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.