Generally Excellent Dude

I got a great Father’s Day present today. My son, Keith (MySpace, Facebook), called and said that he had completed his GED!

If you’ve been a long time reader of this blog (yeah, you two, there) you might remember a post I wrote a couple of years ago expressing concern about the alarming dropout rate among high school students, and how it affects the way young adults talk about graduation. Little did I know that only about six months after I wrote that, my own son would drop out, just prior to graduation.

It doesn’t have anything to do with intelligence; he is a smart kid — er, young man — although he hasn’t always made wise choices (as is often the case when one is in one’s late teens.) He passed the GED easily, which is no surprise to me. He is faster than I am at solving a standard 3x3x3 Rubik’s cube, and he can solve the harder 4x4x4 Rubik’s Revenge and even the 5x5x5 Professor’s Cube. His musical, spatial, and artistic talents have always been his strengths, but he is no slouch at poetry, abstract thinking, or math, either. (I have no idea how many digits of π he is currently able to recite, but it’s many times further than my mere 3.1415926535.)

And to top things off, he’s decided to enroll in the Art Institute of Colorado, something that thrills both me and Lannette. We’ve always tried to encourage him to expand upon his natural artistic talents, and now he appears to be doing exactly that.

There have been many times when I’ve been proud of Keith: each time he scored a “1” in his fine arts solo competitions, each time he drew fantastic image that simply sprung from somewhere deep in his mind, each time he told a horrible pun, or even out-geeked me on a geek test. But I don’t think I’ve ever been prouder of him than I am right now.

Congratulations, son, on completing your GED and on your choice to continue your schooling. You have grown into a Generally Excellent Dude.

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Kids and Columbines

Six years ago today, I got a phone call from a scared little boy – my scared little boy – saying that there were kids shooting people at a school somewhere close to home. He couldn’t remember the name of the town, but knew it started with an “L”. Loveland, Longmont, Littleton, something like that. He was home, but was worried that they were going to come find him. He didn’t know that Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were already dead, but he knew that the incident had happened in our county, somewhere near Denver. Somewhere close to home.

Pink Columbines
My fiancée, Lannette, just purchased and transplanted these pink columbines last weekend. Considering the timing, I think they were an appropriate choice. They’ve always been some of my favorite flowers.

The scared little boy from 1999 is now 16, and is lying in an MRI chamber as I write this. He just came out, in fact. I’ll update this later tonight.

Later …

Keith has had trouble with seizures for a couple of years now. In February, I witnessed one, and we decided we needed to do something about it. That emergency room visit was the beginning of what is turning into a long, expensive diagnostic process. Hopefully this MRI will give the doctors some explanation for why Keith has these seizures.

Days like the Columbine and Oklahoma City Bombing anniversaries always make me think about how precious my kids are. Logan is the same age now that Keith was when Columbine happened. What is going to be the memorable trauma in his childhood? He doesn’t really remember 9/11, and though Lannette survived the Oklahoma City Bombing while pregnant with him, he doesn’t remember that any better than I remember riding the teacups at Disneyland while in my mother’s belly. Whatever trauma Logan has to face in the future, I hope it happens far enough away from him that he can experience it in safety.

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The Digital Generation Gap

I think technology is widening the generation gap at an increased rate. I guess technology has always been at the root of the gap, though when the term first surfaced in the sixties or seventies, I think it had more of an idealogical meaning. We’ve all heard stories about how kids today don’t know what an LP is, or how to use one. One of my favorite examples is from an early Bloom County strip, in which Binkley asks his father what it means “to wind one’s watch.” My kids have grown up in a post-MTV world, and they think in much more visual terms than I do when it comes to music, and sometimes even in terms of literature, thanks to movie adaptations of comic books and classic literature like Lord of the Rings.

Recently, I have seen a couple of new examples of technological generation gappage, both from my stepson, Logan.

One day, when picking him up from day care, he pointed up to a small Cessna flying overhead and asked if it was one of those “old-fashioned” planes. When I heard the term “old-fashioned,” I immediately thought about Steerman biplanes, and started to explain that the plane was not a biplane. “No,” he said, “I mean is it one of the kinds that just have one propeller that they have to use to fly.”

Then, last night, Lannette decided to take a picture of two of our cats, who were snuggling on the living room floor. She got out her compact 35mm, waited for the flash to activate, and took the picture. (Fortunately, the cats were content to sit and pose while the batteries warmed up the flash.) When she was done, Logan asked, “Can I see?”

“See what?” Lannette said, a confused look on her face.

“See how the picture turned out,” he replied. At that point, it dawned on both of us that Logan had grown up in an age where digital cameras are more common than 35mm cameras, and it was normal for him to expect to see immediate results on a small LCD screen.

As technology accelerates, this will, of course, become a wider gap. Ten years from now, when my son Keith has kids (if he has them that soon), my grandchildren will grow up in a world where PDAs will be a requirement for elementary students, and the teachers will automatically beam the homework assignments to the classroom using Bluetooth (or something similar.) To check that the homework is being done, Keith will have to ask his son or daughter to show him how to work the PDA, and will probably have to add his voiceprint to the machine to be able to even access it.

Their allowances (should Keith choose to issue them) will be credits transferred into their accounts, and they can use their PDAs to purchase lunches at school, sodas at the pop machines, and toys at the toy store. In their squeaky-clean world of credits and WiFi, cash will have no meaning; money will be an abstract concept reduced to a red or black number on the screen of their PDAs.

Is this a good thing? Yes and no. Yes, because it will contribute to the safety and security of the kids, and once the parents learn how to use the kids’ PDAs, it will be easier for them to track homework progress and grades. No, because it means that technology will continue to widen the gap between parents and children. As parents, it will be our responsibility to keep on top of current technology if we want to maintain a connection with our kids.

This weekend, I will be giving Keith his first convergence device: my old Treo 300. It will be his phone, his scheduler, his alarm, and his toy, just as it was for me.

Keith, if you are reading this, stay on top of technology. It will help you preserve a relationship with your kids, when and if you have them.

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Father’s Day

Today has been an excellent Father’s Day. I slept in, enjoyed some serious cuddle time with my girlfriend, Lannette, and have had lots of time to work on my network server.

Lannette made an excellent breakfast, and when I went downstairs to eat, two cards were waiting at my table setting, one from her and one from her son, Logan. Both cards were beautiful and touching, and Lannette had slipped a CompUSA gift card inside the Father’s Day card.. My son, Keith, told me that his present would be coming later in the day.

And what a present it was! Keith has always been artistic, as evidenced on this site in his Pokemon drawings from several years ago, but he also has great musical talent and recently started spouting poetry like a fountain. (I wish my muse was as active as his!)

Keith’s present to me is the following poem, and I’m very proud of him for writing it and presenting it to me.

 

“The Man Who Loves Me”

The man who loves me
Holds me tightly when needed,
But also gives me the freedom to find my own
Way.

The man who loves me
Supports my every venture,
And gives me the strength should I
Fail.

The man who loves me
Is never judgmental,
But has the wisdom to offer guidance when I’m
Wrong.

The man who loves me
Knows my pain;
Even if he’s never told, he can see it in my
Eyes.

The man who loves me
Stands beside me,
Even if he’s far away I can feel him with
Me.

The man who loves me
Is my hero.
I hope one day to be the person my father taught me to
Be.

— Keith Johnson

You’re well on your way to being that person, son. Thank you.

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