The Worst Thing I’ve Ever Heard Said To A Child

I saw something profoundly ugly today.

Today was my nephew Aiden’s 9th birthday, held at a secret underground bowling alley (I am not exaggerating in the slightest). It was a great party, and the kids all had a ton of fun there. Sam tried bowling for the first time, which was cool. I was pretty stressed out by the end of it, something to do with a herd of toddlers and preschoolers grabbing heavy bowling balls and rolling and throwing them wherever they wanted and running with reckless abandon directly in front of people about to hurl the aforementioned heavy bowling balls.

On the way back to the car, I was enjoying the relative quiet and fresh air. As we crossed the street, I saw a pack of about half a dozen kids on bicycles approaching, followed close behind by a woman who was in charge of them. She was white, and some of the kids weren’t. I don’t know if some of them were her kids, but I guessed so.

As we loaded Sam into the car, some of the kids pulled about a block ahead of the woman, and she started yelling at them. Some of them didn’t listen, but one little black boy did, and he came sheepishly back to ride beside her in that way 6-year-olds do when they get in trouble. I’ll never forget what she said next, scowling, pointing right at him.

“Fuckin’ nigger.”

It took me almost a full second to realize what she just said, and I looked at Sarah and said something expressing my angry astonishment, I don’t remember what, as I felt the blood rush to my ears and face. I thought about what, if anything, I should do next.

This is none of my business. Right? I immediately thought of my little nephew Scotty, who’s of mixed race. I can’t even imagine somebody saying this shit to him. I wanted nothing more than to run over there and start screaming my head off at that waste of humanity. I thought this to be a bad idea, as I was already pretty stressed and I didn’t want to lose my temper and do something stupid. She’s not going to stop being a racist asshole terrible parent or guardian just because I chew her out. She’s going to yell back at me. And what then? If I successfully intimidate her into apologizing to this kid, she’ll take it out on him when they get home. And if she decides to respond to me with violence, I don’t want a half dozen kids (including mine) to see me beating up some racist jerk in the middle of a Walgreen’s parking lot. Or worse, seeing me getting knifed by some crazy racist jerk because I couldn’t keep my mouth shut. I honestly don’t think I’d want Sam to see me just yelling and otherwise completely losing my shit at somebody, whether I’m right or not.

I don’t remember where I heard it or exactly how it goes, but someone once told me that when you speak to your child, you are writing their internal dialogue for the rest of their lives. That’s been on my mind for awhile, especially since Sam’s been old enough to have a conversation with. There are some times when he’s cranky or doesn’t want to do what I tell him no matter what, that I can feel my composure start to unravel. I know he can tell when it does. Either he gets wide-eyed and listens to me, or he goes running for his mom.

Ever since Sarah and I got married, we’ve had a standing “no name-calling” rule. I can count on one hand the times either of us has broken it, even during fights. This goes double for Sam. I know I have to discipline him, but the look in his eyes when I tell him he’s not acting like a good boy and he understands that he’s messed up breaks my heart. I can’t even imagine what that little kid on the bike felt. When she said it, he looked like it was no big deal, like he hears it every day. I don’t doubt that he hears it every day. I hope he thinks of himself when he grows up doesn’t come from the hurtful shit spewing out of the mouth of a person that’s supposed to love and support him.

In the end, I reasoned I couldn’t do anything in that moment that is going to have any lasting positive impact on that poor kid’s life, and we drove off without any of them ever knowing we existed. It was part calculation and part cowardice. I cannot decide if I made the right choice or not, I don’t even know if a right choice exists, but I feel ashamed of doing nothing.

Dawn of the Couch-Blogger Nexus

One of the reasons I stopped updating my old LiveJournal was that, especially since Sam came along, I have trouble carving out enough time in my day to sit at a computer and write. I keep telling myself I need to make use of my lunch hour but usually 11am rolls around and my brain threatens to explode if I don’t leave the office for at least a few minutes.

Usually there’s some chilling in front of the TV going on after Sam goes to bed. I’ve tried before to blog on the couch, but it was always with a big gaming laptop or a tiny netbook that makes my hands cramp even by thinking about it and it never really panned out. Setup was always kind of a pain and it wasn’t comfortable and [excuses #48-52].

I also tried blogging from my phone, and that got old pretty quick, too. I love my Galaxy Nexus. It’s a great phone – but I don’t wanna write 500 words in a single session with it. I went through a couple cheapish Android tablets (an uncomfortable to hold but very fast ViewSonic Gtablet with a crappy screen and a very nice but underpowered rooted Nook Color) hoping to find some means of successful couch computing. I wasn’t satisfied with them, and sadly they both gathered dust.

When Google announced the Nexus 7 earlier this year, I didn’t pay it much heed. The more I heard about it, though, the more I wanted one. It was cheaper than either of the tablets I’d owned before, but it had great specs and greater reviews. I eventually succumbed to my gadget-lust and got myself an early birthday present.

My Nexus 7 finally fits the sweet spot for me between big enough, not uncomfortable to hold, and powerful enough to not be annoying. To be honest, I’ve heard the hardware in it is pretty good but I haven’t really had a reason to use it for much yet. I haven’t gotten the bug yet to really game on my Android devices aside from the occasional quick “I have five minutes to burn” game of Angry Birds. (Whether or not those five minutes have anything to do with bathrooms is up to your own imagination. I will say no more on the topic.)

Turns out blogging is actually pretty painless on this thing. In fact, everything I’ve posted on this blog thus far has been written entirely on my 7. I will say the Android WordPress app has a few bugs in it where it doesn’t do line breaks or insert mode properly sometimes, but it’s easy enough to correct by hitting the back button and touching the text entry field again. I do need to figure out how to make it use the various CSS headers found in the web version of the editor. I find they make my longer posts considerably now readable and less likely to be interpreted as a wall of TL;DR text.

The other major factor in making this a much more comfortable experience is Swype, a gesture-based keyboard that helps you type really fast. Using it you find hunt and peck like on a normal mobile keyboard. Instead, you drag your finger in a continuous path along each letter in the word you want to use. Then, it makes an educated guess as to what you meant to type, and it’s usually pretty close. If it’s not sure, it gives you choices that it might be. This gets me about 95% of the way through just about anything I want to write, and the rest I can hunt and peck like before. It took a little getting used to, but I like it. I used to run it back on my old Droid. I don’t remember why I stopped, really. I probably flashed a new ROM and forgot to reinstall it. Either way, it’s made quite a few improvements since then, and I highly recommend giving it a try if you are of clan Droid.

The interesting thing to me is that I thought I needed solitude and silence to write. Turns out I can handle some TV background distraction and Sarah breathing, existing, talking to me, and otherwise doing things a living human being does while I write. Granted, I’m just sort of babbling about whatever I feel like here, so I’m curious to see if I can get a Dire Flailings out from the comfort of the couch. I suspect I can. Guess we’ll see come Monday night…..

Missing the Good Witch

Two years ago today, my grandma Gayle passed away. I wrote this a few days after it happened.

It’s still weird not to have her around. I still find myself thinking of her and wanting to tell her something to see what she has to say about it, only to remember I can’t.

I have such good memories of her and staying at her house when I was a kid. If I can give Sam even a little taste of that, I’ll be happy. I wish she could see him and talk to him now that he’s older. 4-year-old me says he’d think she was pretty awesome.

When I got to be a teenager, things got more strained with her. I still feel bad about taking her for granted during those years and for all the stupid teenage things I said. She still loved me the whole time, and I will keep the knowledge that you can still love your family even when they are being jerks close to my heart for when my kid gets to be that age.

I miss that old lady. As she used to put it, I loved her a million worlds full.

The Great Dream Layoff Of 2010

One of my favorite parts about my old blog was posting lots of weird dreams. Sadly, I have since discovered that a sizeable portion of their majesty and splendor was due to me having a moderately severe case of sleep apnea. Since wearing a mask and allowing myself to go deeper than REM sleep ever, my visits to dreamland are much less frequent and less vivid – but they’re still weird.

Last night, unfortunately, wasn’t so much weird as it was awful. I was once again employed by MultiAd. I find myself dreaming about that every now and then, but this dream in particular found me in an unusual circumstance – getting laid off again. My co-worker James and I were walking to a meeting and then a new, evil HR manager called us into an office and made us start talking about the giant project a bunch of us worked a ton of overtime during the summer of 2010. Actually, it was more like demanding we justify our every action in the feeble hope of saving our jobs.

Evil HR guy was being really snide and condescending, and making frequent references to how he’s not surprised a first year employee would be this bad, and I countered that I had worked there five years and that was pretty effective for some reason. I had him on the ropes. OK not really he was still going to fire us both. The most interesting part of the whole dream for me was listening to dream-James tell of his version of the events of that summer.

I woke up before I lost my dream-job. Still a hell of a way to start the morning.


Man, I love starting up a new site with that phrase. It makes me feel like it’s 1994 all over again, when mullets were mullets and tiger striped parachute pants were an indicator of social status and possibly kickboxing prowess.

It’s been awhile since I had a personal blog. Sure, there’s Twitter and Facebook and Google+, but aside from my weekly column on Critical Hits, I rarely go into much depth anymore. Up until recently, even my Facebook updates were kept to 140 characters so I could easily cross-post.

I miss writing longer stuff. It has a lot of weird and unexpected benefits. For one, it lets me chronicle what’s going on in my life. I’ve always been absent minded, but it feels like since Sam came around I’ve had the memory of a goldfish. It’s strange to have a detailed account of everything I ever ate, every karate workout, and every weird dream from 2003-2007 and not to have in writing my thoughts, joys, hopes, and fears about being a brand new dad. I have a few written records of that time,but not many. That was an extremely tumultuous time in my life, and I completely understand that I had neither the time nor the energy to Blog Properly. It just sucks that I can’t go back and read about that time in my life. I can’t fix that, but I can start doing it now.

One thing I’ve been consistently reading lately is that if you want to write (or do anything else) well, you need to do it every day. There are some weeks when I sit down to write Dire Flailings, the well is dry, and I’m scrambling to find the seeds for a good article. I’m hoping this greases the wheels a bit, even if (especially since?) I don’t have to focus on gaming here. I certainly never used to have trouble when I worked at ISU and could spend most of my day blogging….

Also, it’s fun. So there’s THAT.

I don’t know if this thing is more for me, to show other people, or exists for some other random reasons that have yet to show themselves. I also don’t care (but that never stopped me from neurosing at length about something before!). Expect stories about what’s going on with me and my family, weird dreams, reviews of and ramblings about movies, TV shows, and whatever other stuff crosses my path, and likely a great deal of anecdotes about my kid and his talent for creating fart jokes.

So, anyway. This is here. Hope you enjoy it as much as I do. Have fun, and don’t get lost on the information superhighway.