Babies.

2) The first detective story I ever wrote was “Detective Ben”. He wore glasses, and solved the mystery of the missing corn dog sticks at the Canfield Fair.

3) Between 6th-8th grade I wrote a number of stories in a fan Star Trek series called Star Trek 25 (they took place in the 25th century). The main ship was the Excalibur (written before Peter David’s New Frontier series I might add), and the captain’s name was Benjamin Randolph who had been brought forward from the 20th century to command the Excalibur. His first officer was named Chris after my first best friend.

4) My favorite Enterprise is NCC-1701-A.

5) The first nickname I can remember giving a girlfriend was Imzadi (thanks again Peter David). It means “beloved” in Betazoid.

6) The sci-fi series Atlantia is a part of was first conceived in the 7th grade, from a series of ship schematics I drew on graph paper. I assure it has evolved quite a bit since then (I know SVG).

7) I spent a year in the 9th grade writing a Star Trek episodic game for the TI-83 calculator (in the Star Trek 25 universe). The text would not fit on the calculator’s memory and had to be included in a separate booklet (a la Wasteland).

8) I have worn the same size shoes since about the 7th grade, size 14.

9) My beard was cultivated in my freshman year of college. Earlier attempts were patchy and kinda skeevy looking.

10) At various points in my life my wife has been able to French braid my hair. She is threatening to do the same to my beard.

11) I have watched an episode of Power Rangers within the last year (damn you Netflix!)

12) I used to record episodes of Home Improvement off the radio and listen to them instead of watch them.

13) I used to root for Michigan *sob*.

14) In the 6th grade during our Shakespeare showcase I gave a speech that began with the line “Oh it is excellent to have a giant’s strength”.

15) There is a Trube song. It is to the tune of Zombie by the Cranberries. It is not about me, however, but my Dad. The only song about me I can remember is “Ben Trube from Alabama, king of the wild frontier” from Boy Scouts. I’m not sure why I’m from Alabama.

Anyone else want to share?


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Thinking about techie parenting

Grain of salt included in purchase price as this is written by a guy who currently has no children.

Being a fan and avid consumer of media of all sorts, and a techie by vocation and avocation, I wonder a lot about what sorts of media and devices I should expose my children to and when.

Two questions nag at me from time to time as I contemplate my hypothetical children.

1) When should my children join social networking circles, and which ones?

2) Should I raise them to read books on real paper, or on tablets like their father?

The answer to question 2 is probably paper. We just painted our basement this weekend, and having to move all those children’s books back and forth from the shelves reiterated the fact we have a lot of great stuff to expose them to on paper (including the 58 Hardy Boys hardcover books). We’re not re-buying all this stuff on tablets. That’d just be silly.

Question 1 is more complex. I have this niggling feeling that social media will be semi-critical to my children integrating well in their peer group. I already know there are whole worlds going on around me of which I am unaware. The Twitter-verse is virtually unknown to me, as is Pintrest, Reddit, and ridiculous scads more. My feeling is that face to face interaction will always be the most important, but given the different ways in which people conduct themselves on-line, I wonder if missing these conversations is leaving out a crucial subtext. Someone might be friendly to your face and flame you on-line, and hold both thoughts in their head without their brains exploding.

I think maybe a real functional social community of parents would be necessary to support time away from the computer. A group of parents who agree that time spent chatting on-line is not time spent together. Even I, the very technically inclined kid got together to play basketball with friends, or bike around the neighborhood.

In fact this is the thing that probably makes this question hard for me. Being an only child I’ve never seen interacting with a computer as an experience to be shared. I like to play games alone, occasionally to the annoyance of the little red-haired girl if she wants to play with me on the console. It’s only really been in the last few years with the start of the blog that I’ve been interacting with a larger community of people using a computer, but this is very different from twitter or even Facebook interactions. When I was younger and playing games, I played alone. I read alone, which is probably why social reading feels a little strange to me. Watching TV or movies was a little more social, and has remained so, but otherwise my interaction with media more often than not is singular.

So I don’t entirely understand the impulse to socialize in this way, since the computer has always been a separate entity or tool, even if it’s a tool I like to use a lot. If I’m going to talk to you, I’d rather see you face to face and have coffee if that’s possible.

I don’t necessarily want my children to be curmudgeons like me, but I think there’s value in treating computers as separate from ourselves and the world. We’re moving as a society toward devices being part of our bodies, smart phones and technologies like Google Glass are just the start. My generation needs to make decisions about technology now, so that we’re prepared for whatever is coming.

How do you manage technology in your family?


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