Digital Citizenship

Like anything, there is a right, and a wrong way to be a digital citizen.

For me, I try not to separate myself too much from my digital life. Yes, I can take on a different personality, I can feel a little less self-conscious, and I have the freedom to just have fun when I am on social media; but I never act in a way that I absolutely wouldn’t in real life, and, to me, this is how you start on the path of a good digital citizen.

If I wouldn’t bully someone in real life, I certainly wouldn’t go to the comment section on facebook to bully someone I don’t even know. If I would shut someone down for their rude, hurtful, or ignorant statements if I heard it out in the real world, then I will do the same on the internet. You can’t allow yourself to live two separate lives; this is not only unhealthy but damaging to yourself and to others.

I often try to consider the future, and I don’t think enough people really think about the future in terms of consequence. Yes, I can allow myself to be 23, young, and dumb, but not at the risk of my future. I will always strive to live myself in a way that will make my future-self proud. I don’t want to look back in five or ten years and be completely mortified or regretful of my actions. I don’t want to be unable to get a job or make friends because I made a stupid post on facebook just to get a few laughs.

People can be incredibly short-sited in terms of consequences, but I think the biggest issue is a lack of empathy. And yes, I understand that it can be difficult to empathize with a person when you don’t know them or don’t have to look them in the eye when you say something to them; you don’t have to wait for a response, but I think the main problem is that we tend to highlight a culture that revels in angering others for fun.

To some degree, yes, it can be so satisfying to see someone who does not agree with you, or is a terrible person, become enraged; but I am so much more interested in having a conversation with them. I want to engage them in conversation because that’s what kept me from joining in on stupid, hateful language. Listening to others and talking with others is what kept me from being a jerk on the internet and a jerk in real life! There is a small satisfaction in angering someone, but a much larger satisfaction in gaining understanding.

And don’t be mistaken— this is not isolated to ‘millennials’. If anything, I would say that since older generations have not learned about online bullying, about digital ethics, that they are the biggest bullies you will see on the web. They stay inside facebook and do not engage with communities outside that platform or their circle of friends who agree with them. Because younger generations use multiple platforms, they are more likely to encounter people who will call them out on their language and are more likely to receive an understanding that their behavior is not acceptable.

Still, I think the overwhelming message that needs to be heard is to life your online life the same way as your real life, because the two can no longer be separate.


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Sep 13, Grand Remembrances

Today is Grandparents Day in the United States. Being a Grand is a special honor. I feel very blessed that my wife and I have two grandchildren. We were able to visit them today. Yes, we are still being cautious with the coronavirus, but we also find it very difficult to not see them when they live so close. So today we did drop by to visit Jacob (age 10) and Sophia (age 7) along with their parents. We brought donuts and caught up with them. Our grandchildren are still pretty young and this is a precious time in their lives – and ours!

I wish I had known my grandparents better. We never lived in the same place. Dad was a career Air Force pilot, so we moved around a lot. But we did get to see them once in a while when they would visit us, or we them.

A Plague of Giants

There are five known magical ‘kennings’ or types: air, water, fire, earth, and plants. Each nation specializes in of these kennings, and the magic influences the society. There’s a big pitfall with this diversity of ability and locale–not everyone gets along.

Enter the Hathrim giants, or ‘lavaborn’ whose kenning is fire. Where they live the trees that fuel their fire are long gone, but the giants are definitely not welcome anywhere else. They’re big, they’re violent, and they’re ruthless. When a volcano erupts and they are forced to evacuate, they take the opportunity to relocate. They don’t care that it’s in a place where they aren’t wanted.

I first read Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid books and loved them (also the quirky The Tales of Pell), so was curious about this new venture, starting with A PLAGUE OF GIANTS. Think Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series. Elemental magic, a variety of races, different lands. And it’s all thrown at you from page one.

But this story is told a little differently. It starts at the end of the war, after a difficult victory, and a bard with earth kenning uses his magic to re-tell the story of the war to a city of refugees. And it’s this movement back and forth in time and between key players in this war that we get a singularly grand view of the war as a whole. Hearne uses this method to great effect.

There are so many interesting characters in this book that I can’t cover them all here. Often in books like this such a large cast of ‘main’ character can make the storytelling suffer, especially since they don’t have a lot of interaction with each other for the first 3/4 of the book–but it doesn’t suffer, thankfully. And the characterization is good enough, despite these short bursts, that by the end we understand these people and care about what happens to them.

If there were a main character it would be Dervan, a historian who is assigned to record (also spy on?) the bard’s stories. He finds himself caught up in machinations he feels unfit to survive. Fintan is the bard from another country, who at first is rather mysterious and his true personality is hidden by the stories he tells; it takes a while to understand him. Gorin Mogen is the leader of the Hathrim giants who decide to find a new land to settle. He’s hard to like, but as far as villains go, you understand his motivations and he can be even a little convincing. There’s Abhi, the son of hunters, who decides hunting isn’t the life for him–and unexpectedly finds himself on a quest for the sixth kenning. And Gondel Vedd, a scholar of linguistics who finds himself tasked with finding a way to communicate with a race of giants never seen before (definitely not Hathrim) and stumbles onto a mystery no one could have guessed: there may be a seventh kenning.

There are other characters, but what makes them all interesting is that they’re regular people (well, maybe not Gorin Mogen or the viceroy–he’s a piece of work) who become heroes in their own little ways, whether it’s the teenage girl who isn’t afraid to share vital information, to the scholars who suddenly find how crucial their minds are to the survival of a nation, to the humble public servants who find bravery when they need it most. This is a story of loss, love, redemption, courage, unity, and overcoming despair to not give up. All very human experiences by simple people who do extraordinary things.

Hearne’s worldbuilding is engaging. He doesn’t bottle feed you, at first it feels like drinking from a hydrant, but then you settle in and pick up things along the way. Then he shows you stuff with a punch to the gut. This is no fluffy world with simple magic without price. All the magic has a price, and more often than not it leads you straight to death’s door. For most people just the seeking of the magic will kill you. I particularly enjoyed the scenes with Ahbi and his discovery of the sixth kenning and everything associated with it. But giants? I mean, really? It isn’t bad enough fighting people who can control fire that you have to add that they’re twice the size of normal people? For Hearne if it’s war, the stakes are pretty high, and it gets ugly.

The benefit of the storytelling style is that the book, despite its length, moves along steadily (Hearne is no novice, here). The bits of story lead you along without annoying cliffhangers (mostly), and I never got bored with the switch between characters. It was easy to move between them, and they were recognizable enough that I got lost or confused. The end of the novel felt a little abrupt, but I guess that has more to do with I was ready for the story to continue, despite the exiting climax.

If you’re looking for epic fantasy with fun storytelling and clever worldbuilding, check out A PLAGUE OF GIANTS.

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The Artwork Of Gary Choo

Gary Choo is a concept artist/illustrator based in Singapore. I’ve know Gary for a good many years ( 17, actually ), working together in animation studios in Singapore like Silicon Illusions and Lucasfilm. Gary currently runs an art team at Mighty Bear Games, but when time allows he also draws covers for Marvel comics, and they’re amazing –

The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo

To see more of Gary’s work or to engage him for freelance work, head down to his ArtStation.

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