I’m writing a children’s book about the First Spaceman!

A few weeks back, 12 April to be precise, I was riding back on the N.E. Regional train from teaching my classes at Drexel University and had a great idea for a childrens’s book. I’ve worked with the Yuri’s Night organization, which honors the first human space flight by Yuri Gagarin on 12 April 1961, by promoting celebration parties around the world. I began to wonder what good children’s books there were about Yuri and his magnificent flight. Searching the Web, I found nothing. This most important of human adventures was not something very small children would learn about.

I decided I needed to tell the story of Yuri’s flight, to show the excitment of space travel for children still new to their home planet. So, I sat down the next day and wrote about 15 three line pages, and another five the next day. I asked my wonderful wife, Tara, to edit it and give me feedback; shared that version with a few other trusted collegues; and by Tuesday had finished my third, and for now, final draft.

The title is Yuri: The First Spaceman, and I’m writing it for the 2–4 year old age range.

I’m conceiving it as a 40 page book with illustrations that cover both pages.

But how to illustrate it? I thought of doing it myself. Here’s a simple cover with no figures that I started:


I’m still looking at maybe getting someone with a bit more depth to their illustration style. In the meantime, I’ve found a potential publisher, and I’m looking at doing a kick-starter campaign.

More news in the next few weeks!

Once more around the sun: Thoughts on the completion of my 50th solar orbiting

Today is my 50th birthday.

That is, since leaving my mother’s womb, I have orbited our local star approximatly 50 times.

That’s not a record or even particularly spectacular, but we are facinated with mulitples of 5 and 10, so 50 is a natural milestone at which time to reflect back on the past. Since 100 is still an unlikley age to attain before shuffling off this mortal coal, 50 is likely the biggest milestone I’ll reach.

So, I’m looking back, reflecting, taking this stuff in. Take this photograph for example. When it came across my Facebook transom the a few weeks back (I only check Facebook every few weeks) bringing me back to a person I was something like forty-two years ago.

Jason Circa 1975: GDS Lower School 2nd Grade. I'm the doofus standing on the right.
Jason Circa 1975: GDS Lower School 2nd Grade. I’m the doofus standing on the right.

That’s me at the hight of the Star Trek TV excitement—when the show was huge in synidacation—but a year or two before Star Wars would reinvent geekdom entirely. I’m not sure what path I would have followed had Star Wars not happened. I remember that I was not a particularly happy child. I didn’t like myself a lot. If I was 8 today, I would probably be on mdication for ADD, ADHD, and a few other things.

But now I’m 50. I like myself a lot better than I did back then. I like myself a lot better than I did just a few years ago. But I’m still working on liking myself better every day. This is part accepting who I am and part improving who I am.

At 50, the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that I can survive. I can survive setbacks, failures, disappointment, rejection, brain tumors, and heartbreak. This is not to say that I have had to suffer the worst the universe has to throw at me, but what I have been through hasen’t killed me. That’s because of the other important lesson I’ve learned is to be kind. Kindness is a strength. It means looking for the positives. It keeps self-destructive anger and rage at bay.

And I still have so much more to learn!

The discovery I came to this week is that I need to listen to my own feelings on how people are treating me. There are people who just don’t think much of me, and I can generally sense that. They don’t think much of my ability or talent. They are pleasant enough, but put me off. Delay correspondence. Criticize without clarity. I used to think I just need to redouble my efforts; be more persistent; try to accomodate them; Listen more carefully to their feedback.

What I’ve come to realize just this week is that it’s not all about me. Often people just don’t want to work with me, and there is no point in trying to change that. Some people may not “get” me or what I’m trying to do, but that doesn’t make it my job to change everything for them. The upshot is that, if you are not excited about what I’m working on, I don’t have room for you in my projects. That’s just a waste of both of our time.

Instead, it’s the people whose ideas I find exciting and who find my ideas exciting who I will cultivate.

This may seem obvious to many, but is hard won knowledge for me. At 50, I’m ready to put it to good use. Now onto the next 50.

24 year’s ago tonight…

24 years ago tonight I went on my first date with the wonderful Tara (@wdr_wman). We went to the World Famous Milestone Club. We have been with each other ever since through triumph & tumult. My love for her grows every day.

Quitting Facebook is a lot like quitting smoking

I’m trying to quit Facebook, but it’s not easy.

I regularly get that craving to see how people reacted to something I posted. I surf over to facebook.com for that little endorphin rush I get when I see that somebody has liked a post, laughed at a post, gotten angered by a post, or (best of all) commented on a post. I miss hanging out with my facebook friends shooting the breeze back forth while we refreshed our screens waiting for that next rush of acceptance, of confirmation that our ideas matter and that people are interested in us.

Quitting Facebook must be a lot like quitting smoking in the 1960s: We’ve been warned, but everyone else is still doing it, we can’t really see the full extent of the harm, and, besides, it’s enjoyable. And also like smoking, it’s almost impossible to quit if your significant other is still doing it. When your wife/girlfriend/boyfriend/partner is on FaceBook, asking them “how was your day” seems redundant. They’ve posted that online. They’ve shared photos of their lunch. They’ve shared the articles they think are most interesting. They’ve shared their happiness and outrage. You should already be briefed and ready to discuss, not have them rehash it all again.

Of course that can happen, but because those messages are not personalized to you, supposedly their most intimate confidant, but instead to a general audience of “friends,” the conversations are never the same than if they have to explain everything to you personally.

My wife and I now use Flipboard to share interesting articles, and, if we come across one we think the other will be particularly interested in, we send it through SMS or, even more intimately, read it to each other. We laugh together, discuss together, and experience together.

I am no Luddite. I have been a tech trailblazer since the 1980s when I was one of the first students to take computer programming classes. I was also one of the earliest non-college students to get onto FaceBook over ten years ago, and have rekindled friendships long forgotten.

But my knowledge of technology has made me credulous, not naive. I have never wanted a “smart watch”, for example, because it can’t do anything my phone or iPad can do, and are actually less convenient than a simple watch and the disadvantages (expense, battery life, information overload, etc…) all outweighed any advnatages.

Facebook long ago reached the point of disadvantages outweighing advantages, but, still I persisted. Fortunately, both my wife and I have been gradually drifting away from the social media behemoth. She has now left completely, while i still check in a couple of times a week. I’ll give the occasional comment or thumbs up, check and see if anyone has left messages, but, quite frankly, I no longer know why.

One huge problem is that I have no idea why I see what I see. A process that should be transparent is opaque. As we have learned since the last election, Facebook is easily gamed. Another thing I have noticed is that as I interact less and less with Facebook, it interacts less and less with me. I still have posts automatically sent to Facebook from this blog and using a service called Buffer—which I can send an article I’m reading to and have it cross posted on Twitter, Google+, and Facebook. Yet, as much as a I post, fewer and fewer people interact with those posts. My suspicion is that, as I interact less with others on Facebook, Facebook surfaces my public posts less. I can’t prove that, of course, but the positive is I check less and less.

And now, I won’t be checking in at all. Instead, I’ll share my thoughts with my own personal blog (jason.cranfordteague.org), which I’ll still have posted on Facebook —as well as Google+ and Twitter— automatically, with with the invitation to come and respond directly on the blog article page if you want to say something to me.

I wish all of my friends the best, and hope to stay in contact through other means. But for me, I’ll now go silent on Facebook.

jason@cranfordteague.org | jason.cranfordteague.org