I am a grown man who likes dolls.

A doll is a symbol, a proxy for something else. For play or comfort, girl dolls or boy dolls, Barbie or Superman, they serve a purpose, benign or sublime.

For me dolls represent a personal attachment with my family and my childhood. I come from a house of makers, what we used to call crafty types. I got my penchant for dismantling and building things from my father, and my artistic bent from my mother, who made several of my childhood dolls.

Among others, my mother made me a turtle and a Raggedy Andy, both of whom I still have. She’s made Anne and Andy dolls for every kid in the family. She still makes them to this day, at 84 years old, for her great grandchildren. My Andy is going on 40-something, somewhat worse for wear, though he does still have all his limbs. In typical boy fashion, I beat the daylights out of that doll. He was my punching bag, my stuntman, my Evil Knievel, my nighttime bodyguard against whatever was under the bed. That poor sap took more punishment, got dirty and dismembered on a regular basis, and suffered the indignity of multiple poorly-administered surgeries (It was how I learned to sew. Like I said, crafty types).

We didn’t have a lot of toys growing up. We made do with what we got for Christmas, and made by hand what we didn’t. I did have a few action figures, and one particularly spectacular year, I had a real Evil Knievel action figure with a wind-up motorcycle that could jump for what seemed like miles. He was so cool, but Andy is the one who is still with me, because he is special. He is from my mom.

Recently I made a new acquisition. Someone to hang with Andy, hopefully for the next 40 years. I was not thinking about getting any more dolls—to be honest it was the last thing on my mind. Planning a funeral is not when you get the urge to go doll shopping. But it so happens I have a college friend, an artist who is an awesome painter and illustrator, who makes these amazing felt dolls. I have seen them pass by my Facebook feed countless times, smiling at their whimsy, craft and personality. They are very cool. Gave them a Like every time.

I was casually looking at a recent post of her work, on display in a gallery in Los Angeles, when I saw one of her dolls that spoke to me. He is a charming fellow, all dapper in his Day of the Dead-like finery, replete with top hat, boutonnière ribbon, fancy boots and a ceegar. She named him Baron Samedi. (After a raunchy and raucous Haitian voodoo spirit, which is so freaking cool, and who may be my new alter-ego)

As a fancier of skeleton finery, fine art, and Dia de Los Muertos, it was by chance or providence that the Baron crossed my path when he did, just days after losing my father. Fate being what it is, I did not hesitate to adopt him, and support the arts at the same time, because artists are where it’s at. One thing I have learned—follow instinct when it strikes.

My father happened to pass away shortly before Day of the Dead, and a few days shy of his 84th birthday, which is today. He could be a little raucous himself, never apart from his cigarettes or a corny joke. The Baron appeared just in time, and will preside over his services, seeing my father through the crossroads between the worlds of the living and the dead. After that, he will take his place next to Andy, on my shelf and in my heart. He is for my dad.

Yea, I like dolls.

andy-baron

Respecting a parent’s choice – Raphael Elisha Cohen

Guest post by Randy Barnes

By now many across the Jewish world are acquainted with the tragic saga of Raphael Elisha Cohen, the six year old boy in Houston, TX battling medulloblastoma, a vicious form of brain cancer. What started out as a local story in the Jewish Herald Voice, Houston’s Jewish community newspaper, was picked up by Aish.com and other international Jewish news outlets including the Times published pieces about Raphael Elisha’s plight.

Continue reading

Lytro Snapping Fool

I have been playing with -and explaining- my Lytro camera for a week now. I spend more time on the explaining, which is getting repetitive. Better to just focus on shooting. Even though I don’t focus, but there I go explaining again.

My compositions are getting better. Lytro calls them Living Pictures. Getting the hang of doing Lytro-friendly shots means having something in the foreground (for now, anyway). One of my better shots is this one at the water fountain. My personal favorite is this one with the chain link fence, I got lucky with the child framed inside the links.

I have my public Lytro page up and running, I have been sharing them on my Facebook page, (very well received so far) and I have a couple tweets in the bag.

I will be taking a Lytro Photowalk at the Maker Faire, where I’ll get to hang out with their Director of Photography, Eric Cheng.

I have not found anyone selling accessories. I looked for any kind of case, I am paranoid of dropping it, and I am bound to lose the spiffy magnetic lens cap (um, heard of a tether, guys?). Maybe I’ll just fab my own case. I am going to the MakerFaire, after all. I’ll find some new nano-leatherette ultrathin toughskin material. I am handy with tools, I have built cars. At the very least, I am going to get it laser etched with the Epilog over at the TechShop exhibit. Nothing says geek like a gadget tatt.

My Lytro Camera: Ship It Ship It Ship It…

My Lytro camera is a wonder of modern technology. It allows you to refocus pictures after you take them, just by clicking. That is very cool. Try it out here: https://www.lytro.com/living-pictures/60731

Package tracking is also a wonder of modern technology. I can watch the object of my gadget-lust as it leaves the warehouse, on its way to the distribution center, and on its way to me. That is very cool. And very disturbing. It drives me nuts with anticipation. I keep hitting refresh, hoping something will change, but it doesn’t change fast enough. Continue reading

My Lytro Camera

I have seen a lot of cool tech through the years, and for a long time gadgets had me firmly in their grip. I had the first iPod, and before that the Rio MP3 player. I had a first and second generation iPhone, too. I am a standard-issue Silicon Valley propeller head. Heck, I even repaired my iPhone and made a video about it, I was that into them. (not anymore, though, I’m over it, have a Windows Phone now). Continue reading

STAR Testing Time

It is STAR testing time again. When public schools go into full test-prep mode. Homework stops, and studying test questions take precedence over general instruction. Parents are called upon to volunteer, and bring fresh snacks for peformance improvement of some kind. Like the introduction of healthy food will make a difference in the outcome. If a kid does not have a good blood sugar balance the other parts of the year (or even if they do), and if they don’t know the material by now, what difference does this dollop of nutrients make to actual learning? Is that what fruit does? Continue reading

What If The Internet Was Gone?

Where Would We Find Cat Pictures?

The major TV news outlets do not cover the raging debate about SOPA and PIPA legislation currently being debated in Congress. Perhaps because the major news outlets are owned by media companies in favor of the laws, or perhaps because Internet stories are just too techy and boring. These laws (one for the House and one for the Senate, yay!) purport to protect copyright holders, but they are terribly bad for business and innovation on the Internet.

As Congress debates protecting something or other from someone or other on the intertubes, they seem all too happy to be downloading tons of illegally pirated content all the while (Even porn? why, yes!). When tech leaders are firing with both barrels at how bad this legislation is for business, and when almost 10% of active Senator’s campaign costs were paid by lobbyists for these bills, it prompts some tech companies to consider dramatic action.

Time Magazine openly wonders if Google, Facebook and Twitter were to go offline, on purpose, to protest these laws. You might think, ‘So What?’. But judging by the howls of protest just when Facebook moves a link around, if it were to intentionally go dark it would get some attention. And if Google were to do the same, the outcry would not just be from disgruntled friends missing out on stories of last night’s party antics, or cute cat pictures, or recipes, the roar would be from Fortune 500 companies, and from literally millions of people and businesses who make a living on the internet. Whether directly from advertising, or from the online commerce that is driven by Google Search, the humble looking site is a multi-billion dollar economic juggernaut.

If you think that is not likely, think again. Popular social news site Reddit.com is planning to do just that. On January 18th, Reddit will shutter their site on purpose, and in its place they will be posting information about this legislation, to spur its users to action. You may not know about this site (it is not as mainstream as Digg.com), but it has a very vocal audience. The political theater around this legislation may be routine for Washington, but legions of Internet geeks are awakening as sleeping tigers.

Cat picture

Nerd-Fest Goes to Washington to Explain Internet

A coterie of geeks (with a lawyer and venture capitalist thrown in for good measure) is off to explain a few technical details to our feckless leaders. A hearing is finally called to find out just how crappy the Twin Terrors of Tech Laws (SOPA and ProtectIP) will be for those who are not Hollywood lobbyists. Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of popular social network Reddit (owned by Condé Nast… the irony) will hopefully speak slowly and use friendly words for our less tech-savvy elected officials, and explain that these laws are full of colossall, unswerving dumbassedness of the first order. On a positive note, at least Congress is finally interviewing people from the Internet industry. I guess it has nothing to do with the scathing outrage across the Internet finally bubbling up through the special-interest money.

Read more about Alexis Ohanian going to Washington.

Laptop with padlock

(image courtesy of http://musicians4freedom.com)

Hackers Planning Their Own Internet Satellite Network

Undeniably Awesome

With a cool-factor that goes to 11, a group of German hackers have an ambitious plan to create an uncensored, powered-by-the-people satellite network for internet access. According to this article in Popular Science, testing is planned for sometime this year on a few ground stations. The big question is, will it look like a Star Destroyer or Death Star?

Satellite image

(image courtesy of http://www.solarthermalmagazine.com/)