We use a lot of jargon. Whether it be technical terms or the slang of our subculture, words and idioms that we understand because of our shared experiences are always coming up in our lives. But what happens when we become an outsider, when we no longer share those experiences or education? Are we still able to communicate effectively with the insiders? Are we able to learn about cultures outside of our own or foster new ideas and approaches to problems? What use is a theory we don’t understand and can’t apply practically?
In Layman’s Terms is my effort to demystify the arcane. Whether it be something more technical–like the structure of a botnet–or a subcultural disconnect–like why Catholics believe in the Real Presence–I intend to write in a way that makes complicated topics accessible to the average reader. In doing so, I get to share my vast array of interests and experiences and learn a few things as I continue to expand my horizons.
Those familiar with me know that I like to write. I often credit my mother, an avid writer herself, for bringing this about, though not without some strain. I’ve heard it said that to excel at playing the violin, one has to practice to the point of hating it for a few years before it becomes natural and enjoyable. Between award applications, scholarship applications, and other assigned essays, there was no shortage of writing assignments to loathe during my high school years. And yet somehow, I chose to start writing voluntarily on the internet a few years after graduation.
My foray into the blogosphere started humbly enough. I began in the realm of Blogger, back in the days just preceding it’s acquisition by Google. I can’t even remember what I used to call my blog, as it has long since been deleted. I do remember getting questioned about it at Guard drill. Some of my superiors had never heard of blogging before and didn’t see the point of it. One of them asked me what it was that I even had to write about. At that time, it was mostly just random happenings in my life. Looking back, it seemed like a very pure form of blogging, where the original intent was an online journal or diary.
Over time, I discovered that many respected blogs had a central theme to them. The authors were not writing about their lives, but about their opinions on a particular subject. Trying to emulate this style, I stopped my original blog and started another now-nameless blog. I decided to talk about Biology, since that was what I was studying at the University of North Dakota at that time. Unfortunately, I often felt like I was doing school by writing, so it again became a chore. I stopped for a while in the midst of other turbulence in my life.
It was sometime after my move to Fargo that I started Seemless Illumination, my longest standing blog. Because I had started working as a communications specialist at the Air Guard, I decided to center it around technology. Part of the inspiration for it also came from my dad, who liked to refer to the Fargo/Grand Forks corridor as the “Red River Silicon Valley.” As I progressed, I began to see blogging as a way to not only communicate my opinions, but also teach others about things they didn’t know. I would often have conversations with coworkers about issues in their love lives. Conversations with Nomadic Hearts started as a way to address those issues and communicate the value and beauty of teachings such as Theology of the Body. Though I never got very far, it was one of my favorite ideas. As a way to combat the problem of never posting, I started to develop an idea of doing “serials,” a series of posts all related to the same core concept. Modern Chestertonisms, though never actually created, was influenced by G.K. Chesterton’s style of writing in Orthodoxy, where each chapter is not a stand-alone entity, but instead builds on the chapters before it. I felt adopting this style of writing would allow me to lay the foundational groundwork very often needed to understand Catholic theology. And as it was a blog on Catholic theology, that seemed important.
The reason for so many different blogs was this idea that I had to keep my subject matters separate if I wanted a readership that consisted of more than just my family. But I have a diverse set of interests, so the blog ideas grew while my time for blogging shrank. Eventually, overwhelmed by my own ambition, I just quit writing all together.
A more recent inspiration has been to do a blog that explained cyber security more simply than the other security bloggers out there. Frankly, while blogs like Krebs on Security are really educational for IT guys and consumers who keep up with technology, it’s much harder for someone like my grandmother to follow what he’s talking about. In an effort to make security more accessible, I wanted to write about the basic concepts and apply them to recent vulnerabilities, thus providing the “layman’s terms” needed to really understand and apply what it was that they were talking about on the 6 o’clock news. But my life isn’t just cyber security. In fact, if anything permeates my life, it is Catholic theology and traditions. I live in a predominantly Protestant country–as evidenced by the fact that I was the only one at work with a mark on my head on Ash Wednesday and had to field many snide comments about not washing my face–so the Catholic Church is very often not understood, giving me a great reason to write about it. I also own a house, which likes to break. I have really been wanting to document all of the do-it-yourself projects that I’m doing, partially to get advice and partially to help others with ideas. I have so many great things to write about! But with these ideas, I could also see my looming sense of overwhelm just on the horizon. Thus, I had not taken action on any of them.
Fast forward to early January of 2015. Between designing a website for my scout troop and making major strides toward a couple of web application ideas I have, I’ve been doing a lot of learning about modern website design. I’d known of WordPress for quite a few years now, but I’d never actually played with it until recently. Coming from my Blogger background, the level of control and the ability to manipulate how the site functions are astounding to me and have rekindled my interest in writing. To add fuel to the fire, my sister introduced me to The Art of Manliness a couple years ago, where they frequently encourage taking up journaling as a daily habit. The more frequent writing has helped me get back into practice, while the fact that my journal remains private allows me to get all the junk and random thoughts out of my head without “contaminating” my blog posts.
And so it was that I started In Layman’s Terms. Welcome and enjoy!