Kids provoke the darnedest thoughts

A few days ago, as Archer and I were driving somewhere in the car, he asked me this question clear out of the blue: If you could live forever, what would you want to accomplish?

I have seldom heard a more profound question, and I told him so. After a moment’s thought, the answer that popped into my head — and from then until now, the only real answer that has occurred to me — was, “Help people use the Earth more responsibly.”

I do my part: I recycle, I drive a fuel-economical car, I vote in favor of open-space measures, I turn off lights, and so on. But that’s armchair environmentalism. Archer’s question, and my surprising reply, makes me think maybe it’s time to start doing more. I don’t expect to live forever, but I do hope my descendants will. Shouldn’t I act as if that’s the same thing?

Counting the bits at YouTube

Jonah is nearly done with fifth grade. In the fall he begins middle school. For years I’ve known that if I’m ever going to visit his classroom for a “what my dad does at work” presentation, it would have to be before middle school, which is when the coolness of “what my dad does at work” presentations falls off a cliff.

I made it just under the wire. For a long time all I had were good intentions and a half-started slide deck, work on which always took a backseat to this and that. Finally, a few weeks ago I gave his classroom the presentation below.

It was a hit. YouTube has a lot of cachet with 10-year-olds. It helped that I made some of the presentation interactive; there was a novelty factor to having the class work out some simple but enormous numbers. They stayed engaged for the full forty-five minutes, volunteering answers, laughing in the right places, and asking smart questions.

At the end I distributed light-up YouTube yo-yos to everyone, which was an even bigger hit. Hopefully it cemented Jonah’s reputation as the coolest kid to know. But his classmates were into the talk even before they knew there was swag coming.

I invite you to reuse or repurpose the slides below. I plan to give the talk again in two years when Archer is in fifth grade, so any constructive feedback that I can incorporate before then would be welcome.