Happy days

When I was young I totally loved the 300-in-1 type kits from Radio Shack (and what I’m going to say here is not unique), where they came with a pile of resistors and lights and transistors and capacitors and cables that could be attached together in various configurations to make lots of mini-projects, with the intention of not just amusing but also teaching a hands-on understanding of why circuits are put together the way they are. When I think back to my best toys, these are high on the list, and I still enjoy hardware tinkering and if you’re a regular reader you know I dabble with things like microcontrollers from time to time, and I know that I’m tapping into the same excitement as I had as a kid.

I was really happy to get Nefarious a 300-in-1 kit of the same sort for her birthday, made by “Snap Circuits” who have a horrible website but a wonderful product (as does their parent company, which has even more of each). The parts are clearly labeled and instead of being held together with springs and wire, breadboards, or solder, they all conveniently go together via snaps like on a cowboy’s shirt! In addition to the basics, the kit we got also comes with a few ICs for things like sound effects, which I suppose these days (unlike the seventies) is a part of the “basics”. I was so incredibly overjoyed that this seems to have been her favorite present and we spent an hour or so putting together projects (she did most of the work, not wanting to let me be much more than an assistant in the excitement), so I guess it’s as much fun for her as I remember it being for me.


But anyway, it’s incredibly easy to use, seems to be pretty good quality, has simple to follow instructions that do a clear job of teaching the beginning of electrical engineering. I really have to whole-heartedly recommend this as a gift for kids seven or eight and older — and for kids willing to play with “nerdy” things, I don’t see why this couldn’t be a good present for much older “kids” as well. It’s really a lot of fun. I am 100% sure that this is something I’ll be getting for other kids as well when the opportunity presents itself, and I will probably even sneak some time for myself to fiddle with it solo.

We also went out to see the new Oceans documentary, but half way through she wasn’t in a documentary mood, so, birthday girl getting her wish, we went out and played games in the arcade while Caitlin got to enjoy the end of the movie, which I’m a bit jealous of because the footage I did see was both amazing and touching (my favorite creature being the totally undramatic manatee I think), and we left right after a heart-breaking scene during which murderous birds killed 999 out of a thousand baby sea turtles as they scuttled from their hatching sand hole to the relative safety of the ocean.

Later on, a very heavy chocolate fudge birthday cake (although I swear the “colorflame” photo on TG is faked, because the candle flames looked pretty much normal) that stuffed us all thoroughly, which we ate after watching my favorite modern fairytale, Edward Scissorhands, and I was very happy to see that Nefarious enjoyed it as well. Of course I’ve left out most of the day but I think it was a pretty good day.


In my last post a rude anonymous comment was left (I don’t moderate those, but MKultra*, you were sloppy in your attempt to hide your identity, and it’s sad that you do not have the strength of character to stand behind your words) asking me why my daughter has the name “Nefarious”. I think I’ve answered that question before, but I don’t mind answering it again. First of all, for day-to-day use, she goes by “Ari”, and I expect that when Rachel and I get a chance we’ll take the formal step of adding that to her ID so that she can use it legally. So if in the future she feels uncomfortable about having an unusual name, that decision is hers, so please don’t worry that she has been burdened. I took more than my fair share of teasing for the name “Shannon”, which when I was a kid, was seen as exclusively a girl’s name, so it was highly amusing to those who wanted to torment me. That said, I was always grateful to have what I thought was a special name and I never regretted it and I hope she doesn’t either.

* If you want to keep on being a coward, which might be right for you, try the Tor Browser Bundle. Then you really will be able to say whatever you want without me being able to figure it out!

The deal Rachel and I had was that she got to choose the first name and I got to choose the second (I chose “Freedom”). Rachel somehow got “Nefarious” in her head because it felt impressive to her, and she thought that it would be something that would be epicly sung with trumpet fanfare as she entered the room — the name felt grandiose to her, and that’s what made her chose it. I supported her decision because when I started reading about the word, it turns out that its traditional meaning is something akin to “unafraid to challenge god” — so when people think it means “wicked”, it’s meant in the sense of a pure sense of freedom, and the challenging of authority a la the debate as to whether Lucifer is the real “good guy” and Yahweh is the evil oppressor. So yeah, the name appealed to me on a philosophical level, and summed up the bravery and sense of self determination I hope Ari has (and she knows this meaning as well, and I think it’s a good thing when someone understands why they have the name they do — I know it meant a lot to me as a child), and I supported Rachel’s choice of name.

How my daughter chooses to have people refer to her, and how she thinks of herself, is her choice, and something where she has a wide range of options from the mundane to the unique. But I don’t regret the decision, and as she’s grown into her name — into her names — I feel confident that it was the right decision and I don’t think that Rachel or I have anything to apologize for.


  1. Caitlin wrote:

    I had always wondered about how the name Nefarious was chosen! How interesting. I hope she appreciates at least the thought that went into her name if she decides it isn’t for her (and with her being so bright I’m sure that she will.)

    My parents were fan of the old Degrassi Jr. High and liked the name Caitlin so they went with that! I think I would have preferred something a little bit more meaningful. =p

    Saturday, April 24, 2010 at 9:47 pm | Permalink
  2. starbadger wrote:


    “I visualise a time when we will be to robots what dogs are to humans. And I’m rooting for the machines.”

    Claude Shannon 1916-2001

    Saturday, April 24, 2010 at 10:35 pm | Permalink
  3. DON wrote:

    No-one in my family liked the first name they were given, and my mother, father and sister all only ever used their middle name instead. I was apparently to have been christened Donald James – until my grandmother started referring to me as “our Jimmy” and my mother went off the idea, so I only got Donald.

    Which I hated because I got nicknamed “Duck” at school, though I’m sure it wasn’t any worse than anyone else’s nickname. All the same, I suppose that’s probably why I started shortening it to Don, which is all I ever use now.

    Sunday, April 25, 2010 at 12:20 am | Permalink
  4. Tim wrote:

    Heh… used to love those Radio Shack kits too! I s’pose the little AM transmitter one was what got me hooked into electronics and radio, and that all ended up being pretty life changing. I’m glad you and Ari are enjoying today’s version. Happy belated birthday to her, and much respect to you. Strikes me you’re doing great at one of the toughest things in the world: being a good father.

    Sunday, April 25, 2010 at 2:39 am | Permalink
  5. Amanda wrote:

    A boy!? Named Sue!?

    Sunday, April 25, 2010 at 4:30 am | Permalink
  6. Elizabeth wrote:

    I thought her name choice was terrible. Of course it does help that she is only known as Ari by her peers. The original meaning of nefarious I like but what it is most commonly known for, I dont care for at all. Much like the swastika. So long as she isnt hoping to work for the feds, I’m sure it will never hold her back in the least. I doubt much ever will.
    Anon cowards suck the root. Thx for the b’day suggestion!!!

    Sunday, April 25, 2010 at 5:00 am | Permalink
  7. Elizabeth wrote:

    and oh yeah, I went to school once with a male Shannon. A total sweetie-pie country boy. No one ever teased him that I knew of but we did wonder why the parents named these very redneck boys Shannon, Stacy and Tracy.
    True. :)
    I love that I have a family name but when I was growing up and going to a new school almost every year, there was no place for “preferred name” so every time I had to explain that I am called by my middle name. A very racist 4th grade teacher refused to call me anything but Joann. Gr. Yay that Nefarious doesnt have to go through any of that.

    Sunday, April 25, 2010 at 5:24 am | Permalink
  8. Caitlin wrote:

    Comment #1: Caitlin

    I was named after (well, not after but my name was borrowed from) the wife of poet Dylan Thomas, Caitlin MacNamara. I was the only Caitlin growing up and while the name itself didn’t bother or embarrass me, I did have to spell it slowly all the time. I went by Caity until high school. When Degrassi Jr. High started I was SO excited that there was finally another Caitlin in the universe, and not just any old Caitlin either, Caitlin Ryan was awesome! Holy way better than being named Miley or Raven or Paris!

    Sunday, April 25, 2010 at 7:13 am | Permalink
  9. frog wrote:

    As somebody who legally changed their first name to something unusual, it has occasionally been more beneficial to have a normal (now middle) name to use in various circumstances.

    That said, I’ve never regretted the name change, and nor do I ever plan to change it to something normal, much to the chagrin of a handful of people.

    Sunday, April 25, 2010 at 8:59 am | Permalink
  10. DTM wrote:

    Man I used to love those kits.. I cant wait till My kids get old enough to use them..
    Our Daughter, Rowen Lily just turned 2, and our Son Wyatt Danger was born just over a month ago

    Sunday, April 25, 2010 at 9:29 am | Permalink
  11. Opiate wrote:

    My girlfriend and myself love the name. Its quite unique, and beautiful. I don’t think you or her should ever have to defend it, or those who chose it.
    However, I do understand that things that are different tend to frighten others. My girlfriends daughter is named Phasia, and we have gotten a lot of flack over it. She loves it though, and really doesn’t care what anyone thinks… I admire that about her.

    Sunday, April 25, 2010 at 10:25 am | Permalink
  12. Shannon wrote:

    Wyatt Danger, that’s awesome!

    Sunday, April 25, 2010 at 12:15 pm | Permalink
  13. Shannon wrote:

    I like Phasia too, it sounds spacey.

    Sunday, April 25, 2010 at 12:15 pm | Permalink
  14. nikk wrote:

    Zaphod beeblebrox
    now thats spacey :)

    shannon I’ve always wondered, are you pretty much a windows user? or do you cross over?

    Sunday, April 25, 2010 at 12:35 pm | Permalink
  15. MONTE wrote:

    i had one of those 300 in 1 kits, with the spring clips to connect the wires to. it was my favorite thing ever and stayed that way for so many years.

    Sunday, April 25, 2010 at 12:56 pm | Permalink
  16. Dara wrote:

    RadioShakc still sells those, too. At least, they did when I worked there last year.

    My boyfriend’s first name is Charles, and he goes by his middle name, tanner. No one calls him Charles, ever. I forget its his legal name.

    I, on the other hand, never go by my middle name (Kathryn) although my grandma calls me Dara Kate.

    Sunday, April 25, 2010 at 1:54 pm | Permalink
  17. Shannon wrote:

    Nikk, I’m mostly a Windows user, primarily out of convenience due to some windows-only software I’m committed to, although I have from time to time run Ubuntu on my machines (as has Caitlin, and she runs some other *nix variant on her netbook). I just got a LINUX fish for my car though!

    Sunday, April 25, 2010 at 2:58 pm | Permalink
  18. Caitlin wrote:

    I’m another Caitlin named after Dylan Thomas’s wife.. also, correct spelling ftw :D

    Sunday, April 25, 2010 at 3:25 pm | Permalink
  19. Justine wrote:

    I just played with snap circuits today for the first time and thought they were great. I took my nephew to a children’s science museum that had a whole setup with six different boards. And wouldn’t you know, he figured out how to run the fan with an on/off switch before I did. : )

    Sunday, April 25, 2010 at 5:39 pm | Permalink
  20. Ryann wrote:

    Growing up through elementary school, I got a fair amount of flack over my name. I used to think that my parents were ridiculous for giving me a first and middle name like Ryann Michel, (pronounced Ry-in Mik-ell,)as a girl, but as I grew older, I learned to really like it. For the most part, people never forgot my name and there was never another female in my class with anything even remotely close.

    Sure, I’ve had a couple of awkward moments, (like the Dean at my college graduation telling me, ‘No honey, we called for RYANN to come get his diploma,’) but other than that, it’s definitely become a strong part of my identity. Hopefully your daughter will grow up loving her name and the uniqueness that comes with it. :]

    Sunday, April 25, 2010 at 8:04 pm | Permalink
  21. nikk wrote:

    linux fish… haha thats awesome I’ve never seen that before

    Sunday, April 25, 2010 at 8:25 pm | Permalink
  22. Dreya wrote:

    I think I can relate a bit. In my youthful exuberance I gave my son a total of four ridicules names that are going to get him stopped by airport security. We use his middle name and I sometimes think we should legally change his name, but it’s who he is now. Live and learn.
    Anyway, Shame on a grown person who would poke fun at a child’s name.

    Monday, April 26, 2010 at 12:13 am | Permalink
  23. Jari wrote:

    Funny you should mention Shannon being a girl’s name as Ari is traditionally a boy’s name here in Finland. Same thing with Kari (as in the lovely lady from Mythbusters).

    Monday, April 26, 2010 at 2:05 am | Permalink
  24. starbadger wrote:

    nothing plain about CAITLIN – WIFE of Dylan

    - Fearful as reality is, it is less fearful than evasions of reality -

    Monday, April 26, 2010 at 7:51 am | Permalink
  25. Dawn-Marie wrote:

    Nothing like being told in grade K that your name is too long so they are going to only use half of it. :| I have never had a middle name and always hated not having one. So when I had my son we ended naming him after his dad and call him by his middle name. He is Kenan Alex. Unforch, he is quite shy and never corrects people how to say his name or to call him Alex. His 3rd grade teacher called him Kevin the whole year.

    and fwiw, his name is Turkish and is pronounced Ken-ahn. Not Key-nen.

    Monday, April 26, 2010 at 4:52 pm | Permalink
  26. Siobhan wrote:

    My husband’s name is Cohen, and people constantly insist on calling him things like Colin, Colon, or Owen. I know Cohen isn’t a common first name, but it is one of the prominent Jewish last name in the world. His parents were just big Leonard Cohen fans.

    Tuesday, April 27, 2010 at 3:58 pm | Permalink
  27. Chanel wrote:

    my legal first name is Chicnel… Chic is from the disco group called Chic. They had that hit song “Le Freak”. I always hated my unusual name growing up. Mainly because noone would pronounce it correctly. They always said CHICKnel and not Chic…. think french.

    I love Nefarious’s name. I think I have run across a couple kids with that name now. I do recall Rachel mentioning a while back regretting letting YOU give her the name and how everyone calls her Ari anyway. I find it interesting to hear that the name was really her idea.

    Tuesday, April 27, 2010 at 8:30 pm | Permalink
  28. Laura wrote:

    This is the second blog post I have come across this week where a parent has explained/justified their choice(s).
    Really, if it is not an issue of safety, then why do we feel the need to condemn other people’s parenting styles/decisions? If it is not your child, then how does it affect you?
    I got an anonymous comment on my blog today telling me not to be so ‘horrid’ to my child(in utero). Simply for making a sarcastic comment about how the pregnancy is making me smell shit all the time. I thought it was kind of funny…this person thinks I am ‘horrid’. and yet they are not confident enough in her/his convictions to leave even a name let alone a link?

    Saturday, May 1, 2010 at 9:29 am | Permalink
  29. Ryan wrote:

    i think its horrible that someone would try and criticize the choice of her name to you.
    i think she has a beautiful name and given the understanding of what her name means, i believe if i have another daughter, then she shall be named Nefarious also.

    sorry for posting this on such an old post, i was looking for your “totem topper” photo as ive recently started woodworking and decidfed to try for something similar to the “tongue sticking out look” that youve ran with. im going to post pics when im done, hopefully youll find it interesting.

    Wednesday, November 10, 2010 at 7:20 am | Permalink
Wow Shannon, that's really annoying! What is it, 1997 on Geocities? Retroweb is NOT cool!

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