Saying Goodbye To 2015

goodbye-2015This past year has been an eventful one.  For better or for worse, it is coming to an end.  Our New Year’s Eve tradition is to have a "Junk Food Dinner" (mostly hors d’oeuvres) and stay up until the ball drops.  My tradition on this blog is to look back at some of my favorite posts of the year.


Unfortunately, I rang in the New Year with a resurgence of my post-surgery anxiety attacks.  I realized that Anxiety Is A Bully.  It tries to dictate the rules of engagement to you so that they vastly favor the anxiety and not you.  It’s important to fight back, realize what anxiety is doing, and refuse to play by its rules.

On a more serious front, the Charlie Hebdo attack led me to wonder about the Freedom To Offend and the Freedom To Be Offended.  While it might seem tempting to silence people from saying offensive things, we’ve got to protect their right to offend.  If we don’t, then someone else might take offense to something we think is important and silence us.  At the same time, people have a right to be offended and to call for there to be consequences.  If a politician says something extremely offensive to me, then it’s my right to protest and demand he be removed from office.  This doesn’t mean silencing him.  It just means balancing two different, yet related rights.  It can be tricky to navigate these waters without going too far in either direction, but it’s important that we don’t let ourselves sway too far against the offensive or against those who are offended.

Did you know I have a Zazzle store?  I didn’t.  I posted a parody of "Soft Kitty" from Big Bang Theory and then inspiration struck and I turned it into a T-Shirt.  I’m not sure if any have actually sold, but I love coming up with things like this.


I began February with an Extreme Geekery.  I looked into the Archimedes quote "Give me a lever long enough and I shall move the world."  Spoiler alert:  This would work, but the lever’s going to be really, really, REALLY long!  (I also had fun adding draws to my post.  I don’t do that enough.)

With a measles epidemic raging, I dove into the subject of vaccines and consequences.  My takeaway: Vaccines work.  Those who claim they cause autism or contain toxins or are worse than the diseases they prevent are ignorant at best or trying to sell you bunk at worst.  Unless you have a medical condition that precludes vaccination (e.g. some allergies or an immune system disorder), everyone should be vaccinated.  It’s a simple procedure that will save the lives of not just the vaccinated but of the people who can’t be due to age or medical issues.

We spent much of last year playing Minecraft.  I’ll admit that I haven’t picked it up much recently, but there have been many updates that my boys have shown me and I might just need to try them out myself.


March began with a monumental event.  We cancelled cable.  Without cable, we joined the ever growing ranks of cord cutters and got our video entertainment from a mixture of Internet-based video services (Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu), renting DVDs from our local library, and an OTA antenna.  I also have some new equipment that I need to set up which will let me record shows and stream videos to our TV.  We’ve been saving money every month and haven’t looked back.

We had a touching moment in a local museum.  They had an electronic drum set and NHL – who plays percussion in his band – was rocking out to it.  A set of headphones he wore kept the sound to himself.  A little girl came up to watch him play and NHL offered her his headphones.  The little girl was instantly mesmerized by the sounds NHL was producing.  Her eyes glazed over as her full attention was given to what her ears were hearing.  Then NHL gave her the drumsticks and helped show her how to make the sounds.  He willingly gave up a spot at one of his favorite exhibits so that a little girl he didn’t know could discover the wonders of drumming.  It’s a little gesture, but I was so proud of him at that moment.


During April, we got into some tabletop gaming with Pandemic.  We were introduced to it by a family member during Passover and had to get it ourselves.  What I love about Pandemic is that everyone works together.  There is no one winner or loser.  Either everyone wins by curing the diseases or everyone loses as the diseases ravage the world.

There was also a big WordPress vulnerability found and as people rushed to update I explained just what the vulnerability meant and how web developers usually tackle this sort of thing.


May was a very geeky month.  Along with Free Comic Book Day, and palindrome week, Star Wars Day meant we could play some lightsaber games.  May also saw JSL turning 8.  To wrap up the geekery, California instituting "toilet to tap" led me to wonder just how much water was in the world to drink.  It turns out that it’s a lot, but it isn’t an infinite resource.

I also wrote about Asperger’s Syndrome and how it affects neurotypical siblings.  JSL can be very patient with his brother at times, but he does have his limits and will often crave non-NHL times.


In June, I took some lessons from a rose bush – don’t listen to others telling you that you can’t succeed, just do your best and keep at it.

I also wrecked havoc with society by inventing instant transportation.  Ok, I just wrote about what would happen to society if someone invented it.  Given how I think it would turn out,  be thankful it’s not here.

Unfortunately, we had a crazy week when B’s mother had a heart attack and ended up in the hospital.  She’s feeling better now, but it was scary (especially for the boys who were right there when it happened).  To add insult to injury, it happened on her birthday which also happened to be the day she retired.  Everyone should know the real life symptoms of heart attacks.  (That last link isn’t one of my blog posts, but it’s important enough to bring up as often as possible.)

Thanks to then-newly-running candidate Donald Trump, I explored the true cost of web development.  Unfortunately for Trump, you can’t develop a large, complex web application that will be used nation-wide and only pay $3.  It simply cannot be done.


In July, New Horizons’ impending rendezvous with Pluto made me geek out about how quickly we’d be able to travel around the Earth if we could move at the speeds New Horizons was travelling at.

A tweet from The Bloggess inspired me to gather a series of 18 things that I’d tell 18 year old me.

Finally, it’s amazing how much you can get attached to a piece of furniture.  We finally got rid of our old couch.  It was hard to do, but it also was time.  The boys got to sit on it one last time as it lay on the curb awaiting pickup.  I even let them jump on it – something we never let them do when it was in our living room.


In August, I turned 40 years old.  Or, as I like to think of it, the 11th anniversary of my 29th birthday.  In addition, NHL turned 12.  Why won’t he stop growing up?  Why?!!!

We also began a cruising adventure to celebrate my 40th birthday.


In September, I shared a washy washy, happy happy, smiley smiley cruise greeting and described our incredible beach day at Norwegian’s private island.

This was also the month of me speed reading.  NHL was reading the Percy Jackson series so I decided to read them as well.  (I’ve always been a fan of Greek mythology.)  I not only tore through the first book, but the entire series (passing where NHL was).  Since then, I’ve finished Rick Riordan’s Heroes of Olympus series, his Cain trilogy, and the first book in his Asgard series.  I’ve only stopped because I’ve run out of books by him.  (Come on, Rick, get book 2 written quickly!)  I’ve also read The Bloggess’ Furiously Happy and laughed the whole way through.


In October, I wrote a rebuttal to someone who claimed that kids with Autism are better off when they’re bullied.  The author actually used the word "perks" to describe the results of bullying.  I’d use words like tormenting, paranoia, isolation, loneliness, and hopelessness instead to describe what happens when someone is bullied.  If you want to call those "perks" then you have a really warped definition of the word perks.

On the video gaming front, I fulfilled a lifelong desire to make Mario video games thanks to Super Mario Maker.

After picking 44.5 pounds of apples, I baked apple dishes until we were sick of apples.

Finally, I wrote up a guide to help people who wanted to explore cutting cable.


In November, I went through some scary Halloween decorations and an even scarier Christmas one.

I also gave a peek at what goes on in my head when I try to communicate verbally.  It’s battle on many fronts and not one I win every time.


December saw our Star Wars excitement build to critical mass.  Spoiler free review:  The Force Awakens was incredible.  I can’t wait to see it again.

We also celebrated B’s birthday and I had a mini-mid life crisis thanks to my Imposter Syndrome.

Finally, we had some fun with Google Cardboard.


It’s been a wonderful year.  Here’s hoping that 2016 will be exciting in all the right ways.

NOTE: The "Goodbye 2015" image above is based on "Fireworks Remix" by keriann3 which is available from

Holiday Decoration Nightmares

Holiday Decoration Nightmares

Halloween is the season for some truly terrifying decorations.


Happy Halloween, everyone!

A video posted by Techy Dad (@techydad) on

Now that Halloween over, though, it’s time to set our sights on the next major holiday in the United States. No, I’m not talking about Thanksgiving. Technically, that is the next one up, but retailers are quick to skip right over it to get their Christmas on.

You normally wouldn’t think about Christmas as having terrifying decorations. At least, not unless Jack Skellington was responsible for them. While this doesn’t look like Jack’s handiwork, it is still plenty terrifying:

This is the stuff of holiday nightmares!

A video posted by Techy Dad (@techydad) on


A Seder Filled With Pandemic, Lost Teeth, And No Internet

Toothless_JSLFriday night was the first night of Passover.  As such, we had the first Seder.  It was nice and the boys enjoyed it.  They even stayed up until the very end – going to sleep at 12:30am!  (Their bed time is usually 8:30pm so this was quite the late night for them.)  The next day/night, though.  THAT’s when things got interesting.

As the second Seder neared, we decided to give the boys a snack.  After all, there’s a lot of stuff to get through in a Seder before we eat.  So, among other snacks, I cut up some apples for us to share.  Now, JSL had two very loose teeth for some time.  They were actually pointing outward a bit which was quite creepy to look at.  The first one came out after JSL bit into a slice of pizza at an Autism fair.  (I ran with him to the bathroom to extradite the tooth.)  As he bit into an apple slice, the second tooth began to bleed and got very wiggly.  As much as I shook it, though, it wouldn’t come out.  The bleeding stopped, though, so we made our way to the Seder.

Once we arrived, the boys and I played a few games with one of B’s relatives.  It turns out that he’s quite the gamer and brought along Pandemic.  He explained the game as he set up for the four of us. We didn’t get to play the whole game (as the Seder started), but what we did play was very different from other games I’ve played.   In other games, you are out for yourself (and, perhaps, a teammate) trying to beat the other players.  In Pandemic, all of the players are working together.  You don’t sabotage the people playing with you, but try to figure out ways to help them.  After all, you are all playing as medical professionals fighting a series of illnesses.  If you all lose, the illnesses spread out of control.  If you all win, the illnesses are eradicated.  I could definitely see playing this with B and the boys to help NHL understand how to work with people to achieve a goal.  I could also see this being used in an office environment as a team building exercise.  I’ve been eyeing the game ever since that night and it’s only a matter of time before I buy it.

The pre-meal portion of the Seder passed without anything unusual happening.  Which is saying something considering that B’s family’s Seder routinely involves people being whipped with scallions, her uncle talking like one of her aunts, and another relative of hers read her passage with liberal use of the Hebrew word shadayim (breasts).  (It’s quite a fun Seder.)  As we began eating the meal, JSL eagerly started eating the matzo ball in his soup… and then screamed out.  His tooth was bleeding again.  I was prepared and took him away from the table where this time the tooth came out.  I wrapped it up, helped him with his bleeding mouth, and comforted him (it was late already and a bit traumatic).

After dessert, the Seder started back up, but we had to leave.  It was already past midnight.  We got home and despite my suggestions, JSL insisted on writing a note to the Tooth Fairy that night.

We also discovered something else:  We had no Internet.  None at all.  It had been getting a bit flaky over the past month.  Honestly, we wondered whether this was intentional due to our cutting cable, but the person on the phone insisted (after trying many things) that it looked like a bad Ethernet port in our cable modem.  Since we own our own modem and don’t rent it from the cable company, we had to buy a new one.  (We figured out that – given how much this one cost us and how long it lasted – we paid about $2.80 a month for it.  So it was a very good deal.)   On Sunday, we decided to shop for modems.

Except there was one problem.

It was Easter Sunday.

Stores are closed on Easter Sunday.

In the end, we found a store that was open, had the cable modem we needed, and at a decent price as well.  We brought it home, got it set up, and… still nothing.  Another call to our cable company and some tests later and we still had no Internet.  Just when I thought we’d need to wait a few days until they could send a technician over, the guy on the phone said he’d try sending a refresh signal to our modem.  Sure enough, that did it.  Which leads me to wonder whether that was the problem all along and whether our old modem is still good.  (We might give it to B’s parents to try since they need to stop renting a modem.)  Either way, we have Internet again and it seems pretty reliable so far.

And that was our eventful Seder.  Instead of "Next Year In Jerusalem", perhaps I should close my Seders with "Next Year… a bit more boring please."

Was your holiday weekend eventful?

Chanukah Presents And Surprises

surpriseChanukah is now a few days in, but the boys have already gotten many things they were hoping to get.

First, was a gift that they actually got a few months ago.  When Disney Infinity 2.0 came out, we bought it for our boys and gave it to them as an early Chanukah present.  NHL and JSL have been playing it ever since, building complex worlds and fighting many Disney and Marvel villains.

Next, was Robots vs. Dinosaurs.  This is part of a series of dice games – they already have Pirates vs. Ninjas.  Gameplay is simple, you roll your dice and those represent your troops.  You then battle other player’s forces, "killing" their dice (moving them to the side) and rerolling your dice where appropriate.  If all of your dice are killed, you are out.  Last player standing wins.  The fun part now is that we can play a four player game.  Pirates versus Ninjas versus Dinosaurs versus Robots.  Who will win?!!!


Now if we just get Zombies vs. Wrestlers and Army vs. Aliens, we’ll have a complete set and can have a 8 way free for all!

JSL’s big present was actually quite large – a full sized keyboard.  He’s been begging for one for a year now and we finally caved… And let his grandparents buy it for him.  He’s now determined to learn how to play.


Tonight’s present is going to be a big surprise.  Don’t tell the boys, but we’re taking them to see Disney On Ice.  We’ve gone to many Disney On Ice shows in the past and have enjoyed them all. This will be the first time that we’ll be surprising them with the trip on the same day.

What presents have you surprised your children with?

A Late Bout Of Pumpkin Guts

Halloween came and the boys got on their costumes.  We went out trick or treating and they collected plenty of candy.  They returned home, shed their costumes, and ate a couple pieces each.  We even welcomed trick or treaters at our house and gave out some treats.  However, something was still missing.  We had two, perfectly good pumpkins sitting in our porch uncarved.

Thanks to a combination of getting them late and a busy week, we just didn’t have the time to carve them.  So the boys, sadly, went to bed on Halloween night without carved pumpkins flickering in the window.  We corrected this on Sunday by taking some time to carve our pumpkins.  Unlike the first time we did this, the boys were more hands on.  First, I sliced off the tops.


Next, the boys reached in and pulled out all of the seeds and guts that they could.



Finally, as I scraped the insides down, NHL and JSL drew the faces they wanted.  NHL made a monster and JSL made Captain America.  In the end, I needed to use a little pumpkin carver’s poetic license on their designs.  (JSL’s, for example, would have had a portion of the A floating in midair.  I’m not THAT good of a pumpkin carver!)


With the addition of some LED "candles", the pumpkins were set for some post-Halloween spookiness.


Sure, Halloween might be over, but this doesn’t mean the fun needs to end, right?  And besides, those pumpkin seeds will taste really good roasted!

1 2 3 16