"App for That" Parenting

In my childhood, I had so much time - but no money. Now, I am not rich....but I certainly have a wealth of ‘things’ and never enough time to truly use them. I don’t think this is my ADD, although it could be....but my creative juices runneth over. I am fortunate to be doing a job I enjoy - it leaves a lot of room for creative development....but I almost NEVER find time to really dig into anything. One dangerous tendency I have noticed lately is that I am always looking for the ‘best tool’ to get something done vs. just doing it. The precious few moments I do have are squandered on the endorphin rush I can generate from reading software reviews, downloading trial packages, etc. Then what happens is, I often don’t actually produce anything....reality sets in, got lots to do, and chances are high that I have a new tool or two, no established workflow with it and because I don’t have time to learn it as well as I would like, I can’t ‘think’ within it and thus it fails me as a creative endeavor. Now there are great tools I continue to work with because somehow they have made it through my fumbling, distracting process...but I never feel like I really get that much out of them. When I was a kid, because I had no other option (this was pre-computer too of course), I would dive into something and focus on it so well that I eventually could make it do things that nobody ever thought possible or certainly was ever intended. With all of the software, video equipment and raw power I have in my home office these days, I just imagine how much I could create if all of this were somehow made available to me in my youth when more time (and more energy) were readily available. So as a Dad, I think, I need to instill this in my son!

How hard is it to raise kids these days? Specifically, I was not lacking for anything in my own childhood...but I know for a doubt, that my kids are, at this point anyway, living in a bigger house with more friends in their immediate vicinity and more ‘play’ options (video games, swimming pool, etc) than I had ever even dreamed possible. There is enough video equipment in my home office alone to make a feature film (you would need to be industrious yes...but technicallly possible). So where is my fatherly leadership?

My son in particular is showing signs that he may have my predilection for finding the perfect tool to solve his problems instead of really pushing and trying to find answers using what he already has. His favorite thing to do (for the past year) is to play on his PlayStation. Specifically, ‘Call of Duty.’ He has gotten very good becuase he dedicates so much time to it. When he is not playing it, he is on YouTube looking for ways to improve. At many levels, I applaud the heck out of this. I mean just think for a moment what this would mean if it applied to any of his endeavors - its the modern equivalent of what my Dad always taught me....”you can do anything you put your mind to...if you don’t know how, find a book and learn.’ My son, Zack however, has recently taken a different route with this that has me at least mildly concerned.

Ebay. I first noticed this when I discovered that he had talked Mom into ordering him a $95 controller for use on his PlayStation, specifically ‘Call of Duty.’ I asked him what it was for...his answer was that it allowed him to shoot his gun faster. “$95. to shoot faster”? Ugh. I am no electronics expert, but what I learned is that you can of course, ‘hack your controller’ and do things not generally possible in a game (its cheating I told him...) but again, I liked the tendency to push the enevlope and learn...but instead of learning how to do this himself because he had no money....he had enough allowance saved to pay for someone to send him one they had done themselves. Capitalism at its finest.....but not the most sustainable model for my son’s growth. Today, a package arrived from some guy in Oakland California and I saw my son plugging it into his Mac...I asked him what it was cause I noticed he had a recognizable USB port on one side but a strange (strange for us anyway) ribbon cable and connection on the other side. He had no idea what he was doing, he was simply plugging it into anything that would take it. I asked him what it was. “Its a JTAG” Dad. Huh? It will allow me to do thing in my game I would not be able to do normallly. Here we go again.

“Show me where you learned about this,” I asked. He went back to his fount of true knowledge, YouTube. What I saw was a bunch of amatuer videos featuring kids, like my son, showing how they used something called a JTAG to ‘enhance in-game performance’ (my phrasing). Nearest I could tell in my very short investigation, Zack was blindly taking advice and had made the mistake of equating the shorthand reference (JTAG) to being the actual ‘think’ that was going to make some difference in his game. Now I know I am not saying it right, but JTAG is actually in reference to an IEEE standard that defines a 5 pin protocol for accessing and controlling the signal-level pins on a circuit board. What this cut and paste definition says to me is that JTAG is a tool...the JTAG part has nothing to do with the hack itself really. I can see how it would be used to affect something, some work-around he seeks...but the knowledge (on his part) is lacking. He jumped straight to using this JTAG as a term on which to then search on EBAY for anyone selling ‘JTAG.’ He found a decent price ($20.) and a tag on the listing that said ‘Top-Rated Seller’ and proceeded to have Mom order it for him. I have no idea what really arrived here....but this seems to have nothing to do with modding his game...Zack has no idea what to do with it....he was simply shoving it into any port that will accept it, blindly running an unlabled CD that came in the box...then asking me for help. Shoot, I have no idea. But what I can tell...he does not either. He is looking for the quick fix. Does not know what he is actually doing...and I fear, he is just like me.