Wednesday, September 30

Comic #17

Virtual Environmentalism

Internet spaces like this are going to be more refined and organized in the future, especially when the next generation of people grow older and take up the mantle of leadership, particularly within the academic sphere. Virtual worlds, and by that I mean MMOs in specific and everything techy in general will be cataloged, debated and critiqued, and most of all, kept for future generations to peruse at their leisure.

I'm not saying that every game made will be available for anyone to play, instead, I envision a time when certain games are given the "Classics" brand and resold to consumers at the 2100 version of Barnes and Nobles. There might very well be a Shakespeare of our generation lurking within a PC or console title, and a hundred or even a thousand years from now, college professors might be dissecting the narrative of World of Warcraft.

I imagine societies and organizations dedicated to the preservation of video games of all types, and a type of virtual tourism, where we can visit the Yosemites and Yellowstones of these worlds (Storm Peaks and Grizzly Hills), and my kids and their kids will marvel at 8 bit graphics and sidescrolling sprites. With the emergence of this digital holistic medium, there will be those guardians that will harbor the articles of the past for our progeny. They will be the ones sitting in the virtual trees saying, "I defend this code with my life," as the authorities rev up their computational chain saws.

Tuesday, September 29

Ideas That Don't Deserve an Entire Post

Bad move: never give hippies money, because then they breed and make more hippies, and the sidewalks are covered in peace and benevolence, and no one goes to work.

One day, when we clone ourselves, and enslave them with our menial labor, those times will seem pleasant, at least until our clones rise up and throw us into the very pits they dug for us.

Hey kid, don't go in the play structure or else the Ketchup Monster will get you.
What about the Ranch Monster?
Yup, him too.

She fell down herself.

You know you're married to the right person when you don't want a divorce.

Goldfish crackers have neither gold nor fish in them. They should be called Wheatcheese crackers.

Music Ho!

Managed to find a way to post just my songs without having to go through the trouble of making a video first and posting it to Youtube. (Granted, I'm going to eventually make videos of whatever floats my boat, but until then, I like having my music up there without the accompanying images.)

Check it out on MySpace.

(If anyone knows of a better place than MySpace to post songs, let me know, since that page can only hold ten at a time. Thanks!)

Monday, September 28

Comic #16

Taming the Wild Thing

Since I take care of a three year old boy, I need a working strategy on how to discipline him when he does something naughty, like push his sister, dump all the crackers on the floor, or throw a tantrum when he doesn't get his way. Because he can't sit in a chair for longer than one minute without fidgeting, my wife and I considered that he may have ADHD, even though neither of us have any real understanding of what that is except through lists of imprecise "symptoms." When we compared his behavior to his girl cousin, who is particular and polite, and far more reserved, we noticed a huge divide between them.

Fortunately, we found this book. I generally have a hard time recommending books about parenting, because of the twofold reasons that they tend to be very self-helpish and authoritative, qualities which elicit my skepticism. When I saw that my wife had bought this book on a whim I thought, "Great, use time outs and positive discipline. I've heard it all before."

This is different though, because instead of applying a one size fits all approach, where the obvious differences between most boys and girls are swept aside due to politically correct ideology, the author instead explores the issue from a practical standpoint using studies to support his evidence. One critique I have is that this lengthy reference section at the end of the book should have been integrated into the rest of it, so that his conclusions are more transparent, but whatever. As if I'm seriously going to follow up on scientific papers anyway.

However, I had already been using exercise and the outdoors as a way to calm Justin. Instead of timeouts, I replaced them with "long walks" as in, if you keep doing what you are doing, I'm going to take you for a one to two mile stroll around our neighborhood. This is the first book I've found that specifically recommends this, though not as a punishment. (Which I realized at the time was counter to what I wanted long term, but I didn't see a choice, since time outs weren't working. He'd just sit and laugh at me.)

The most important thing I took away from this book is how to immediately apply consequences, then after he's calmed down, get him to explain to me what he did wrong, and what he can do differently next time. For example, if he's hitting his sister with a book, I take the book away, then he looks at me, tells me that he hit his sister with the book, and that next time, he could choose not to hit his sister.

The second thing was the idea that time-outs where he's sitting in the same room as me are counterproductive, and not really a "punishment", because he's getting my attention that entire time by screaming, squirming, throwing pillows, or just getting up and walking around. The author instead replaces a time-out with a "time-away" in which the kid is sent to a safe room where you can shut the door, and keep the door shut regardless of what they do (as long as they don't have a history of self-destructive behavior, like self-biting or jumping out of windows).

This has worked like a charm on Justin, and not only gives him time to calm down and reflect on what he's done, it also has dramatically reduced yelling in our household. Instead of lecturing him, or screaming at him that he's not listening, I can silently pick him up and stick him in the bedroom, and let him freak out on his own, not unlike this boy.

When he's calmed down, he can tell me what he did wrong, and what he can do differently next time. Also, this means I get to be a better parent, because instead of flipping out, I can remain calm and collected, and be the type of parent I want to be.

Perhaps there are two wild things that need to be tamed.

Sunday, September 27

Inductive Evolution

I wonder if microbes know what they are doing when they get someone sick. Similarly, when we ravage the landscape, I ruminate whether humans are like microbes. Then I question if there are beings made up of solar systems and galaxies, who get sick whenever a star goes super nova.

And so on...

Friday, September 25

Eleven Ways To Say Kandoo

Regrettably, I couldn't find a space in his video for these, and since he found the bathroom counter so fascinating, I'd like to share his photos:

Thursday, September 24

Beatles: Rock Band

I got the opportunity to play The Beatles: Rock Band last night, and we completed the entire game in one sitting. Now, I'm not going to complain about the brevity of the experience, because that isn't the point of Rock Band titles in the first place. I had a great time, though some of the songs were questionable. I consider myself to be a fan, and many songs were new to me. Which is good and bad: good because I found songs I had never heard of, bad because I'd have to sing them.

What I do question, however, is the addition of harmonies. I highly doubt that a casual user, or anyone who has never actually been musically trained can pull off a three part harmony on the fly. Granted, they don't hurt your score if you don't have them, but I can't for the life of me fathom some combination of people I know that would have the skills to pull this off, me included. Only if we actually sat down at a piano, gave each person their part, and in essence, formed a tribute band to the Fab Four could we possibly have any hope of striving with this aspect of the game. It just seems like a great idea in theory, but I would have rather had the development time spent somewhere else.

I mean, I've been in a choir, I know musical theory enough to know that two other people would have to sing the third and the fifth above what I'm singing, or drop down an octave and sing below me, but there is no way that I can do that without practicing when the game is turned off and I'm sitting at my electronic piano.

It's a more extreme version playing the drums, where I keep thinking to myself, "Great, now I should buy a drum set so I can practice the drum part of Rock Band, so I can get a high score in a game, instead of spending that time actually playing the drums."

That is my fundamental problem with games that emulate reality: I would more often than not go do the activity that they are emulating than occupy myself with a virtual simulation of said pastime. I would rather bowl, play tennis, football, soccer, or write music, than play many of these games. Thus, my preference tends to veer towards things I can't do in real life, like command a conquering medieval army, defend the world against aliens, walk around as an elven wizard, or pilot a space ship.

Not to mention the fact that I can't help but feel some dissonance from the idea that I'm playing a game that turns real people from 40 years ago into video game sprites, whose bohemian image is being used to line the pockets of certain corporations. You have to wonder what John Lennon would have thought about all of this.

He'd probably say something along the lines of, "Who cares about that, the bigger question is, how do you uncremate someone?"

Wednesday, September 23

Comic #15

Benevolence Incarnate

Had a run in with a saint today. It was an odd experience. I told her so, and she said, "It's not odd to share."

It was just the kids and me at the park, and someone strides up and says, with a wonderful Indian accent, "Would you like some food? I have plenty of extra that I was giving to the senior citizen center." Then she takes off to her car, and my son follows her, as if he's a rat and she's playing pipes. I scoop up my one year old, and follow, all the while I fret about poison and strangers, my paranoia in overdrive.

We get to her car, a dumpy white Volvo station wagon, filled to the brim with food from Trader Joe's and Safeway, and she's talking nonstop about how kids get their preconceived notions about poverty and food from their parents, and how her dog (named Trixie or Tricia or some T-name that I forgot) is great with kids. She says, "Here, let me hold her, I'm a nurse," and she snaps up Harmony before I can protest. While I'm floundering for something to say, I find three plastic containers of vegetables, four loaves of bread, and two containers of berries in my arms.

I say, "We don't really need this," and she said, "Everyone needs food." She explained that she likes to stop at parks on her way from getting excess groceries from the stores and giving it to schools and food banks, because she likes to cut out the middle man, and give directly to the parents, and she feels better knowing people will eat the food. "I give the food to the kids at the school, and you know what they do? They throw it! They don't know any better."

Then, as quickly as she came, she zoomed off, supposedly to give the food to someone else as bewildered as me, while we opened up a plastic container of strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries, whose only fault was that the date said it was today.

She said her name was Sumi, and my kids ate: after all, they were hungry, because everyone needs food. Thanks, Sumi.

Tuesday, September 22

Multiple Me

I've had two friends from high school that are also INTPs join the Navy and prosper as officers. Now I may seem like a green hippie iconoclast, but in many ways I'm moderate, and it's only the internet that transforms me into something radical. I revel in my contradictions, and one of them is that I absolutely love games of all sorts, from board games to video games to card games to sports. Anything with rules, where people can compete, and where resources must be positioned for maximum effectiveness intrigues me.

Where this skill is useful is in any arena where I need to strategize about what the best possible course of action is to win any sort of engagement, be it science, war, business, or anywhere where it is necessary to not look at individual encounters, but the bigger picture. I tend to look in the long run at situations, theorize many different solutions, then plan accordingly.

I tend to spend my free time playing games where I can use this skill, like in games such as World of Warcraft (until recently), or Team Fortress 2 (where I can play whatever my team needs to win.)

What this means is that I could have flourished in the military. I can see that. I'm not going to use this space to disapprove of those that did. I'm not anti-military, any more than I'm anti-American. I love this country, and I respect the fact that someone else is putting their butt on the line every day for my benefit. I have the right to question where and when and how the military is being used, but it would be foolhardy of me to suggest that this country or any country does away with their armed forces entirely.

I think the one reason why I didn't enlist was the same reason why I didn't stay a Chemistry major when I first failed out of college: I just didn't like who I was surrounded by whenever I entered a math or science class. The lab professor for one particular class was a stodgy old guy who would stare, scrutinizing every time I wasn't absolutely perfect with a beaker and a Bunsen burner. I felt like every student in every class was a robot, and I was absolutely bored out of my wits.

The break came when I started taking radio classes, then creative writing, then art. That was it for me. Cute girls plus no right answer plus randomness appreciated? Sign me up for that!

I went back to community college, did theatre and a little photography and television and choir (which is where I met my wife). Did random jobs like pizza delivery driver and video game testing, I measured drainage ditches in Carmel by the Sea, and at some point my wife made me go back to school and eventually get my Creative Arts degree. I now do random art and take care of two kids.

Sometimes I wonder what my life would have been like had I zigged instead of zagged. Maybe in a parallel universe there is another me on a submarine, wondering what it would have been like had he taken those art classes.

Monday, September 21

Random Photo #4


My wife has often commented that I get a lot of crazy people that decide they want to talk to me. Or at least, there is something about my aura that makes normal people momentarily nuts.

Conversely, she only ever catalyzes the polite side of people, so that whenever we are together, she acts as a lightning rod, grounding out the wackiness into banality. If we are ever separated though, the sparks fly as all of the eccentricities of the seemingly commonplace horde are set loose.

Maybe they can sniff out my frequent trips into the land of Chaos. Perhaps they want to soar like they used to, like Wendy, John and Michael, or maybe they have lost their marbles, and are looking for my secret stash of fairy dust. My better half will watch in awe as people she's described before as nice and caring will describe their prejudices and faults, their crackpot notions, every fanatical half-baked idea they've ever had, and zealously attempt to persuade me to meet them in Neverland.

I've had a grandma tell me that she's conservative, and worried about the Filipino women who have to leave their babies back in the Philippines, and that she could never understand how they could be so callous to do something like that. I've had people tell me that the recession is so bad that the rental units are empty because the Mexicans are fleeing the squalor here for the squalor of their home country. People invade my personal space in a frenzy of goodwill and malignancy, with their deepest thoughts suddenly exposed, and I can only suppose that they view me as a kind of soothsayer.

They give me their dreams and nightmares, and I'm unsure how I'm supposed to reciprocate. Should I be carrying around fortune cookies?

Kids flock to me, and I can see in their eyes that they want to poke me with a stick to see if I'll bite. The first thing a seven year old boy asked me was, "What do you believe in?" Not, "I like baseball," or, "My name is Fill-In-The-Blank." Nope, it was "What do you believe in?"

I said, "About what?"

He said, "What do you believe in?" As if the switch in tone made the question perfectly clear.

I wrinkled my brow, because these things are not to be taken lightly. Besides, I am not one to give trite answers to meaningful questions. I said, "What do you believe in?"

He said, "I believe in God."

I said, "Well, I believe in cheesecake."

Which, in a certain way, can be seen as dodging the question, but in another way, in all seriousness, is a perfectly acceptable answer, especially since I'm pretty certain that I've had more encounters with cheesecake than I have with God, thus the belief in a certain type of pastry outweighs the belief in a deity.

Though some would argue that the cheesecake is God, which, I absolutely agree with. Especially if we can all eat at the same table, at the feast of the Lost Boys, and gorge ourselves on spectacle and illusion and confusion. Where we can sing and dance and make love without abandon, a sustainable and holistic version of Burning Man, and the daytime terrors of choice and mind and heart can be unleashed without fear, and perhaps the madness can be infinite and contained in union.

Or perhaps not. Maybe I'm just imagining things.

Saturday, September 19

Rage Over a Little Thing

I spent all morning picking up trash at a local park with my son. We volunteered for my church a couple weeks back and I forgot all about it until I got an email on Thursday reminding me to show up at 9am wearing the appropriate attire. (I'm tentatively a Unitarian Universalist, but that's a topic for another post. Let's just stick to the good Samaritan act for the moment.)

I found, that over the course of the three hours that I was picking up debris, in a beautiful location, with my eager son in tow, with wildlife and happiness all around me, when I should have been at most at peace in the world, that I was absolutely angry. I mean, I was fuming vile exhaust out of various orifices. I wanted to stab a puppy with a fork, that's how pissed off I was.

A little history: I'm an Eagle Scout, which means I spent a lot of time camping and hiking, plus doing random service projects. Every one of those campouts we had to leave the campsite in a better condition than we found it, which means all of us would have to sweep the area right before it was time to go home, and pick up not only our refuse, but also the trash of anyone else who had ever pitched a tent there. In addition, many of those projects were things like "Help Joe Brown clean up Random Park so he can Earn His Star Badge."

Thus, I've spent a lot of time picking up other people's waste. And by far, the worst, and I mean most atrocious offender in the garbage world is by far the cruddy cigarette butt. I can without a doubt say, without hesitation, that any smoker who has ever thrown a butt on the ground: I hate you.

I don't hate smoking. Do whatever you want to your person. I don't care. Your body is your temple to desecrate at your discretion. I don't even really care about secondhand smoke in a lot of instances, like if you are outside or in a designated area. (I think being unable to smoke in a bar is idiotic.)

But the moment you throw a cigarette butt on the ground, I despise you. That's not your vice talking, that's your responsibility. That's you directly saying to the rest of the world that you don't give a crap about the ground, the earth, the people around you, everyone else that has to share that space with you, and anyone like me that has to come along and pick up after your substandard life.

Your first instinct might be to dismiss me as being hysterical over nothing. However, let me give an analogy: let's say you picked up some sandwiches, went to the park, and were about to sit down at the table and eat with your family, but lo and behold, you notice a small collection of about fifty hypodermic needles and used condoms spread around in the dirt. Are you going to sit down at that table, let alone let your toddler play in that? Nope, you'd be just as pissed as me, and you wouldn't nonchalantly accept it either. You'd be enraged too.

Now multiply that times the experience of my life, where I haven't just picked up one or three cigarette butts, but maybe in the order of thousands. Then you start to get where my anger leads to the dark side leads to choking people with my thoughts mentality is coming from.

I'm also well aware that I'm contradictory, in that I want the world to be a peaceful place, and I'm violent with my words (and sometimes with my actions). I get that it's confusing. Like anyone else, I'm not Jesus, I'm not Ghandi, I'm not Mother Teresa. So when I say I want people who throw cigarette butts on the ground to die in a fiery blaze, I mean it with all the best intentions.

So maybe certain smokers can choose to be accountable for their actions, and find a way to fix it. Then when my son asks "Why do people throw cigarette butts on the ground?" I don't have to say, "Because they're Meanies," which is three-year-old for saying that they are jackasses.

Friday, September 18

Top Secret

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a plant, mostly influenced by reading this book.

Like the boy in the story, I wanted to discover a formula that would unlock the key to human photosynthesis, so that no one would ever go hungry again, and so that we would never, ever have to harm any other life form for any reason.

I wanted to stick my feet in the dirt, and share the ground with the worms and bugs, and say, "Hey Mr. Bug, don't worry, I'm not going to harm you. Let's be friends." And the squirrels and birds would live in me and make nests on me and conceive babies in my leaves, and crap on me, but hey man, who cares? I'm a tree.

Someday, will science fulfill my dream, with solar power across the landscape, and stick my brain in a cyborg box, like Nixon on Futurama? Will I live forever as a man/machine symbiote, harnessing nourishment from the sun? Do the prophets and heavens and aliens, the warmongers and peaceniks, the meek and the strong, only have a chance at tranquility when we cast off the shackles of our locomotion and gullet?

Though I'm sick of the cliche, I'm also equally sick of being the scorpion.

Thursday, September 17

Diamonds in the Sky

I often wonder what my kids are thinking, like what is going through my toddler's brain when she is ripping up her toast on the carpet, or when my eldest is standing on the couch with no pants, eating a carrot the size of his arm, and listening to the garbage truck.

Fantasies where I am young again manifest themselves, and I'm curious as to this strange species called "children" because on the one hand, they bore me to tears, and on the other, I can be utterly enthralled with them.

Though whenever I try to repossess what has been lost, my adult nature kicks in, and I can't quite put my finger on where these beings are coming from.

They might as well be from another planet.


I had this stuck in my head while I was sleeping, and trust me, the guy's dancing does not improve with imagination. Though I will say that his enthusiasm and apparent musical ability makes up for any forays into dorkishness. Her eyes also remind me of the chick in this video. Fast forward to 2:43 to see what I mean. Especially when compared to this:

Wednesday, September 16

Viva La Dentistry!

I went to Guy School, and as such, was completely unaware that there were dentists for kids. I mean, it seems obvious now, but before I procreated, and was otherwise informed by my patient and knowledgeable wife (who apparently went to Girl School), I thought that kids had teeth until they rotted and fell out. Then they got paid, grew adult teeth and were guilt tripped by normal dentists into brushing their teeth.

I didn't realize my three year old needed to go to an office with plastic fish on the walls, and walk past another kid screaming bloody murder, then sit in a chair remarkably like some of the movies in recent memory. Luckily, the lady with the mask on was helpful enough to explain what all of the implements did before strapping the boy in.

What can I say, I did what any sane dad would do: left him to hang in the wind.

Of course, he had his mom with him, so I'm not completely callous. And I was watching the one year old. So my bases are covered. But I am not going to spend one more second in a children's dentist office than I have to, so me and the toddler made a break for it to the grassy field across the street, where we got to see a poodle take a dump.

I didn't know they did that.

Comic #13

Tuesday, September 15

A Deal With The Starbucks

I'm of many minds when it comes to Starbucks.

The underdog in me wants them to be malevolent just because they are colossal, which is not really fair on my part. I'm only concerned with the size of an institution when it also uses unfair business practices and exploits its workers. However, I'm also not alarmist, and I haven't seen any legitimate proof of corruption in excess, and like Microsoft and McDonald's, sometimes the negativity tends to be just a tad overblown.

I'm also not concerned with overpriced drinks, because this is the new version of a soda fountain, and a caffeine version of a bar. The Renaissance began with the switch from alcohol to coffee, Jane Austin's characters hang out at coffee bars, so I am at home with the idea that people can sit around and drink expensive snobbish concoctions while indulging in voyeurism. They occasionally play the Beatles, and if I'm lucky, I can sit on a couch with my honey, while she blathers at me about something she's thinking about.

Do I like the Mom-and-Pop alternatives? Absolutely. But Coffee Society is five miles away, and Emily's is in Santa Cruz. In contrast, I can walk the kids the two blocks to Starbucks.

In addition, I've always gotten nothing less than perfect quality from a Starbucks, while other places have been less than good. (Not the ones mentioned, but other places. Not naming names, but my wife can't stand your hot chocolate. You know who you are.)

So all in all, I enjoy going to Starbucks, though I feel a tad guilty every time I go, especially when I think about all of the hippies sleeping in trees as I throw away my paper cup, and when I see that the barista has a headset for the drive through.

Then I shudder, if only for a moment.

Monday, September 14

Comic #12

Buddha Got It Backwards

In Buddhism, the Second Noble Truth (out of Four) is that desire causes suffering.

"Suffering is caused by craving or attachments to worldly pleasures of all kinds. This is often expressed as a deluded clinging to a certain sense of existence, to selfhood, or to the things or phenomena that we consider the cause of happiness or unhappiness."

I'm sorry, but I think suffering causes desire.

If I am born, I age, I am sick or near death, if I am filled with sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair, I am involved in something displeasing, or I am separate from something pleasing, or I am not getting what I want, then I am Suffering, and my next state of being is to Desire to end the Suffering.

Thus, the pursuit to cease all desires is fruitless, because it does not end suffering, it only suppresses the body's natural warning system that something is amiss. It is the same as if a doctor treated your symptoms, and didn't cure the disease.


This is not to say that desire should run rampant, and that hedonism is good. Instead, I assert that desire should exactly equal the amount of suffering. If you desire for more than you suffer, then you are as unwise as someone that desires less than they suffer. If you are sick, you should desire medicine, not a mansion or a yacht.

The enlightened one knows themselves perfectly, and equates every suffering they feel with an equal amount of desire, and acts accordingly.

Saturday, September 12

Giants on the Horizon

I watched "The Iron Giant" with my son today.

He'd already seen it, and I could go into this whole tirade about the grandparents letting my three year old watch a PG movie without asking us,, what the hell. I'm not overly concerned with violence and kids because I'm not a believer in the purity and sanctity of the minds of our youth. It means more work for me explaining to him why the giant robot was shooting guns, but whatever: I have to pick my battles.

SPOILERS: (Though the movie came out ten years ago, so I shouldn't really have to warn anyone.)

So the giant robot really was an "evil" alien construct sent to kill all humanity. Or at least destroy anyone that shoots at it. Though I briefly touched on this before, I think that it's a fair assumption that anything resembling life as we know it would be adequately capable of defending itself. Porcupines have quills and roses have thorns for a reason. Lots of things have the ability to run really fast, and its not to win a medal in a race.

Pacifism at its extreme form is unheard of in the animal kingdom, and is not a viable long term survival trait. The only reason why we toy with it as humans is for relationships with other humans (and for some people, animals with human characteristics, like rabbits and seals. You don't see many people campaigning to cease the cultivation of wheat, for example, despite the fact that the wheat is probably at least a little discontent whenever harvest time comes around.)

Apparently though, in the universe of "The Iron Giant", consciousness gives beings the capacity for nonviolence. Though the robot has one major advantage: it eats nonliving metallic objects for sustenance. It doesn't need to ingest other lifeforms to survive, unlike humans, who are technically parasites. (Agent Smith is right, Mr. Anderson!)

What would a photosynthetic plant-like alien life form think of us as we continually conquer all earthly foliage and shape it to our whims? Will they see us as cruel taskmasters, who keep soybeans and corn in bondage?

What would an intelligent single cell alien life form think of vaccines and antibiotics? How would a bug-like life form react when they found out about Raid?

Our consciousness cannot unshackle us from the constraints of our physical form. We cause other beings harm with and without our consent. The happy lie is that plants and bacteria and flies don't have feelings or consciousness, which is absolutely unprovable. No one has any idea what a cockroach thinks about in its tiny little brain as my three year old squishes it into the sidewalk. I'm not saying that their awareness is as advanced as ours, I'm saying that they might have a simple awareness, which is still awareness, regardless of complexity.

How would we react to an advanced alien civilization, a million years advanced from our own, that decides, "Bah, these creatures called humans can't be conscious (because they aren't as evolutionarily advanced as us) so let's squish them. Who cares? They can't be aware of their demise, so whatever. Drop the graviton bombs and lets clear the place."

It's why a part of me dreads the day SETI hears something: I'm not sure whoever's talking is friendly.

Friday, September 11

Random Photo #2

Quality Comes in Small Amounts

I'd like to take this time to thank you for reading. After the first two months, Chuck A Monkey just reached 1000 hits yesterday. Though I can't see who is visiting the site, I can see how many there are, and it has steadily increased to about 20-30 hits a day.

I realize that's no where near the big time, and I'm not treating this like a popularity contest where people are merely votes to be tallied. To me that seems like a considerable amount, and I'm excited that either you are interested in reading what I'm saying, or this blog is a devious trap for anyone really looking for something else through a search engine who happens to get stuck here. Either way, I consider that a win.

Any number higher than zero is a success for me, because that means at least one person took the time out of their day to interact with something that I've created. I'm humbled by that, and I appreciate it.

For anyone thinking that I might be rolling in internet riches, the Google ads I have on this site are more for counting hits than getting paid. As of right now, I've earned 6 cents in ad revenue. You read it right: $.06. I'll probably get a check any day now for that amount.

Honestly though, that's the most fulfilling money I've ever made, because no one told me what to do and how to dress and where to stand and what forms to fill out. I wasn't expecting to be rolling in dough by doing what I enjoy, so adding six cents into the deal just seems like it's unfair for Google.

When I showed my wife the first cent I made, she and I cheered, because it's not the quantity that matters, it's the quality, and that is true of both money and people.

Thursday, September 10

Comic #11

The Development of Comprehension

Since I am, for all intents and purposes, thrust into the trenches with two little ones, and I have little to no previous experience or theoretical basis, then it's no wonder I have zero preconceived notions about what kids are "supposed" to be like.

For example: I was at the park, and a mom asked me, "Does she understand what you are saying?" She was referring to my one year old after I had just said, "Harmony, come back here! Thank you." Honestly, it never occurred to me that she would be unable to understand me. Just because a toddler can't form the words doesn't mean they can't understand them.

An analogy is that even though I don't have the first clue how to play the piano, I can definitely listen and appreciate the music.

Like right now, as I'm typing this, I gave the kids some plums, and when Harmony left the kitchen with them, I said, "Harmony, go back in the kitchen. We eat fruit in the kitchen. Kitchen. Go. Thank you." She understood what I said, because not only did she go back in the kitchen, she also put the fruit on her table, then came back out with a big smile.

Combined with the feat that we also took away the pacifier at our kids' first birthday because 1) kids can't learn how to talk with a plug in their mouth and 2) it can be too easily abused by us as a way to get the kids to be quiet, means that not only are they understanding what we are saying, they also have plenty of opportunities to reciprocate.

Now I'm not saying that I'm perfect, or that ignorance is a virtue in this situation (or in any circumstance). Case in point, I was spanked growing up. Originally I thought that corporal punishment was acceptable as a last alternative, when every other tactic had failed.

However, the more experience I've had with kids has lead me to find out that I was wrong, and that my actions, though they worked in the short term, failed to provide any benefits in the long run. In addition, exactly like the torture of prisoners, regardless of whether it's effective, it is immoral. This is a human rights issue. We don't hit adults, so why is it that the littlest among us, who are the most vulnerable and in need of our trust and guidance, should be subjected to such agony?

I am so absolutely ashamed and pained that at one point I thought striking my kid was necessary, it makes me cry whenever I think about it, and all I can do at this point is vow that I will never hit my kids again. In Justin's words, "Spanking is hitting, and hitting is wrong."

Comprehension works both ways.

Wednesday, September 9

Random Photo #1

Rotten Tomatoes

Main site here.

This is my favorite movie site, because its aggregate nature means I have less busywork on my part, which I especially appreciate whenever the internet is concerned. Instead of navigating the breadth of reviewers out there, or just relying on whatever the newspaper or yahoo says, I get a democracy of sorts where every reviewer gets one vote.

There is even an electoral college, where arcane criteria divide Top Critics from other, less reputable sources. Roger Ebert is good. Some buffoon with a blog is bad. (Who, me?)

I also enjoy the debates (flame wars) when a particular critic bashes an otherwise popular movie. Take Armond White for example. This man has the ability to create controversy by hating every populous movie and liking every lambasted one. He gave rotten reviews to District 9, Harry Potter, and Up, which as of right now have 90%, 83%, and a 97% total scores. He gave fresh reviews to G.I. Joe, Transformers, and Dance Flick, which have 37%, 19%, and 19%. This man incites the forums to a riot, and can get away with it because he's respected (feared) within the film community.

I'm somewhat concerned that a site like this will push smaller, less cumulative avenues for movie reviews into the alley. Though as a consumer, I'm always looking for more bang for my buck. Why click on one movie reviewer at one site when I can get them all at the same time?

Tuesday, September 8

Research Dead End

I searched the internet for reliable data on a list of languages by total number of speakers, and I ran into a dead end. It seems like every site on the internet claiming to have an accurate list all stem from this one source:

I searched through the bibliography for any current studies that support this, and most of it apparently comes from outdated census data and guesswork.

The reason I was looking for this in the first place was to solidify claims that Mandarin Chinese was the world's most populous language, however, all I could find was the happenstance claims from random sites that all link back to Ethnologue. I can understand that it might be spoken by the largest number of native speakers, but that is really a moot point when what I really want to know is how many people speak each language, regardless of whether it's their first, second, third, or seventeenth language.

This paper interested me, because instead of giving raw facts without any sort of historical background, he synthesized the data into possibly trends. At this point though, I am equally doubtful of this information, since I'm unsure as to whether or not it has been peer-reviewed.

I seriously doubt that there are a huge influx of immigrants to China, and since Mandarin is not really a lingua franca, despite the emigration of many native speakers, I have doubts as to the influence of Chinese on the rest of the world. Especially since the trend has been thus far for other countries to learn English, while English speakers continue to propagate English. For an example of that, I would use this diagram. However, I am dubious as to my own bias, and the paper that published that study.

It would have been fascinating to find hard facts to illustrate the status of various languages in the world, however, at least for the moment, I haven't found anything rigid enough to support any valid conclusions.

Monday, September 7

Comic #10

Emily's Bakery

This is my favorite place to go in Santa Cruz, so whenever I'm going to the beach, I always make sure I have time to stop there.

I suggest you go early (as in before 10am) and get a cup of coffee and a muffin, and then sit outside next to the creek. You can't really go wrong with what you order there, though I'm especially fond of the blueberry, coconut, and pumpkin. On your way in, you can't miss the giant sign that says " have plenty of time." Please be aware that this is as true of advice as you can possibly get, so please follow it.

Do not, I repeat, do not take the muffins to go. You will have lost one of the many things that makes this place special. So find a table, sit down, and eat. I guarantee your life will be better off because of it.

Afterward, if you feel adventurous, drive over to one of Santa Cruz's many state beaches. My favorites are Natural Bridges (if I'm feeling cheap and don't mind parking on the street and walking) or New Brighton if I want to make a day of it (watch out for poison oak on the hillside!) I can't really recommend the Beach Boardwalk, since there isn't much to think about there, and it's diametrically at odds with the calming atmosphere at Emily's, but hey, some people like it.

Though I must admit I like the Sky Glider, but only because I can float along fifty feet in the air and gossip with my wife about the people below.

So if you want to take some time out of your busy lives to do something special for yourself, please get something good to eat, and relax, if only for a moment.

Saturday, September 5

A Safe Brainstorming Place

Let me be clear: this blog is for brainstorming any ideas and thoughts I happen to be interested in.

I am not in the business of telling anyone what to think or do. A lot of what I write here is flawed, and if taken into the sphere of reality without further consideration could turn out disastrous. I'm not running for public office, I'm not conducting scientific peer-reviewed research. These posts are half-baked, faulty, and, in many cases, flat out wrong.

You may be asking, then why say it? Why go to the trouble of criticizing a particular group or ideology, or proposing a new idea if I already know that something is amiss? Well, when I traverse into the chaotic jumble of unformed ideas, and shape them into something seemingly tangible, if I don't cage them in some form, then eventually they escape, and I'm lost with the sinking feeling that I forgot something, but I can't quite put my finger on what it was.

On the other hand, if I jot it down, then I get a relatively permanent place where I can reread what I thought about in the past, while simultaneously sharing that idea with anyone who is attracted to misshapen ruminations.

Why then am I posting this stuff on the internet? Something like a journal, which is only meant for myself, is the literary equivalent of vomit. It is not edited, it is not preened and ready to go out into the world. Words written for yourself are inherently different than words intended for an audience. The act of communication changes things.

Though, as I said before, just because I am composing this with an assembly in mind, doesn't mean that I'm attempting to zealously convert you to whatever it is I think. That's not my ambition at all.

In short: this is where I get to think about ideas before you or I decide whether or not they are total rubbish. If you like what I say, great, like it for yourself and form a course of action that suits you to you. If you hate what I say, be comforted in the notion that I probably goofed somewhere, and that I'm a dimwit.

Just be aware that while I fully support unrestrained thought, I detest unrestrained action.

Friday, September 4

Comic #9

Identity Dissonance

I dig both versions of Rock Band. Even the upcoming Beatles game interests me. However, up until this point, I have been too poor to buy the games, let alone get any of the downloadable content. I've been relying on the generosity of others, and for them I am grateful.

Our priority since having kids has been paying for the kids. I haven't upgraded to any of the current generations of consoles. My computer is a shantytown of found and given parts. The last game I bought (after giving up WoW) was the Orange Box, which has the highest entertainment to cost ratio of any video game out there. Even that only set me back $30, and it was a big deal at the time.

I don't see myself buying any game on the foreseeable horizon, especially not Starcraft 2 since they announced it was really three separate games. I can't see myself shelling out $150-180 total on an RTS, I'm sorry. I would play through the single player campaign, then play online a grand total of three times before I realize that playing an RTS against anyone other than your friends, who lugged their computers to a central location, and who are able to mock each other without abandon, is a complete waste of my time. I don't give a crap if I win or lose to ZERGYBABY69 or RAYRAYGOGO. Nostalgia is cool and all, and it was a big deal ten years ago, but I've changed, and I don't think I can relive the Starcraft experience any more than I can go back in time and right all wrongs.

I've even been having my doubts about returning to the Alpha of all CRPG/action game hybrids: the Diablo franchise. Disregarding its ever changing release date, from 2010 to 2011 (which, knowing Blizzard will be 2012 in short order), I just can't see, first, my computer running it and, second, me having any time to devote to this game. I'm not saying no, since my favorite games ever were Diablo I and II, but I'm having doubts, and that's strange.

Like how my dad doesn't play pinball at the bowling alley any more, or how he never gets his pool cue out and owns people for cash. It's just not what he wants to do any more. He'd rather pick green beans in the garden with his grandson. When my son haphazardly rides his bike around the court, my dad would rather run along beside him in case he falls.

Instead of souping up a gaming PC so I can run Diablo III, I'd really rather get a Mac with Logic Pro on it.

Thursday, September 3

Teaching History Backwards

Education has failed me.

I say this with great trepidation, because I respect and admire teachers, both as a whole and individually. However, just because I admire and exalt scholarly thought, doesn't mean I think the institution is perfect. I wholeheartedly support the notion that a society cannot be both democratic and uninformed at the same time, which is why it pains me to admit that I, like many Americans, am ignorant.

I know absolutely nothing about the twentieth century past the end of WWII. Every time a class was supposedly about "United States History", we'd generally start at the colonies, and end around Reconstruction, or possibly touch on the Industrial Revolution. Then the semester would end, and the timeline would cease. This pattern continued throughout middle school and high school, and then in college, where nothing about current events mattered in order to graduate.

Apparently the U.S. has been involved in nothing of interest in modern times. The bombing of Bosnian Serbs my the senior year of high school was not as important as me learning calculus or running a mile in under eight minutes. I did not need to know anything about the Middle East in order to obtain a college diploma.

I know of no reasons as to why other places in the world might have dissident views concerning the U.S. Especially not concerning our "defense" budget, or that we have the most powerful and advanced military in the world. Or that this amount is actually a small percentage compared to our GDP (4%). Though that leads to the question of why our GDP is so much larger than the rest of the world. (Not counting the European Union, though that would be a great discussion topic too.)

To a certain extent, it's not the fault of the teachers and administrators, since the curriculum seems rooted in the tired old cave paintings and pyramids, Greeks, Romans, ah, the Dark Ages, how sad, Colonization, and Independence! treadmill due to what society wants. (And by society I mean you and me.)

I think the issue here is twofold. First: educators want to stay away from anything politically charged. That means anything recent gets ignored, because no school board wants angry parents rioting when their kids' teachers cover the Vietnam War. (Which in Vietnam is called "Resistance War Against America", or the American War.) No one gives a crap about which Pharaoh boinked which handmaiden, or whether the U.S. declared war on Mexico in 1846, since everyone involved at this point is dead.

Second: people have double-standards concerning adolescents. On one hand, society expects young adults to magically transform into thinking adults at the age of eighteen, while keeping them blissfully innocent (ignorant) of anything actually important up until that time.

Concerning the first point, I absolutely agree. Education should not be in the business of peddling ideologies. However, this does not mean that an objective mention of current events is beyond the scope of a school setting. Why can't teachers give the facts, without endorsing one particular side or the other?

As for the second, how can we entrust the future to our children without giving them the tools necessary to make informed decisions? They don't have the luxury of being innocent, especially when they must make adult choices, which cannot be framed in terms of demonizing one camp or the other. In a true democracy, no one group can hate another, or else the entire process fails.

I propose that every class with the brand of History on it do a complete 180 degree turn. Instead of starting with some random event far back in time, which has zero bearing on today, every history teacher should start with today. Then work backwards. Then students can see what is happening now, then travel backwards to yesterday in order to explain today, and then look at the yesterday before that, and the yesterday before that, and so on.

For example, we are in Iraq. Give the situation as it is occurring today. Then step back in time to 2003 and the invasion, and the circumstances surrounding it. Then push back further to every related incident with Iraq, going backwards with the First Gulf war, and the instability in the region due to the establishment of the state of Israel and the Zionist movement, and the Cold War.

This type of backwards thinking, where we anchor ourselves in the present, then work toward the reasons why things got to be the way they are, is the only way that we can free ourselves and our society from the shackles of ignorance and partisan thinking, where one person's freedom fighter is another's terrorist, because none of us really know what is going on because no one told us, for fear of giving us the truth.

If we aren't working with the truth, then how can we possibly work together in the future?

Wednesday, September 2

Fleeting Moments

I woke up from my nap with this sitting on my face.

While this was trying to convince me to get the mop.

Despite my cynical disposition, rainbows make housecalls.

Failing the acquisition of the mop, someone scored a guitar.

Comic #8

Tuesday, September 1

Dodging Bullets

One of the things about parenting is that you form some severe opinions about how the world works pretty quickly, especially when your three year old is talking about shooting guns. All of the half-baked, unformed, ethereal notions concerning morality manifest into rigid simplistic dogmas, like, "Keep your hands to yourself," and "Don't lie to me, kid." Abstract notions go out the window when you are A) in a rush and B) pissed off.

I've always been pretty moderate when it comes to firearms, but I can't be wishy-washy with a young mind, especially when it comes to something as potentially dangerous as this. Let me be clear: the issue is not with his curiosity, the problem is how I channel that towards a positive end.

Up until this point, he'd say something like "I shoot the bad guys," and I'd either ignore it, or treat it like Santa Claus, where I would shamefully hide the truth from my child because of social conventions. For some reason, some part of me thinks that giving him information about guns will somehow damage him, that there is an invisible line of age that he must cross, presumably around age ten when I can start to have "talks" with my kid about important issues.

So I spent all morning trying to figure out how I feel about gun control (since it's never really been an issue for me either way, since I can see both sides), and I found this passage from the DoJ of California:

"Talking to Children About Guns

Children are naturally curious about things they don't know about or think are "forbidden." When a child asks questions or begins to act out "gun play," you may want to address his or her curiosity by answering the questions as honestly and openly as possible. This will remove the mystery and reduce the natural curiosity. Also, it is important to remember to talk to children in a manner they can relate to and understand. This is very important, especially when teaching children about the difference between "real" and "make-believe." Let children know that, even though they may look the same, real guns are very different than toy guns. A real gun will hurt or kill someone who is shot."

Immediately I realize I've been going about it all wrong. If my kid was asking about rattlesnakes, I would know how to handle it. I would show him what they look like, explain to him why they are dangerous, and teach him what their proper environment is. I would play out with him exactly what the DoJ prescribes on the previous website, which in essence is "Don't touch it and go tell an adult." What works for rattlesnakes should work for guns, or for anything dangerous.

So I did. Liberal leanings be damned. I showed him what guns looked like, showed him what a bullet looked like, and explained to him the difference between real guns and fake. He understands that getting hit with a Nerf ball is fun, and getting hit with a real bullet means you die. (We've already had conversations about death, since I'm the official bug squisher, and the cats periodically leave us "presents".)

Then he said, "And when I grow up you can show me how to shoot a gun to shoot bad guys."

My leftist ideologies kicked into full gear at that point, and I said, "I don't shoot bad guys. Papa and Grandpa don't shoot bad guys. Uncle Mark doesn't shoot bad guys." He asked why Uncle Mark has shotguns. (I had told him Uncle Mark had them earlier.) I explained all about shooting ranges and clay pigeons. I explained that police officers shot bad guys, and that they have to go to school to do that.

Afterward, we played "Let's Pretend You Find a Real Gun," where I would put a pen in the other room, and he'd go find it. He'd then come and find me, saying, "Dada! I found a gun!"

I'd say, "Did you touch it?" and he'd say, "No!" and we'd yell "Yay!" Then I gave him a cookie.

I had a cookie too, since I think I dodged a bullet today.