Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Am I hurting God by having a relationship with my atheist son?

This question came up in a support group recently. (I'm reproducing it here with permission.) The question was:
I'm so lost. I feel I'm dishonoring my Father in Heaven. I just want to love my son who is a devout atheist. I'd like to know am I hurting God by allowing my son to be in my home and share his feelings? I am desperate to be a good Christian and still have a relationship with him.
Here's my answer - offered, again, in the hope that it might help:

Bear in mind that I am not, myself, a Christian. Also, bear in mind that the answer to this sort of question is going to vary according to denomination, individual church, and quite possibly by whether or not the pastor has had coffee yet. So this isn't going be The Christian Answer; it's just how I look at it, based on the kind of Christianity in which I was raised.

First of all: being a Christian is about following Christ, right? Well, if there's one defining characteristic of Jesus' earthly ministry, it's that he was willing to hang out with inappropriate people. Tax collectors, prostitutes, beggars - he talked with them, ate with them, came to their homes. He didn't avoid them or keep them at a distance. He loved them where they were, and as they were.

Second, I don't think God finds human doubt or disbelief anywhere near as troubling as humans do. Yes, sure, you have the Apostle Paul talking about how God's presence and nature are completely obvious from the world around us, and unbelievers have no excuse... but this is the same guy who had to be struck down by a blast of light and spoken to sharply by the Almighty before he could recognize his Lord and Savior. I'm not sure Paul is the best one to consult on the topic. Instead, let's consider another Apostle: Thomas, Doubting Thomas, who had to touch the wounds before he could believe. Jesus didn't curse him, or rebuke him, or cast him out. He said, "How much more blessed are those who have not seen, and yet believe." Thomas gets kind of a bad rap, but as far as I can see Jesus still counted him among the blessed.

Finally, there's the nature of God to consider: all-knowing, all-loving, all powerful. If He is all knowing ("to you all desires are known and from you no secrets are hid") then He understands our failures and our limitations. He understands your son's disbelief, not just the fact of it but the why of it as well. And He understands it with love and with compassion.

So, no: I don't think you're insulting God by sharing a home or maintaining a relationship with your atheist son. If God exists, and if He's anything like I was raised to believe, then I don't see how He could be offended by anything done out of love.

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Orphan and the Lockpick

Did you hear about the little orphan girl who found a pocket knife? Cute kid, red hair, freckles... smart one, too. She didn't want to cut things or carve things, so she started working on the blade instead. She wore it down and shaped it, until she could use it for what she really wanted: picking locks. She wanted to be able to escape the orphanage with it. And she did.

They brought her back, of course. They didn't find the knife, though, so they didn't know how she'd escaped until she did it again. This time, they brought her back and changed all the locks. It didn't help; she picked the new locks, too. So they replaced them with more and more complicated locks, mechanisms that were harder and harder to pick. It didn't make any difference, though, because she never figured out her secret.

It was a hard locks knife for her.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Firstborn does homework... HIS way.

So I'm checking over Firstborn's homework, to make sure he's actually, y'know, done it. It turns out to be just a single worksheet (he's eight, and in third grade, so the real avalanche o' homework hasn't hit yet). So I skim down it, making sure he's correctly identified the predicates in the sample sentences, and find there was only one that confused him. I have him correct that one, and then move on to the second half of the page. For this bit, he's given a set of prompts, and he's supposed to finish each sentence by adding a predicate. Only... well... I start reading them out loud:
The clucking chickens... explodid!
The baby goats... got poisened!
Barbara... is a witch.
All the elephants... went boom!
The zookeeper... lit explosive seeds.
The bears... hunted for black holes.
Those tigers... had hydregen bombs.
Many people... went to the town of silent hill.
A sleeping bat... exploded upside down.
The balloon man... flew out of the world.
Firstborn giggled as I read. I swear, I don't know where he gets this stuff. It's very mysterious.

Also, one of these days I'm going to have to write a story which includes the sentence, "Those tigers had hydrogen bombs!"

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Another Childhood Toy: M.A.S.K.

I had honestly forgotten that these even existed. The toy line -- and, of course, the associated cartoon -- was called M.A.S.K. The heroes all wore... well, not masks, exactly, but helmets... which they put on whenever they were doing something dramatic and important, usually with laser blasts. They had vehicles that transformed, or separated into other kinds of vehicles, or suddenly sprouted turrets so they could fire the laser blasts. Their goal was to sell lots of toys to impressionable children defeat the evil criminal organization known as V.E.N.O.M. -- which was absolutely not a complete ripoff of the bad guys from G.I. Joe. That was the evil criminal organization known as Cobra. Completely different.

Anyway, I found this guy along with several others:

...And, having found him, I then went and found the cartoon on YouTube. It's there because... um... well, mainly because nothing ever really dies if the Internet has any say in the matter. This is just the intro, but it should give you a pretty good taste of what the toy companies inflicted on our childhoods back in my day:

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Black Book of Children's Bible Stories - free on Amazon today

The Black Book Of Children's Bible Stories is available free for the Kindle today. You really, really shouldn't miss this.

I just started reading it yesterday, and so far it's wonderfully creepy. We have a young woman working to help produce true crime shows, simultaneously hiding and hiding from her past; we have dead parents, or maybe they're missing; we have a mysterious book, or maybe it's just an urban legend; and somewhere in there, I'm told, there's a haunted house to be found... or maybe you're already caught inside it.

Honestly, even if I hadn't read any of it, I'd still recommend it just on the strength of Paul Bibeau's other writing. (This one, for example.)

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

I learned it from you, all right?

Conversations that happen in our house...
Me: "Firstborn?"

Firstborn: "Yes?"

Me: "I want to practice a conversation, because I think it'll be funny."

Firstborn: "Okay..."

Me: "So, I'm going to ask, 'Why are you so melodramatic?' Then you're going to say, 'You, all right? I learned it by watching you!' Do you think you can do that?

Firstborn: "Sure... BECAUSE I'M MELODRAMATIC!!!"

Monday, September 22, 2014

Ghosts of My Childhood

So, yesterday I took the boys to my parents' house, for food and swimming and to give my poor (but beautiful!) wife time to catch up various projects. While we were there, I discovered that my parents had found a box of my old toys in the attic, and brought them down to amuse their grandchildren. It's... quite a collection. I mean, the toys are battered and worn and frequently in pieces (the G.I. Joe figures had a rubber band that connected the torso to the hips, and all but two of them have long since disintegrated) and contrary to my mother's hopes the entire collection is probably worth about twenty bucks on Ebay, but it's still quite a collection. Let me give you a sampling:

From left to right, we have a character from the old Inhumanoids cartoon, one of the surviving G.I. Joe figures, a punk mutant rhinoceros from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Robocop, one I don't recognize at all, a robot police dog that might also be from the Robocop line, D.C. Comics' Hawkman, and something that appears to be a dinosaur with a crossbow mounted on its back.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Notes from the Mad Science Lab: Baby Changing Station

Tabitha, my lab assistant, has... instructed me to provide some background and context before I describe my latest invention. Since her advice on such topics has proven useful in the past, I offer you all the following anecdote:

Three weeks ago, there was a small -- and, I assure you completely harmless -- implosion in the Mad Science Kitchen, which released a cloud of noxious gas which rendered everything in the neighborhood inedible and the kitchen itself unusable. As a result of this unfortunate incident, I took Tabitha out to dinner at not-terribly-nearby restaurant, and gave Armando (the crypto-zookeeper) permission to order pizza for the rest of the staff.

Whilst in the restaurant, I was intrigued to see that the sign for the gentlemen's restroom advertised the presence of baby changing station inside. Imagine my disappointment when I discovered that this was merely a small platform that folded down from the wall. Tabitha assured me that this was so that beleaguered parents would have a place to change their children's clothes.

Now, please don't misunderstand. I have nothing against putting babies in fresh diapers. I am well aware that the young of our species, as a result of their internal biological processes, can produce output that ranges anywhere from the mildly eye-watering to full-scale violations of the Geneva Conventions regarding bacteriological warfare and the use of poisonous gases. Cleaning all that away and replacing it with a fresh diaper is not only a kindness to the child; it may well be the closest thing to a universal moral imperative that human beings are capable of recognizing.

Nevertheless, I was disappointed. A baby changing station should be able to do so much more. With that in mind, I present to you the Savage Labs Full-Featured Baby Changing Station. Offering a comprehensive range of options, the Savage Labs Full-Featured Baby Changing Station improves on the current models in every possible way.

To begin with, I have automated the process completely. Now, when you pull the table down from the wall, the station is programmed to offer you a complementary pair of nose plugs. Using advanced 3-D modeling techniques, the station will then ascertain the location and position of your child, and remove any dirty clothing. Dirty clothes are dropped into in a sealed hopper, which delivers them safely to the wall-mounted fusion reactor, simultaneously disposing of the foulness and powering the changing station.

The Savage Labs Full-Featured Baby Changing Station then uses a combination of cleaning sprays and wipers to clean your child -- quickly, completely, and (above all) gently. While this is underway, the touch-screen monitor will extend to offer you a range of baby-changing options. The colors of your child's eyes, hair, and skin can all be modified based on your selections; height at full growth can be pre-selected; IQ can be raised (but remember, smart children tend to be less biddable than their less imaginative companions!); muscle mass can be added, if desired; and metabolism can be tuned to meet your needs.

If you aren't happy with the results, they can easily be changed by another visit to a Savage Labs Full-Featured Baby Changing Station. Owing to the nature of our unique, soon-to-be-patented retroviral nanogen technology, we recommend waiting a full three weeks between visits. This is partly to ensure that your child doesn't accidentally develop gills, but mainly to give you, the doting parent, time to properly evaluate the changes in your beloved offspring.

Savage Labs Full-Featured Baby Changing Stations: just another way that mad science is making the world better... for you.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Music: Hell Frozen Rain

Artist : Akira Yamaoka
Vocals: Mary Elizabeth McGlynn
(From Silent Hill: Shattered Memories)

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

True Parenting Conversations: How could you do dis to me???

Before dinner...

Me: "You guys both understand that we're not playing any video games after dinner, right? I'm going to be sorting laundry, so I'm taking over the TV in the living room."

Boys: "Okay, sure, no problem."

After dinner...

Secondborn: "I am going to pway Minecwaft on the P. S. Thwee."

Me: "No, you're not."

Secondborn: "I am."

Me: "No, I'm going to put on a movie in there while I sort laundry."

Secondborn: "NOOOOOOO! WHY WOULD YOU DO DIS TO ME??? I JUST WANT TO PWAY MINECWAFT!"

Me: "I'm not punishing you, kiddo. I just--"

Secondborn: "Daddy, I am twying to tell you something."

Me: "...And I'm trying to answer your question. Okay, go ahead, kiddo."

Secondborn: "WHY ARE YOU DOING DIS TO ME? WHY DID YOU SAY NO VIDEO GAMES? I WAS GOING TO PWAY MINECWAFT ON THE P. S. THWEE!"

Me: "Because I need to sort laundry in the living room, and... you know what? Since I am slave to your merest whim, and waaaaay too tired to deal with a temper tantrum right now, how about I set up the PS2 in the back room? Would you be okay with that?"

Secondborn: "I would be otay wif dat."

Me: "Thank the dark and forgotten gods. Let's go do that."

So now he's playing Star Wars: Battlefront II on the PS2 in the back room.

No brain...

Me and B.O.B."Turns out you don't need one. Totally overrated!"

Monday, September 8, 2014

Exhausted...

So, I'm trying to finish making the transition from the old servers to the new servers at work, because I'm out at a conference all next week. (It's supposed to be a really awesome conference, but right now it just sounds tiring.) So, blog posts are like to be a little sparse... Okay, maybe nonexistent. Anyway, if I don't post anything for the next couple of weeks, it's because I'm metaphorically snowed under. Don't panic. I'm not dead yet.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Real Parenting Conversations: The Manly Art of the Duel

Firstborn: "I wish to duel you."

Me: "Firstborn, I'm kind of busy with-- umph!"

Firstborn: "I wish to duel you."

Me: "You thwacked me!"

Firstborn: "That's because I wish to duel you."

Me: (ominously) "Very well..."

Firstborn: "I have my sword, but I think maybe I'd better get my shield, too, in case you choose the--"

Me: "NERF BATTLE AXE! ROOARRRRRGH!"

Firstborn: (parrying and retreating like mad) "Gah! Yes! That!"

Be warned: Firstborn has a nasty countercut.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Boy Pics

I found a couple of old pics of Firstborn the other day, so I'm just going to put them here... along with a single image of Secondborn. If my math is correct, the pictures of Firstborn show him at about the same age that Secondborn is now.

Monday, September 1, 2014