Well, it had to happen sooner or later but I just got hit with the blog world’s version of a chain letter. And while I would delete a chain letter email without thinking (I cannot begin to describe my hate for the things.) I will not do that to this Meme. The reason is that this meme actually has a real purpose for anyone who is joining or already a part of the whole social networking ‘verse that is currently exploding on the intrawebs. For the past month I have watched this meme as it showed up on more and more of the blogs I read. I know, I know, I was a lurker and did not take part in commenting and such to become a part of the whole networking scene. (Bad Gene, no biscuit!) I just watched by the sidelines as this new culture tried its training wheels. I wanted to know about and talk about it, but not dive in. Well now I have belly-flopped my way into the pool and its time try out my swimming techniques.
I had meant for my next post to be about social media and education so this meme is a perfect way to do it. The meme is called “Seven things you did not know about me.” The reason I did not delete it is because if you are going to take part in this new world, you have to have ways of understanding more about the people you are working with. You get together with friends at parties, coworkers at functions and the water cooler, families at the holidays, but how do you get to know about a person who teaches at a school in Scotland if you live in upstate NY, in the USA? You can read their tweets, email, chat, or read what they write. But no one ever asks, “What don’t I know about you?” It’s these little things that really make you a real person to others. Think about it, simple bits of useless trivia about people makes them more real. If you don’t believe me, pick two of your friends who barely know each other. Then think of the simple stuff (nothing deep) they don’t know about each other. How would one act if they knew what you know? It’s these little things that make friendships (and a lot of the time the big things that break them.)
After getting the Meme from Neil Winton, I talked with my family and we realized that I have been social networking on the web since the 90’s when I played the web game Acrophobia. The game had a number of rooms which had names like “the backyard” or “the den.” One group of people met every night on “The Porch”. We had a group of 20+ adults who were regulars and even eventually we got to know all kinds of personal info about each other. I created a web page and we built up a whole mythos about “The Porch.” It was wonderful. At one point, we decided to meet in person, but we were from all over the US and Canada, so we met at Niagara Falls and went to Toronto Canada for the weekend. At the time, with the Internet being so young, there were many articles about Internet people meeting up and being murdered by psychos who stalked the net. My wife and I were scolded by so many people about meeting up with “strangers” but we went and had a blast. Eventually, Acrophobia died and we all kind of drifted off back into our little worlds, except for one person who lived in Saskatchewan Canada. When I drove across the US the second time she brought her family to one of the most beautiful places on earth, Glacier National Park. Many years later, we had drifted apart again, until I joined Facebook and she was one of the first people who found me. Social Networking on the web may be new, but they can build friendships that last for a long time.
So let’s see, the FIRST thing I just told you about myself was that I have been on the internet a long time. But I have been on longer than that. I got on my first computer in 1979 and wrote my first code the same year on TRS-80’s. I went to college in ’81 and sent my first “email” at the same time. I don’t know what email was called then, but I wrote messages that were sent to other computer systems and bbs’s and therefore avoided phone charges. I still remember going back home and telling people about this new thing and they all said “Who would want to talk over a computer?”
The SECOND thing about me that you don’t know is that I went into teaching because of a joke. I went to college to become an astrophysicist, but had a mental crisis my senior year. I decided that I could not handle going to school much longer to get my doctorate. My friends could not believe that I ripped up my grad school letters, so when they saw an ad in the paper for a teacher at an all girl’s school they cut it out and put it on my door. (I lived in a fraternity house – this would have been a dream job for some of my friends) However when I saw the ad, I started thinking about teaching. The rest is history. I could not think of doing anything more fun or important.
This brings me to the THIRD thing. Why teaching was important to me at that age? Well, I was a pretty bad teenager. Lots of pent up hostility and stuff. A couple teachers saw through that face and realized I could make something of my life. They took time out of their lives to help me with mine. When I saw that ad in college, it made me think of those wonderful people and then nothing could stop me from paying them back by paying it forward. BTW, I went back and talked to one of those teachers many years after I became a teacher. I was never so happy when we talked later and he told me that he was so proud to go back to the (get this) Men’s Faculty room (yup they still had them) and he got to say “I told you so!” to a couple of other teachers who thought I would amount to nothing.
The FOURTH thing about me is not news to anyone who has met me personally but I have a pretty amazing medical history which includes being near death more times than I want to remember. I have survived incurable cancer, two broken backs, a broken neck(not related to the back injuries) , multiple heart problems leading to major chest reconstruction and an ungodly number of pneumonia attacks (the last one had me break a rib by coughing.) Thos are just the major things, I won’t go into the things that kept me in the hospital for less than 3 days, LOL!
The FIFTH thing about me is that I have driven across country 4 times. I mentioned one of the trips above. Fastest time: 50 hours. Longest time: 6 weeks. I love this country and the people and places in it. You are missing out on the best times of your life if you don’t get into a car your next vacation and drive. Grab a tent and sleeping bag and have fun. I think I am up to 42 states visited and several hundreds nation parks. I will eventually blog about them I think.
The SIXTH thing that makes me me, is that I love games. If I can make a game of something I will. In the class or out. If it is fun I want to do it. I actually collect all sorts of games and won a couple of competition at Gen Con, which is billed as the world’s largest gaming convention. I like to call it “Geek Week.”
The SEVENTH thing about me is how I got my name “Porch Dragon.” Had you guessed that there might be a relationship between the Acrophobia Room called Porch and my name? If you had you are right. On The Porch, I quickly gained a rep, or shall I say “online persona” which not only included laughing all the time but being very protective of the regulars from random wandering (usually) teens who would use vulgarity and rudeness as their persona’s. At the time I had been teaching in the inner city for almost a decade and was very fast with a comeback which was always sharp and just borderline acceptable(we called it “playing the dozens”. I liked to chase nasty people away and so with my game name of “Dragon” (came from a bad anagram of my last name which I used as my first computer password back in ’79) and my flames I acquired my first online persona. When I decided to have an online avatar over a decade later, I took up the name PorchDragon, to remind me of a wonderful time online.
Well I am done with this meme, although it went in a direction I was not planning. I had fun with it and hopefully you all will learn a little more about me from it. That is the important thing. And on my next post I will talk about my current discussions with teachers about social media and the web. Hopefully you can get something more interesting than my life story from my wonderful wife and teacher, Anne-Marie Gordon. She will be the only person I tag with this since I asked a few people but will not send something along without asking. I still have six tags left if you want to write your own “7 Things” story.