Monday, December 28, 2015

Computer plans for the kids

This is, after all, a parenting blog. I wanted to gather some notes while I was thinking of them.

Things are a bit in flux right now, but I've been thinking about the sorts of computer to get the kids when things settle down.

I have two kids. A male (4) and a female (7). The older has been using a Windows PC and has been enjoying the free software. She's also been extremely frustrated by how poorly it works. Her mother, however, wants something other than Linux. We're separating and this PC goes with her.

Finally, no more Windows machines in my house. But what to replace it with?

A Mac is cost prohibitive. The only reason she has a PC is because the whole thing -- with accessories -- cost under $100. (Local university surplus store.) She also has a Kindle Fire, which also cost under $100.

I have a choice to make. Another PC or go with a Raspberry Pi?

They both like games, so if it is a PC, I should at least look at a distro that makes that easy. Play-Linux is currently my favorite. If not that, I'd probably go with straight Debian or a Debian-derivative (which includes Ubuntu-derivatives).

The problem there, though, is that while it includes games, it may not include the sorts of games they want. The free Windows Store games set a really low standard for quality, though, so I'm not even sure that we need the power of a "real" desktop.

Which leads us to the Raspberry Pi.

The games she's used to playing are on the Kindle, mostly, or things that are on Android/iOS/Windows but she wishes they were on the Kindle. While BlueStacks allows folks to use Android apps on Windows and Mac systems, there isn't an easy solution for Linux. This is a negative for the Linux option, though the hope is that the native games could help offset the issue.

The thing is, though, if using a Raspberry Pi this may not be an issue. This is because Android is coming directly to the Raspberry Pi. Not available right this minute, okay, but I'm not looking for a solution right this minute. So the delay may align reasonably.

(If I were being impatient and wanted easy Android access earlier, I'd look for some sort of Android on a stick solution. These cost as much as a Pi and does less, though.)

There's a lot of popular options for the Raspberry Pi.

For NaNoWriMo (Young Writer's Program) with the kids, (the younger will be participating for the first time in 2016), we'd probably go with a general solution like Raspbian. This will also be the go-to operating system for allowing the kids to experiment with programming.

The thing is, though, that swapping out operating systems on a Pi is trivial and easy. The general purpose solution need not be the only solution.

We can get a selection of classic games by using RetroPie. Suddenly classic video games from my own youth become available.

So, one affordable device and three SD cards and you can have three distinct systems offering a wide range of games as well as all the traditional "general computing" options. The kids can experiment with programming, do their homework, play games both classic and modern, and...

If I want to do something with the systems, there's no risk of messing up the computers they need for homework. If we separate the "homework" general OS setup from the "playing games and experimenting" general OS setup, it becomes possible to pull access to the games without removing the needed computing functions... (This also removes the possibility of "but, I uninstalled LibreOffice to make room for this great new game.")

(And my personal uses for the systems may include things like OSMC for multimedia -- reducing the need for a standalone television -- or OpenMediaVault for a NAS -- reducing the need for a standalone NAS. These further drive down the total cost.)

And the core monitor and accessories? I should be able to get these at the same university surplus store that I would have gotten the PC. It might cost more than the Pi (and case), but it'll still be more affordable than the cheapest of the available HDMI-enabled televisions.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Brief overview of my spirituality

 A brief overview of my spirituality, lifted from a Facebook post (or two).

Religiously, I'm a Unitarian Universalist. That's the church I go to and best symbolizes what I'm teaching my kids. Spiritually, I'm a radical polytheist with humanist tendencies.

I believe in an infinite number of deities with an infinite number of forms and an infinite number of names. Do you want a deity that responds to the name "God" that hates pinball but loves trashy romance novels? I believe such a deity exists. Do you want one that hates all the same people you hate? That one's easy, too. (I caught an episode of "Toddlers and Tiaras" where a woman basically said she prayed until she found a God who wanted her toddler to compete. I totally believe such deities exist.) Who do you talk to when you pray? You talk to the deity that you know most clearly. A person full of rage will find plenty of deities full of rage, and plenty of those willing to be the deity they're looking for.

On a very core level, I don't believe humans are unique. This means, it isn't just humans that have spirits and deities, it is everything. The interaction between things in the form of systems and relationships also have spirits and deities. Perhaps that's the ecology of a small isolated valley. Perhaps that's your own circulatory system. Everything has a soul and deities from your individual cells through the complex interactions of your clan interacting with the environment or other clans. Of note, this means I believe that all spermatozoa and ova have individual souls (and deities) well before fertilization. I'm still pro-choice, however, because none of this is unique or special in any way. The individual grains of rice that go in to Rice Krispies have souls, too, just as Rice Krispie squares have souls. Do they cease having the souls of rice, once they become puffed, once they join together as a Rice Krispie treat, when a piece of puffed rice is cut when slicing individual squares? For me, that's a legitimate question.

And, I believe in things like past-life experiences without believing in even a separable soul, let alone a "real" past life. There's a notion that there is only One, and all of reality is just the One trying it understand itself. If everything is ultimately the same Oneness, then why would the ability to remember someone else's memories as if they were your own require actually owning that person's life? It's an implicit part of being an aspect of the One. I've also experienced a vision in dream that further elaborated upon how this is the case.

I don't believe in an "after" life, so much as I believe in multidimensional beings, parts of which transcend space and time. So our spiritual aspect can experience what we might consider an "afterlife" concurrent to our physical lives being all full of blood and poop. It goes one better, I believe that on a person's death, their reference for time becomes reset to the point of their birth. In effect, they are reincarnated to the same body. They're free to make other choices, but without knowing what happened previously, they rarely make different decisions. Then deja vu becomes a memory of a previous iteration seeping through. This has direct consequences for my views on depression-induced-suicide as well as terminal/assisted-suicide. In one case, pain can only be transcended by living, and in the other a return to a joyful childhood is nothing to spurn.

I have a simple concise reason for life, the universe and everything. It is universal and inescapable: To experience and to be experienced. If your life amounts to a repository of experiences for the universe, what sorts of experiences do you want to store? What do you cherish and cling to?

I firmly believe in a biological basis for what could be called the soul. (Technically, this makes the "soul" references previously states more accurately described as "spirit". Changing that language in myself to be more clear is still a challenge.) What is a person's soul? It is that which would still be like the person if the memories and experiences were stripped away. Two people with the same soul would be a lot alike, even if they lived in different places and times. It amounts to humans being "value engines", and the formula with which we assign value to things is our soul. I know my own formula, and it is simple enough that it could easily be encoded in my DNA, if not an expression of the DNA combined with developmental hormones.

More recently, and a bit more surprising for me, I've stumbled upon what could be a biological basis for the concept of original sin.

Some of these things are, for me, decades-old ideas that I've lived with and that have gradually permeated deeper and deeper in to my being. Even I didn't really believe some of them when I stumbled upon them. It was just a matter of, "Woah. This idea has merit, even if it is totally wrong, the fruit of it is good."

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Early board gamers

It has been an on-going process to get C (now 3) to reasonably play board games.

Today I played the Ravensburger game "Rivers, Roads & Rails" with C and R (now 5).

C continues to have problems remembering to keep the game pieces together and not walking off and playing with them. At one point ze put pieces in a train.

Still, we are seeing progress. The last time I tried to play a game with C, ze ended up dumping the game on the floor. This time, while attention did wander, there wasn't any purposeful destruction.

We were playing by the official rules, but we limited it in terms of time. Once the time was up, we counted the pieces and the one with the fewest pieces won. This seemed to map cleanly to "the winner runs out of pieces first".

Friday, March 22, 2013

Two social media comments without context

Here are two comments I made to a friend's post somewhere.
I love other people because I can't not love them. It is a part of who I am at this stage of my life. It's more unconditional and less demanding. I love. Period.

Other people are either decent human beings or total jerks I should remove from my life. Love doesn't play a part in whether someone is a jerk or awesome, though.

Love is the easy part. It is like breathing. Of course, this view of things is directly contrary to how love is presented in popular Western culture. The Beatles have it dead wrong: Love is never all you need -- just as air alone is never all you need.

So... how about loving the person and seeing the potential in a person, but also remembering that neither that love nor that potential may mean anything to the other person -- and that is still totally fine. Sometimes all we can do is plant the seeds of change.

As I grow older, I find I care less and less about potential. I don't care if anyone sees the potential in a person. Potential is ultimately meaningless because it never really exists. What matters is what gets manifested, not what could be manifested. Show me a good, honest, creative person -- not someone with the potential to be good, the potential to be honest, or the potential to be creative.
Then later:
As a tender-hearted person, I embrace both the love and the pain and tears. I cry easily, but if it is the price to pay for loving the way I do then I feel it is well worth it. Love is worth it. Not for any other person so much as for me, personally.

If there's one person you should love unconditionally, it is yourself. Just like when dealing with external dangers: first focus on you, then you'll be in a place you can help others. Loving yourself unconditionally is never an excuse to put aside personal growth, as loving others is never an excuse for their behavior.

So, I love and I am hurt. I cry. I weep. I keep loving all the same.

If someone's perfume triggers an asthma attack the solution isn't to just hold your breath when you're around anyone you don't explicitly trust. Sometimes people fart and it stinks. Sometimes even dear people could forget -- or be too close to someone on a bus -- and show up wearing a stink that triggers the throat to close. Still, we must breath. Even corpses exchange gases with their environment -- there is just no stopping it.

You really have two choices: embrace love and learn to cope with the pain that comes with it, or to try to constrain and restrict love, to be less familiar with it and consequentially to be more surprised and startled when things are unexpected or go awry. -- Well, a third choice would be to entirely discount love and embrace Randian Objectivity...
(Yes, I am usually this verbose with social media posts.)

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Going dark, but...

My goal of having this be a pagan parenting blog hasn't actually panned out. That might change in the future, I'm not sure.

What I do know is that among the quiet moments, I've been sketching up an outline for a book on Independent Polytheism. Probably relatively short, I'm calling it "An Introduction to Independent Polytheism" right now. It'll be a sort of how-to guide.

Anyway, it's now fairly low priority stuff, but the idea is that I'll blog the book here. Then when it's done I'll format it, release it with a Creative Commons license and make it available.

So, yeah. My goal is that when I start this back up, I have enough ducks in a row that I can have reliable regular content without interrupting my other goals until I have everything ready for the book.

Monday, April 16, 2012

I was reading Mur Lafferty's beautifully written blog post titled "Dear Daughter" <>. As I was writing a comment, I realized it was long enough to be a blog post of its own.

What we have is the worst of all possible worlds.

There are those that rejoice in having female children, because they're like boys-plus. They can wear any outfit a boy can wear as well as any outfit a girl can wear. They can be involved in activity that "boys like" and any activity that "girls like". They have every door that girls have historically had, plus every door that boys have had.

Then we have baby boys raised to be assholes before they can even speak, their onesies emblazoned with offensive (and often sexist) statements. Little boys who are insulted if they like certain colors, or toys, or activities. Little boys trained to like "boy" things and that anything outside of that restricted set is effeminate. It's a tiny little gender box that we keep our little boys in.

Oh, we have the same people trying to get girls back in their tiny little gender box. With the rise of "princess culture" some girls are climbing inside and asking for the lid to be closed with pretty pink nails.

So what are we to do? I think the most important thing we can do for our children is to allow them to know about differences in gender roles in time and place. I think as soon as they learn that what is expected "here" is not expected "there" it opens them up to finding what they want and expect of themselves -- outside of the expectations of society and their peers.

As soon as children learn that gender roles vary by culture, they can start thinking about what sort of culture they want to see when they're adults. And that, historically, is how social revolution begins. (It wasn't that long ago that girls weren't allowed to wear pants to school. I suspect a number of the people that brought about that change were women who actually enjoyed wearing pants as children.)

My children are still quite young. I intend to tell them I obey the social norms of a future society. It's a society where a little boy's favorite toy could be a yellow bean doll, and where grown men can fearlessly sob while reading a book in public. I like to think that the social norms I obey belong to a culture where, eventually, the only people that know a person's gender are that person's doctors and lovers.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

We don't use a corpse to celebrate the return of life

At our house, I just got the tree up. I say up, because my wife will decorate it tomorrow. I thought unpacking it and setting it up would be easier without the kids.

We use an artificial tree. Our current tree is prelit, so it just needs assembled and plugged in and it is ready to be decorated. Being prelit does make it easier -- and a lot faster. (At least, once the tote was brought in from the garage.)

In truth, as soon as the tree is cut from the ground it becomes a corpse. Sure, it is a wet corpse that can stay green for a few weeks, but a juicy corpse is still a corpse. Besides, would it really be better to think of it as a slowly dying tree, wailing and crying to at last find release in the lost forest of its birth?

My wife wanted (and got) a "real" tree for our first Christmas together. I got teary explaining my issues with it. Since then we've had artificial trees. I think she's officially a convert, though, as they're so much easier to manage.

If you're celebrating the Winter Solstice and the end of winter and the begining of the return of life, why would you start that celebration with death and dismemberment? Why celebrate the upcoming return of greenery and the rebirth of life by prematurely ending the life of a tree -- purely for the purpose of decoration?

If you see Christmas as a celebration of Odin and Sleipnir -- discretely disguised but still Norse, complete with stockings -- why not honor Yggdrasil by decorating a live tree? The traditional Yule Log is a log -- something once needed to keep a home warm -- and not a whole tree thrown out when it becomes ready to use as firewood.

Personally, I celebrate Santa Claus at Christmas. (I really want to get a set of Rankin-Bass figurines to use as a Christmas Nativity.) Santa Claus and presents are a staple of the season. The inclusion of them in my faith helps to normalize it. In a school setting a non-Christian celebrating Christmas with Santa and presents is far more normal that a Christian celebrating Christmas without Santa or presents.

What ever you call your winter holiday, and whomever you honor with it, I hope you have a jolly, merry time filled with gaity, cheer, and mirth.