Category: About Me


3D Character and Thinking , He is standing with question mark

3D Character and Thinking , He is standing with question mark

At the time of the writing my son is 9 1/2 years old. Like other children his age, he has certain infatuations. In his case things like Lego, Minecraft, and some TV shows and movies. It is the style of infatuation where we have to talk him down out of every toy and every piece of software and add-on that could be bought for his addiction. (We do not believe in “spoiling” the child)

Things are currently financially tight in the household; so gifts and the like are much further apart and cheaper than we’d like. So to remedy this, gifts are done with proper buildup to make the end gift more valuable. Mutating a gift for someone is great fun.

As a child my mother loved Bailey’s. In college I got her a birthday gift. There was no way I could afford a huge tin of Bailey’s for her. So I got a tin, bought a mini, and packed it in there. I presented it wrapped with the statement “I can’t really afford a great gift as a college student, but I saved up what I got for at least a little something I know you’d like.” She unwrapped the tin and was agog. “You said something little!” She opened the tin and saw the mini. I said “Yup.” My dad lost it. My mom… not so entertained.

Other gifts have been boxes that I have pretended that were heavy to give my wife and iPad. A box with holes cut out to give my girlfriend a stuffed grumpy cat. And a box wrapped like Matrushka dolls to give a nice gift card.

So, I found an inexpensive gift online that I knew my son would loooooove. (< $15 with shipping)

But I didn’t want to just give it to him (and it was going to take about a week to get there. So I decided I would do it as a quest. A series of steps along the way where he’d need to complete one to get to the next one. At the end he’d get the gift as a prize and a really awesome feeling (at least… that’s the plan)

Study the past“Never Again!”

These words have been used in the past 70 years since World War II ended. During that time, millions of Jews, Gays, “Gypsies”¹, and their supporters were put to death. Most were killed for their beliefs, some by association, many simply because of who they were.

For those unfamiliar with the concept of Godwin’s Law (of the internet):

“As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1”

The invocation of Godwin is used to prevent one side or another to equate evilness or incorrectness with the “Ultimate representation” of ‘Evil’ and/or ‘Wrong’ which for the lifetime of the Internet has been Hitler and the Nazi regime.

The problem with Godwin is two-fold. First on a direct level, secondly on a meta-level.

Directly, the use of “Hitler” and “Nazi” by equating them to “Evil” divorces us from the reason. In general this empowers the words “Evil and Wrong” and trivializes Nazism and the acts of Hitler as merely the natural or unnatural ‘limits’ of the definition of evil. We could just as easily say that anything good would inevitably equate out to Firefly. Eventually the context is lost beyond, Firefly was ultimately good.

I am a 47-year-old Jew. WWI did not affect my immediate family (at least without being removed by 2-3 degrees of cousin-hood). They only had the Russian Pogroms to deal with, and even then this is distanced by 2 generations from me. However, despite a lack of direct contact with these atrocities, I still have personal context as to the horrors done to my race, just as readily as even the most affluent person of color has to the horror of Watts, segregation, or slavery.

But there is a frightening and even more dangerous side to misusing the idea of Godwin’s Law. There is a tangible danger in the invocation of Godwin as a means to diffuse or worse avoid a needed conversation. This is especially the case when that conversation is in true comparison to what Hitler and Nazism represented.

There are many well-defined terms for the actions of the Nazi regime as created and directed by Hitler. All of which are put as off limits by misusing Godwin’s law if the comparisons strike to closely.

Genocide, Eugenics, Racial Superiority, Totalitarianism, Authoritarianism, Fascism, Radicalized Nationalism.

As a result of misusing Godwin’s law… there is a growing fear to confront these topics. Godwin gives a safe blanket to prevent us to from ever believing that we’re heading down the same road as has occurred in the past. Hitler… It could never be as bad as Hitler.

We forget that in 1938 Hitler was viewed in Time magazine as “Man of the Year” Consider at that time, that discussions concerning the most “Evil man in history” might have referred to Pizarro, Caligula, Ivan the Terrible, Nero, Rasputin, Torquemada, or Vlad the Impaler. Does the legacy of making Hitler the “ultimate evil” reduce the crimes of Pot Pol, Idi Amin, or Osama bin Laden?

By wrapping society in the safe blanket that we have seen the ultimate evil and it could never be worse condemns us in an instant to be granted the wish of being wrong. Even in the movies we know better than to posit “At least it couldn’t be any worse”

In 1938 people were singing the praises of Hitler. At least the media was. Hitler was a sense of nationalism to a very battered country. And nobody disagreed with him or his burgeoning government. Granted, by 1938 Hitler had given more power to the Schutzstaffel (SS) and the people that opposed him and his government were evaporating quickly. By 1938, Hitler had already been in power as Chancellor for 5 years. His popularity started building as early as 1927 from his policies and beliefs on a unification of all German speaking lands, the distrust of all Jews and any governing that gave the people any power. Any policy he didn’t approve of, was inevitably dismissed as part of a Jewish Agenda/Conspiracy. After 10 years of this… The US still said he was “Man of the Year.” After 3 years of bloody war, the US hadn’t entered. Not because of isolationism… but because we hadn’t decided which side we were on. Hitler was courting the US as an ally, and the bombing of Pearl Harbor made the decision easy.

Evil… is a relative and flexible term. In ‘entertainment’ we have moved from black and white into shades of grey. In life we talk about all of one ethnic group as evil, while a person who kills 10-15 people as potentially misunderstood.

Terrorism isn’t the act of destroying our bodies. It’s the act of destroying our souls and our wills.

It’s time to stop using Godwin as a crutch. It hides facing a potentially terrifying future which as a path that we’ve travelled down in the past. Stop using Godwin’s Law to excuse debate. Godwin didn’t want it.²

Words aren’t meant to be thrown around. Words are meant to represent something and to be as used as tools, shields, and weapons of truth for what they mean.

“Never again!”

 

 


1: A racial slur unto itself

2: “I Seem To Be A Verb: 18 Years of Godwin’s Law” – Mike Godwin; http://jewcy.com/jewish-arts-and-culture/i_seem_be_verb_18_years_godwins_law

Candles of LoveMy dear spouse, Heather​ and I don’t really celebrate Valentine’s day. Nor Mother’s day, Father’s Day, etc. Many of these are toted as Hallmark Holidays. In other words, they are really designed as economy motivators to promote capitalism.

I saw a story on the news last night that “Winter Storm Neptune” (They’ll name anything) that this weather may be economically damaging because restaurants, florist, and a myriad of other retail outlets will lose business. Business based on self perpetuated false need. This is the day you are supposed to show love, that is the day you’re supposed to honour mothers or fathers. And of course don’t forget to buy your unreasonably, overvalued diamonds from the slave trade they don’t tell you about.

My issue is companies that create products for reasons they don’t care about. They sell flowers but they don’t give a rats ass if it’s out of love; trying to save your ass; or hoping it will be an easy in for being a sexual predator. This extends to diamonds as gifts, fast food, and super cheap retail that abuses their employees.

My take on all these holidays is similar to how the Jews treat Yom Kippur. Yom Kippur is not the day you spend in Synagogue to assure you don’t sin. Yom Kippur is when you atone. It’s the day that you recognise, admit, embrace, and pray to do better over your failings for the last year.

I saw an interesting post that St. Valentine was pretty much killed and his body violated and we celebrate that with Pink Hearts.

Today… talk with your loved ones and ask them not what you can do today… but what you can do for all of next year.

To me… Love means “Not having to say ‘I love you'” It is a simple fact that you and your loved ones know. If that fact is ever weakened… you realise it and then you find the ways to make it better. Let me assure you… The Addams Family love each other dearly… In their world they throw knives at each other on a spinning board. (THAT is so hot)

I love my family. (ALL OF THEM) I also love the lovers that I rarely see. I also still love many of the people that I am no longer dating/in a relationship with. We parted because of situation. We parted because of difference. But I remember what made them special in my heart. And I love the people who truly do not know the depths of affection I have for them. (Let’s see how many friends freak out over this)

Today, I am away on personal business. I miss my family very much today, not because the vicious egrigore that is Valentines Day tells me that I have to. I do it because I always miss them when I am away from them. Today it’s just essential to step back and hold a shield and a sword to this day and say… You Are Not The Boss Of Me.

Aiden, Heather, Susan (and even David and Kelita) I love you so very much!

Joy, Jaisan, Jenn, Jade, (and people wonder when I talk about my Js)  (and in no specific order) Megan, Cristen, Carolyn, Stephanie, Andrea, Carrie, Kayla, Kori, Liz, Cyn, Lainie, Illy, Tess, Lynne, Erica, Holly, Kristie, Carleen, Cindee, Courtney, Deborah, Sooj, Ken… I will always love you. Even if I’ve never been able to, or had the opportunity to.

(I would never try to dare to put this list into order) Betsy, Prose, Joanna, Joa, Ananael, Winna, Barbara, Rebecca, Alex, Elissa, Deena, Dena, Emily, Erin, Erin, Hannah, Brianna, Gale, Jennifer, Amy, Michelle, Michelle, Nicole, Sandra, Kylie, Kris, Lecion, Pixi, Blue, Shira, Maeghanne, Maggi, Chrisa, Alice, Amanda, Kathy, Kathy, Kathy, Kat, Kate, (And people wonder why I’m a Kat person) Martha, Melissa, Melissa, Marie, Marie, Rubiee (And ’ember and even Nessa), Sami, Zoe, Holly, Mindy, Laurel, Kristina, Anne, Karin, Judy, Stacey, Al, Patrick, Adrian, and even Amy… And so many more that I can not think of. (And trust me, I resent myself for each person I haven’t thought of)

You will probably never know how much I have adored you; wanted to tell you how much I could love you, have grown to love having you as part of my life; have been privileged to begin to know you; have wanted/want you to be closer to me; could lay on a bed and just hold and talk with you (maybe while stroking your hair); could lose myself with you; and/or many other things (Not necessarily everyone of these for each of you… Sorry guys… Kinsey isn’t wrong about me) But if you’re ever honestly curious ask me.. I’ll be honest back to you. There is no need to ever feel the need to return my feelings or feel threatened by them. They simply are what they are… And I am in fact happy with our interactions… though it’d be nice to see and interact with each of you more often.

I am poly, because the love in my heart doesn’t diminish for anyone just because someone else gets a piece of that flame. There are a few people on this list that I have gladly given a piece of my soul to. No matter how far we may have drifted… no matter what has come between us, no matter if we ever talk again or if we find our way back to each other… I would never trade that memory, action, or feeling.

For each of you I have mentioned above… And for those that I am sooo sorry if I have left off the list. You’re existance and falling into my path in the universe makes me what I am. You have all touched me… Some of you I have tried to do the best by, Some of you I have lost touch with, and a few of you, I have been very dumb and horribly hurtful to. For that last, I curse myself for everything I have done and wish I had the opportunity to make amends. One in particular… I will never be able to apologise enough.

Today is not a day of love… it is a day of remembrance, and a promise to be better. Single does not mean alone… Single means accepting and loving and accepting the past… the good, the bad, the unrealised, and the downright horrible) and seeing a bright tomorrow.

I have never been single since the first person I loved past my own family.

I do not celebrate Valentines day. I celebrate love.

moneyFor some reason when Aiden and I go to Five Guys for dinner disucssion breaks out. Maybe because on some cultural level “Five Guys” is like “Johnny Five” and there is a desire for Innnput.

On the way home we passed “Toys R Us”, “I wish we could go there”, mused Aiden.

“We really don’t want to do that tonight.”
“Why?”
“Because it’s the week before Christmas and people are being mean about getting presents.”

We drive some more and pass an auto dealership.

“Yeah, There are a lot of people parked there!”

“Aiden that’s a car dealership. It’s where they sell cars.” I look and realise it’s where I just bought Heather a new car. Oh, did I mention? I just traded in our 2012 Town and Country minivan behind Heather’s back as a Holiday (Chanukah comma damn it) gift. She was speechless (Score!)

And then the question I did not see coming.

“How much did it cost to buy the car?”

I tell him the cost of the car. It’s a good thing he’s wearing a seat belt. If not, he would have (at best) fallen out of the seat or (at worst) jumped away screaming. In Aiden’s world a $4.99 app is a LOT of money. A $9.99 app is something he might ONLY get with a gift card for the holidays (which reminds me.)

“Do you have that much money, Daddy?” (I wish) Okay, first I need to push him a little on division.

“Aiden, do you remember we were opening peanuts at Five Guys and you took 3 peanuts and said you were actually taking 6 because each peanut wrapper (his term) has 2 nuts (sic) in them.” Aiden agreed. “Well, if you had all 6 of those nuts and wanted to put them back in the 3 wrappers how many would you put in each to make sure each one got the same number?” And after some prodding he agreed that it’d be 2. I continued, “So, I didn’t have $(rediculous amount) at once, but I asked someone if I could divide the amount in equal parts so I could do a little each month.” I then got him to multipy 12 (months) times 6 (Years) I decided to skip the fact that it’s a 75 month loan and we’re just not going to deal with the concept of interest.

We do the division and get $(Some bugetary pushing, but affordable number) “That’s still a lot, Daddy.”

“Okay, so how do you get money around the house?”

“I do chores” Which I draw out of him is work.

“Does Daddy Work?” To which a teenager would be a smart-ass and suggest that I use facebook and look at porn. Which I do NOT do… during work hours. Ahem… (In the 10th Doctor’s voice: ) “Anyway…”

“Every day.” We have a discourse about what I do, how it’s a bit harder than carrying the laundry or taking out the recycling. So he gets the idea that they give me more money for working than he would get. I tell him how much I make (net) in a month. Then I explain that by getting that much, I can use some of it to pay the amount I promised would cover each month.

“But what about the rest?”

“Well, the people I agreed to use and pay for the Car from actually had the money to buy it all at once. But they trust me to pay them as I agreed. Can you think of the other things I have to spend money on every month?” He doesn’t have a grasp here so I add, “How about our House? We don’t actually own that. Someone else does. And we agree to pay them every month to live there.” He asks me (effectively) what the rent is and I tell him.

“Every month”

“Yes, unless we buy it. And trust me it’s a teeny bit more than a car. Cause it’s a little bigger.”

“It’s not a little bigger it’s very bigger (sic).” I smile

By this time we are home. We walk in and then the next question comes.

“What happens if you don’t pay like you promised.”

“That is a VERY good question. Go upstairs and get ready. When you come down, I will explain that.” (That was 15 minutes ago, so he’s been distracted)

I sit here writing this and the only thought going through my mind is… “Economics 010 for elementary school children. Who knew?”

I love these chats.

Avi-Kaplan-152x152I have to admit, this entire post I owe to Pentatonix and especially my personal favourite member Avi Kaplan. And not just because he looks like my son (No, really, follow that link). Though, if not for Avi, I would not have had such an awesome chat with my son tonight.

We were (as is common in our house) watching Pentatonix videos (and some episodes of Superfruit). We watched “Thrift Shop” and I had no choice but to go to Avi doing the line on Helium. I (like many others) thought of the potential horrors of what it’d be like to hear Avi on Sulfur Hexafluoride. For those unfamiliar… most if not all of us know that helium makes us sound like cartoon mice… or Verne Troyer. This is predominantly because Helium is 6 times lighter than air and the air from our lungs as a result travels across our vocal chords differently. Sulfur Hexafluoride (SF6) however is 6 times heavier and effectively has the opposite effect on the voice. It gets lower and almost demonic in sound.

So, we’re looking on YouTube at SF6 videos and Aiden spots one about a Koosh ball in Liquid Nitrogen. So now we are onto Science Part 2.

I take Aiden out to dinner and we talk about the boiling ‘water’ and the exploding Koosh ball.

We talk about Solid, Liquid, and Gas. I really have to credit the science he is learning in school already. He has a good understanding of the three states, their differences, and how they transition. He also explained gas by mentioning the O2, CO2 exchange between animals and plants. (Not in those terms,but he understood the basic idea)… So we talked about Nitrogen being lighter than Oxygen on the periodic chart (yay iPhone app) and steel being lower on the chart. And as a result (for the most part) Lighter elements melt and ‘boil’ at different temperatures. After awhile he asks why water isn’t on the chart and I tell him that water is made up of different elements from the chart. I tell him that there is an Oxygen and that an Oxygen is so “large” that it can fit 2 “Hydrogen”. Much like the Carbon is so big that it can fit 2 Oxygen. (Yes, I am well aware, thank you)… He understands what “Di” means from what we’ve discussed and from the word “DiOxide” I explain that Oxide means that the oxygen is working on something else. (Yeah, I know)… He works out that Water is Dihydrogen-oxide. I am very proud that he understands this. I don’t think he will remember these details for school.

At this point I explain that all of this is Science. The Helium, the voice change, the gluing elements together to make molecules, the Nitrogen and how it can be a liquid and boil so fast and why they HAVE to wear gloves. I tell him that there are SO MANY different sciences. Chemistry, Organic chemistry (anything with Carbon), Physics, Biology, etc. He is gobbling it up. I explain that science is effectively learning and finding rules. We talk about di, and tri, he volunteers tricycle. I explain that I have an automatic quadrocycle. He figures out I mean a car. He points out that he isn’t allowed to drive because he’s too young. (We’ll skip the scary math where he joyously and I terrifyingly realise that at 8 he is half way to driving age) I explain rules. I tell him that the time has gone by quickly and the next eight years will go even more quickly. He doesn’t buy it.

At this point he asks me if I know so much because I am a TimeLord. (Something I purport to him regularly. I love the fact that he doesn’t buy into Santa Clause, but he carefully scrutinises the possibility that I am in fact a TimeLord. (Which between you and me… is in fact true 😉

I explain that of course I am a TimeLord and will demonstrate it for him by controlling time and making it go more quickly. We are at FiveGuys so of course… peanuts. I tell him to carefully watch me. I want him to take in everything I do. I remove a peanut, I carefully shell it, I peel back the paper wrapping around the legume. I pop it in my mouth. He even volunteers that I took a lot of time doing that. I took out 3 more peanuts and put them in front of me. We talk about science some more and how the whole restaurant is filled with science. While we’re talking I eat the 3 peanuts. I don’t rush through it. I ‘take my time.’ As I finish the last one… I interrupt him and show him the pile of shells. He is agog.

“How did you do that so fast?!?!” I explain… TimeLord and I’ll teach it to him when he’s older (as he sure isn’t going to grasp perceptual time as an 8 yr old)

As we head out, he says that he loves being around me because I make things. I know Science. And I answer questions. He says he also loves being around Mommy because I make things out of electronics and she makes things out of paint. (I add: And wire, and boxes, and any other clutter she can find :) I explain to him that there is one thing that she and I made together that I consider the greatest piece of work we have ever made. How we started on it about 9 years ago and finished it just a few months over 8 years ago. We love the work, we look at it every day, we take care of it, we hug it. And with this Aiden realiees I mean him. He said he thought that I was initially talking about something electronic or artistic. I told him, I was.

On the way home he notes that it’s night. I explain that the quickest way from night to morning (when he gets to open his lego advent catalogue) is to sleep. He asks me the ever wonderful question “Why do we dream?” This one I have to improvise on. I explain that the body does not shut down when he sleeps. He takes “body shutting down” to be death. (not entirely wrong). Then I explain autonomic functions. (Breathing, heart beating) Effectively the brain doesn’t sleep. It runs the automatic processes. One of which is to sort thru the whole day. (Yay myelination) I explain that the briain sort of sifts through all the experiences and knowledge and observances like when he sifts thru his lego. Sometimes he gets an idea and scoops a bunch of different pieces together and tries building something but then takes it apart because it wants to move onto something else. He asks why he can’t remember them. I explain that the brain cleans up to make room for the new stuff coming in the next day. “You need more room… so you can get more stuff” – Carlin. I explain that’s why I ask him to clean the room. I even explain that the brain throws things out to make more room. It makes sort of a reference to it, but doesn’t keep the details. He remembers the vacation when we took the picture that’s on my phone home screen. He knows he was a baby, but doesn’t remember anything about his baby pictures. I explain that I don’t remember more than a picture of two from when I was his age. I further it by explaining… I have something like 46 years of stuff in my head. Under my breath I say, “Not ‘like’ 46 years… actually literally 46 years. Sigh. Then we move onto the next question… What about nightmares. He posits that the brain wants to scare the boy and enjoys it. I follow the metaphor with how sometimes the brain finds something it doesn’t understand, or like, or scares it. And it goes into the little structure and you don’t realise how scared you were of it… so it makes for a scary dream.

We get home and he looks at me and asks “How do people make their voices higher and lower?” I tell him, this is a very good question and he should go up and change and I will show him when he comes down. He asks if it’s going to be a video (hopehopehopehope) I say no (awwwww) but I will do it right in front of him. He heads off and I go looking for a rubber band. (Gum band *shiver* for the locals around me) I am unable to find one, but I find string.

Aiden comes down and I show him the string and pluck it. I tighten it and it gets higher. I shorten it, it gets higher. Aiden knows that you breath against your vocal chords to make sound. Now he understands that shorter means higher and stretching means higher as well. The Helium and SF6 make more sense for him as well. I also tie the string into a circle and stretch it like guitar strings. I pluck one and the other vibrates. I also try to demonstrate why singing and speaking on an inhale really don’t work. And then… the coupe on the grass. (sic) I show him the biggest set of vocal chords he has ever seen. I have a huge set in a huge wooden box. I keep 44 pairs of vocal chords. We look into the piano. Aiden notices the short end and the long end. He realizes that the low notes are at the end where the longer strings are. I talk to him about Avi and how his vocal chords are very long and very loose. I explain how stretching your vocal chords in warm ups is like stretching the muscles and loosens you up, so your voice drops. I also explain that since he is growing, so are his vocal chords. And then it’s onto the PeterBradyesque manner that his vocal chords will readjust one year. Likely in about 4-5 years.

By now it’s bed time and I’m enjoying what we talked about…

No… you know.. my thoughts on this kind of a conversation with my son…

 

“This is freakin’ awesome!”