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A Request for Tristan’s 10th Birthday

“I feel like I know you.” That’s among the most common things I hear from TidBITS readers I meet in person. Tonya and I have long kept TidBITS slightly personal, sharing the major events in our lives so readers have a better sense of the people behind all the words. That was highly unusual for a technical publication back in the day, though much less so now in the age of microblogging via Twitter (see “Confessions of a Twitter Convert”, 2007-10-09).

Back when our son Tristan was born in 1999, I asked TidBITS readers to send him email describing the world he was born into, focusing on topics he wouldn’t be able to pick up by reading a history of the time. The response was stunning, with hundreds of thoughtful, interesting messages from around the globe (see “Please Welcome Tristan Mackay Engst”, 1999-01-18).

Through some temporal sleight of hand, Tristan has just turned 10. During those years he’s metamorphosed into a fully formed kid with an abundance of opinions and interests. But although he’s aware of what’s going on in our lives and in the world at large, everything he knows is filtered through the lens of being 10. Also, although he’s pretty well-read on Napoleonic-era naval battles, the history of Welsh castles, and the high points of Greek and Roman times, he has difficulty identifying the world-changing events of the past decade from the constant barrage of news. Particularly with the U.S. administration changing this week, it feels as though we could be on the cusp of another significant shift in the world.

So I would once again like to ask a favor of you. The combined knowledge and life experience of the TidBITS readership is a vast resource, and I’d appreciate it if you would share some of it with Tristan by sending him email at [email protected]. (I’m archiving everything for when he shows interest in email, and while I may read these messages, I won’t delete anything other than spam.) Feel free to tell him anything you’d like, but if you need some focus, consider giving your thoughts about one of the following:

  • What sort of world do you live in today? How do you view other people, communities, and world events? What is your life like? What do you think of our collective future? While many of the basics may have stayed the same, there’s no question that our lives have changed radically over the last 10 years.
  • What do you think of Tonya and me – what sort of people are we? Has our work made the world a better place in some small way? Tristan’s view of us will always be colored by our role as parents, and hearing what others think of us may help him understand us better once he’s an adult.

Thanks for any thoughts you can contribute, and although Tristan isn’t yet at an age where he can fully appreciate everything that he’s told, I’m certain that at some point he will be intensely grateful to everyone for giving him such an unusual gift. I know I’m already grateful for the attention you’ve given us over the years.

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