Calling my daughter a “princess”

I want to preface this post by saying that I don’t think there is anything wrong with traditional femininity or masculinity. But, I want my kids to grow up feeling that they can be whoever they are on the inside, which may include many variations around the gender/identity spectrum. When I see traditional character traits being projected on to them (and I am sure I do it too), it makes me ponder topics like this.

We begin imprinting on our children the moment they come into this world. If a baby cries and makes a particularly scrunchy face–he’s angry. An involuntary smile (that probably happened while passing gas)–she’s sweet. Sure newborns have temperaments and personalities, but they are still largely blank slates. Personality comes only after adding up all of the little experiences, encouragements, discouragements, comments, and other stimuli (and of course the interactions with their genetics).

When our triplets were in the NICU, I could see how differently they were treated, or rather how the nurses and doctors referred to them. We have two boys and one girl. And the thing that really stood out for me was many people called our daughter “princess.”

What made her a princess, though? What does it mean to be a princess? To me, that word evokes femininity, frilly pink clothes, and being protected. It is an indicator of the “girl” corner of the gender spectrum and all of the things we associate with girls.

And if people keep calling my daughter a princess and keep buying her pink clothing and treating her as a fragile treasure, how will her little developing brain respond to this? Will she take on those traits, those things that in our Western culture we associate with the feminine? Or are there elements within her that would come out no matter how she was treated?

I have had many friends with children comment to me how different their boys and girls came out. With so little difference in upbringing, they were amazed at how their boys gravitated towards trucks and army men and their girls got into dolls and frilly dresses. Now that I have my own kids, though, I have to wonder, how soon were people calling their girls “princess?”

For further reading on actual research around how we treat our kids, check out this article in the Washington Post.

Augmented Reality and My Kids

I know what I need–Augmented Reality (AR) glasses for tending to my newborn triplets in the middle of the night. Think about it. It’s 2 a.m., one of the babies starts crying. They all start crying. I wake up, bleary-eyed, confused. I put on my AR glasses and say “baby lights on.” In my field of vision, it looks like I have turned all the lights in the house on full blast. I walk downstairs, get their bottles ready, change them, feed them, put them to bed. I never turn on the lights as far as they are concerned. But, I see everything, get enough light to wake up, and when I am done, take off the glasses and pass right back out until the next feeding time in what feels like 20 minutes.

Of course, there are technical problems here. Headset AR is too bulky right now–I am not going to strap on a HoloLens and stumble around the house. I also don’t want to horrify my children as I am leaning over their cribs with a giant mask on; I may as well wear a pair of night vision goggles. I need something that wears like a pair of glasses.

Aside from the bulk, the type of simulated lighting that I want is not generally available yet. What would it take to scan the room, use the available light to map it, and then re-render everything as if it was bathed in bright light? If it isn’t possible now, thought, it will be. Heck, the technology will eventually be able to bath the room in starlight, or make the room look like it is on the surface of another planet. If I am going to tend to my kids in a fog, maybe it can be the fog of Venus’s atmosphere.

I’m ready. But, by the time this is all available, I think the kids will be past nighttime diaper changes.

The Law of Digital Sexual Assault

In short, there really isn’t a clear framework for punishing remote sexual assault. But, this is an issue that will become more real over time.

We are slowly approaching a world in which people can be intimate without being physically close to one another. The internet allows us to have sex with people situated on the opposite side of the world. To bridge that distance, we use web-connected devices like masturbation sleeves and vibrators.

What would the legal implications be if, say, skilled and malicious hackers were able to hijack one of these devices? On one hand, they will have gained control of an object that is used to penetrate, and therefore are potentially responsible for it. On the other, the device’s owner is likely to have overall control of the hardware and, we assume, consents to its use.

For now, getting an internet-connected sex toy is a bit risky, and not in the sexy kind of way.

Read the rest over at Engadget

Drone Delivery

I like drones.

They are great for making beautiful video. Unfortunately, they are also great for filming naked people in their backyards.

That fear is probably why they get shot down.

Drone racing is also a thing now. I don’t say that flippantly. I’d love to go watch one.

Companies like Amazon also think that drones should deliver our packages. I don’t like that idea–I am 90% sure that packages will fall from the sky and land on my head and kill me. There is no way around it. The drone will hit a bird, get hit by a bullet (or baseball, or frisbee, or squirrel). They will fall, either from failure or sabotage.

And now, Chinese retailer is working on a drone that can carry up to 2000 lbs. That takes things from death by head injury to death by Looney Tunes-style squishing. No thanks.

via Recode

Newsletter: You need the Internet

Stop whatever you are doing. Stop reading this newsletter. Go watch the trailer for Star Wars: The Last Jedi. I’ll wait here.

Ok, now that you are back, I want you to think about what just happened. I mean, yeah, the trailer was cool and you are pumped for the next Star Wars movie. But how did that whole process occur? You got a link to my newsletter, or an email if you are a loyal subscriber. You clicked on a link in the newsletter to take you to YouTube. You watched the video. You came back. What else do you do on the Internet besides read about science and sci-fi? How much of your knowledge comes from the Internet? How much of your current job depends on the Internet? How much of your job hunting? How much could you get done without using the Internet on a regular basis? Alright, with that thought in mind, click on this link and read about the Congressman who recently said that, “Nobody has to use the Internet.” This was in response to a town hall about those ISP privacy rules that were recently killed. I will reiterate this every time: This does not have to be a partisan issue. But, it is an issue, and no matter what side of the aisle you align with, you should care. And, you should mock this guy for being an out-of-touch clown.

Let’s chat a little more about policy before we move on to our regularly schedule space news. I like gadgets. I like having computers in all of my products. Sometimes I get nervous that they will rise up and kill me. But, on the whole, I believe that technology is a good thing. It is more legally tricky than some people realize, though. One of the big ongoing fights is the “right to repair” our gadgets. If John Deere has its way, farmers won’t be allowed to get their tractors repaired by third-party repair shops (or to do it themselves). Why? Because SAFETY! HACKERS! THE CYBER!!! But really it is about the extra money they can make by being the exclusive repair person for your gear. The same goes for Apple (and many other gadget makers). They want you to only be able to repair your products by using their people. Fortunately, a number of states are beginning to consider legislation that actually recognizes a right to repair. “But John Deere and Apple do it best,” you say. Perhaps, but that still doesn’t mean that this should be their only option.

Blah, blah, blah. On to the space already.

Last week, I said that a group of astronomers were planning on taking a picture of a black hole. Last week, the earth-sized shutter was finally snapped. Don’t expect to see a picture anytime soon, though–each of the 8 participating observatories have about 500 terabytes of data to work through. Hopefully, in 2018, when the film is finally developed, we won’t be looking at images of an interdimensional hellscape looking back at us. While you wait, though, take a look at all of these images that aren’t of black holes.

Closer to home, NASA thinks that one of Saturn’s moons, Enceladus, could host alien life. That doesn’t mean that there is alien life on the moon, just that the conditions are right. While Mars is interesting because it speaks to our desire to colonize and live the sci-fi dream, I am much more interested in sending better and better probes to Enceladus, Titan, and one of Jupiter’s moons Europa. Mars colonies are sexy. Alien bacteria on crazy moons are sexier.

In case you haven’t thought about Jupiter in a while, it is still gorgeous. And, we found another spot recently. I’ve already made a 2010 joke in this newsletter. Insert your own this time.

Extra Bits

Disney filed a patent for robots that can hug you. Presumably, they will file the patent for the ability to hug you to death later.

Someone hacked Dallas’s emergency sirens. This is a little funny, but also a scary remind of the fragility of our infrastructure.

Burger King trolled Google Home (and Google Assistant) users.

Did you get the Nintendo Classic Mini yet? No? Well, you never will.

Your shoelace is untied…by science!

WordPress and Google Docs

I am always trying to figure out the best way to draft my writing before sending it off to the blog. I am a big fan of iA Writer on Mac and Android, but it does not exist on Chromebooks, at least not until full Android integration happens. But, I may not need to worry about that now because I can push my drafts straight from Google Docs into WordPress. Best of all, I can still use Markdown in my drafts and it will translate over when I push the document into my blog. Yay.

Find out more here.