The common comforts of an American life are nearly immeasurable. Gratitude for everyday things means imagining life in their absence. For some it doesn’t take much imagination, only memory of the days before now. Nothing exists without the small, and nothing is too small to appreciate.
Remember that great work place tool called the telephone? You know, that thing with the the handle and buttons you speak into? Email is a wonderful tool and Instant Messaging (IM) is also a nice way to communicate, yet there is something about actually speaking directly to another person that is often superior.
Yes, IM can be a great way to “multi-task” when you are on an endless conference call. Email is wonderful for documenting expectations and commitments as well as sharing data.
Still, how many times have you found yourself responding to a question via Email or IM that you could have answered over the phone in a fraction of the time you spent typing, waiting for a reply, typing, waiting, etc?
Never forget the speed and clarity of personal voice.
Each year at Christmas my grandfather gives everyone in the family a small hand held puzzle. Often these puzzles are clear cubes containing metal balls and rings that must be aligned to complete a design. Most of the time I can see what I think the outcome should be, yet the challenge is finding the solution before I lose interest.
The wisdom in these little puzzles is clear. They parallel the individual and collective questions we all carry. Some are trivial and amusing, easily put down and picked up again. Others are larger and require more time and effort to solve. After a little fiddling these larger puzzles are often shelved in hopes that “some day” we’ll have time to spread out all the pieces and restore order to the chaos.
We seem to reserve a special place for the truly great questions and we keep them within constant reach. These are the questions of life that won’t let go. They demand our attention.
At times I’ve attempted to force pieces together that don’t belong. Particularly the beautiful pieces that seem so good together. Fabricating solutions in ignorance or accepting answers that are comfortable, but not accurate.
While there are clearly right and wrong choices, there is a wide spectrum of individual solutions within those bounds. Yet the constants, the rules that apply across that spectrum, can be difficult to identify independently. Many of life’s variables are in constant flux. We rarely get a bird’s eye view of the labyrinth, and few of life’s puzzles are cut as evenly as factory made cardboard and plastic.
Fortunately, when we find solutions we share them. Small and simple things can be the greatest gifts. Answers to long sought questions can be the key to gaining mountain top perspective on the dark valley of our lives. Sometimes answers come like a flood and other times in painfully slow drips.
The key is having a desire to search for solutions. To believe the answer exists and to keep working to discover answers that are equal to the questions.
What does this have to do with education and training? Everything.
Have you ever searched online for your name, profile names, or email addresses? You might be surprised by what you find. If you’ve posted anything online, it’s out there. It’s public.
You probably wouldn’t consider posting a tenth of what you post online on a bulletin board hanging in the break room at work or in the faculty lounge at school. Yet, posting on online is a thousand times more permanent than posting on a traditional bulletin board.
Here are a few recommendations:
If it would reflect poorly on your character if it ended up on the front page of a newspaper, don’t post.
If you’re angry, don’t post. I’ve never heard anyone say “I’m glad I was emotionally out of control when posted those comments! If I had been calm it may have limited my ability to reason clearly.”
If you wouldn’t be comfortable with your family, in-laws, co-workers, or neighbors (Current or future) reading your comments or seeing those images, don’t post.
If you are excited to share your travel plans with your friends on Facebook, waiting until your back to post “Had a great time in Costa Rica!” is much better that posting in advance of your trip, “Leaving for Costa Rica tomorrow, won’t be back for two weeks.” There is no need to advertise that your house will be empty.
If you think posting under a fake name will protect you, don’t post. Unless the forum is designed for and expects anonymous users, people have a way of connecting the dots and discovering your true identity.
The Internet can provide a false sense of anonymity and distance that we would never accept as reality in the off-line world. There are some things we post online that we would prefer to see on billboards and in the newspaper, yet it’s the little things we post, without consideration for the big picture, that can cause the most trouble. We will be reading more about this is the years to come.
It’s no revelation that the majority of people in the United States who smoke cigarettes began as teenagers. Here are some revealing statistics from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 2006 National Survey on Drug Use & Health on the fires beneath the smoke.
25% of all cigarette smokers, over age 12, use illicit drugs verses 5% of non-cigarette smokers.
43% of cigarette smokers binge drink verses 16% of non-cigarette smokers.
From 2002 to 2006 10.7 million people began smoking cigarettes for the first time. 7 million, or 65% of these new smokers, were under age 18.
The next time you see four high school aged kids smoking cigarettes know that, according to current statistics, one of them uses illicit drugs and two of them binge drink.
The good news is they can quit, but what these numbers don’t reveal is why they start.
Looking back at my own teenage experience, these numbers seem accurate. In my memory those who were heavy drinkers and those who smoked whatever they could get their hands on, wanted to feel something. They wanted to feel connected while they passed through a twisted age of disillusionment. Many of them were smart, they could see through the hypocrisy in adults and their minds never stopped trying to figure out solutions to their problems. Unfortunately they were often treated with disdain, taught double standards, and left to fend for themselves by parents who were emotionally absent.
Of course I’m generalizing. There are plenty of teenagers who don’t experience any of this and make it to adulthood just fine. Yet, I wonder if you can look at your kids and see their future? Can you tell which one is most likely to be the kid who smokes, drinks, and uses drugs? If you think you can tell, or if you can’t tell, what are you going to do? What are you going to change about yourself, today, to make a difference? What is the trade off?
Smoking is not the end of the world but it is a sign of greater fires below. Help your children so they don’t grow up dowsing their flames of sorrow and anger with alcohol or whatever else the piper is peddling.
Encyclopedias are touch stones, introductory references, telescopes peaking into much larger worlds. Sometimes the lenses of our printed guides are blurred. Ink alone does not endow words with factual authority. Printing and binding only guarantee a higher delivery cost. The entries may be factual, but good luck verifying the sources. If you have access to the sources you probably would not bother looking it up in an encyclopedia; unless that encyclopedia is Wikipedia.
If you know a subject well, the best place to begin is Wikipedia. If the First Barbary War is one of your specialties, go to Wikipedia and see if the article is accurate. If it’s not, make corrections (The current article does not meet Wikipedia standards). As a contributor you can clear the way for other observers.
Here is an example. I’m familiar with the events surrounding the murder of Joseph Standing in 1879 and Wikipedia had a stub (A short article marked for expansion) about his life. In July 2007 I made a major revision of the article. I adhered to Wikipedia’s three content policies; maintain a neutral point of view (NPOV), provide verifiable sources, and do not use original research. Since my revision there have been around 30 minor edits, made by other users, and with only two exceptions every edit has been an improvement.
This kind of real time editing can not be done in the world of paper. I recently found two errors in a history book that has been on the market for over a decade. I submitted corrections to the publisher earlier this week and while they were pleased to receive accurate information, it will probably take a year or more before the book is updated.
As Erin McKean says, sometimes paper is the enemy of words. The book is not the best shape for an encyclopedia. At the same time, I’m not yet converted to belief in a paperless world. I simply love books. Well referenced, indexed books. But from my non-neutral point of view Wikipedia and its volunteer army of Wikipedians, of which I am one, are headed in the right direction. Now let’s Wiki.