I really have to watch what I say in front of my son

My son has been back in my care for nearly five months now, and all is well. It’s not perfect, but it’s good. I’m happy. He’s happy, and we are closer than ever. Our relationship is the best it’s been yet, and it’s just going to get better from here on. His grades on his school tests could be better though, and I have been trying to get him to work harder without having to do the OT that has been recommended by his teacher. (“He doesn’t need to have OT and I am happy with his performance, but he could benefit from it.” Whatever that means.) My view is, he simply doesn’t try hard enough… He’s a bright boy, but he rushes through his homework without focusing enough on it because he wants to play games, and I want to try to get him to concentrate without any occupational therapy. (In other words, he is a perfectly normal eight year old boy. Games are more important than homework, and so they should be.) I’m a strong believer in not going overboard with too many extra lessons or therapy. He is doing well enough at school. He’s only in grade two, and maybe he is under-achieving a little, but he is doing fine.

But that’s not what I want to write about today… Instead I need to focus on my sarcasm. I need to make an effort to cut it down a little in front of him. I didn’t understand sarcasm until I was about twelve years old, but Josh is getting it already, and he’s only eight. It’s not just me – he has a Star Wars Lego movie that he watches quite often, and in it, Sidious is often sarcastic to one of his minions (General Grievous). The minion then makes an embarrassing comment, acknowledging praise that was not sincere since it was said sarcastically, to which Sidious replies, “Sarcasm!” and then they all laugh at the minion’s expense. It’s quite silly, but it does convey the meaning of sarcasm effectively enough for a child to be able to understand, probably by accident because I doubt that it was done on purpose. That and my sarcasm seems to have brought Josh to an understanding of sarcasm that I didn’t have at his age. (Actually, unless it is my imagination, children these days are far more sophisticated than my generation was.) And as a result, he has started experimenting with sarcasm himself – quite successfully – generally with his grandmother as the designated victim. When he isn’t experimenting with his own snark, he asks me, after I say something sarcastic, if I was being sarcastic. (I’d be impressed if I thought that it was wise for an eight year old to understand sarcasm, which I do not.)

So here’s what happened this last weekend – it was just one of many examples where I relished the opportunity to mock somebody and have a laugh at someone else’s expense, but one that I could have avoided had I been thinking of the example I set for my son…

So we were at Nando’s, waiting for our order of a full chicken, fries, salad and drinks. Outside, I’d been approached by a woman who was struggling with her lot in life. She was poor, and was selling some kitchen cloths. Since she wasn’t begging but was trying to make an honest living, and was clearly hungry, I felt empathy for her, and had bought some of her microfiber cleaning cloths. The cloths were much like those in the image below, except they were packed such that they were all attached together, so what I had in my hand was a tightly packed rectangle of rainbow-coloured cloths.


We sat there for a couple of minutes, when an elderly white woman came in and also ordered some food. Then she sat down on the bench waiting as we were. But after a few minutes, the woman became visibly upset. She went to the counter and started complaining, at first to the cashier, and then to the manager. She was shouting and screaming and carrying on about waiting more than half an hour for her food, and making quite a scene. The cashier, who had done nothing wrong, looked embarrassed, and I always feel bad for service staff who get treated unfairly. Ever since I worked as a bank teller twenty years ago, I have felt this way. Eventually she sat down again, after the manager assured her that he would take care of the (non-existent) problem personally.

That’s about when I should have known better, but I couldn’t stop myself. So I did my thing…

I walked up to the counter, and proceeded to complain about their poor service. But I didn’t complain in my normal voice…. Nooooo. Instead I made a voice like Terry Jones from Monty Python, in those skits where he pretended to be a woman… [Squeaky voice] “Where’s my fucking chicken? I’ve been waiting for over half an hour! This is unacceptable! Where’s my chicken?” That (silly voice) got enough laughs already, but I was on a roll and that rectangular pack of super-colourful cleaning cloths became a weapon in my hands. I started waving it around, then waggling it at the cashier in front of me, before resorting to banging it against the counter… Whup! Whup! Whup! Where’s my fucking chicken? Where!?! Where’s [whup!] my [whup] chicken [whup]?

It was funny. I had three cashiers, the two people doing the cooking, as well as the manager, in stitches, not to mention Josh. The rude old woman didn’t say another word, but I wasn’t really thinking about her. I never do. (The victim I mean. The target of the sarcasm. The one everybody else laughs at.) Nor was I thinking about the example I was setting for Josh. And that brings me back to my reason for writing this post… I can’t help being a sarcastic asshole. It’s the culmination of years of practice. But I can make an effort to be less of an asshole in front of Josh.

Posted in Family, Humour, Parenting, Relationships | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Something positive for a change, and something else…

A quick note this morning… I haven’t been online the entire long weekend. (Yesterday was a holiday here in SA.) But I notice that one of my posts on meth voices has been getting quite a few comments.

Right now, I can only mention one of them… A girl named Jai, who commented on the post before, has managed to clean up and seems to be doing well. That’s great news and I hope she can continue to enjoy a life that’s drug-free, and learn to love herself again. It makes this all worthwhile, when I manage to reach somebody and hear about the results. Writing about my own meth addiction, and trying to give advice to others, can be a lonely experience. I think of it like talking into the abyss, and most of the time, I don’t get any feedback on whether or not it helps anybody. (And writing about it also forces me to remember some bad times, so sometimes I question whether it does any good.)

There have been some other comments on the same post… regarding EVP. Not something I know much about, but it involves, I think, listening to static (or maybe some of those “ghost box” type devices which really just give you random noise) and “hearing” voices in that static. I responded to someone who commented about this fairly recently, and now I see there are more comments.

Needless to say, I do not believe in EVP. So it’s difficult to respond to comments about it. The subject is interesting to me in that hearing voices in random noise is a type of pareidolia, and is very similar to the way meth voices start. Since I haven’t had time to read those comments yet, but they seem ambiguous from the preview, I’m uncertain how best to respond. I’m unclear on whether the commenter uses drugs, or just found my post because it happens to deal with a subject similar to their obsession. I’m hesitant though, to reply to somebody who hears voices and believes that they are real. I’m afraid to say too much, because if such a person is paranoid, anything I write could become part of their narrative.

So Tara, without having time to read your comments, all I can say is… I will. And I will try to respond appropriately, but right now I have to get to work.

Posted in Addiction, Methamphetamine, Recovery | Tagged | Leave a comment

My disappointment with the Supergirl Season 1 Finale

This will be brief, and I’ll only mention one thing I’m disappointed with, from the last episode, even though there were some other issues throughout. I like the series, but the plot-hole at the end was too big to ignore.

Obviously this contains a spoiler, so don’t read on if you haven’t watched it.

At the end of the episode, a device is about to explode everybody’s brains, all humans, and end the world. So Supergirl has no choice but to fly it out into space where it will be harmless. The problem posed in this TV universe though, is that she will not be able to return from space once she gets there as there is no atmosphere and she will have no thrust. Also she can’t breathe. So she had to be rescued by her adoptive sister, using her Kryptonanian pod. (How? But never mind. That’s not my complaint.)

Now even though Superman and Supergirl of the comics could always fly in space, and didn’t need to breathe, this could be a valid plotline. Sure, they are free to decide on their own rules and limitations of the characters for their TV Supergirl universe, so like her blue heat vision, her being unable to fly in space falls perfectly within what the creators of this show can do… But there’s a problem.

Near the start of the previous episode, the reason that her cousin, Superman, could not help her, was explained as he was “off-world”. It would not make sense to assume that he used the pod that brought him to Earth as a baby. It would make sense, when stating that such a character was off-world, to assume that he, you know… flew out into space.

And that’s a massive plot-hole. Unless you’re a child, and I gather this series is not especially for children, that’s enough of a plot-hole to ruin an otherwise good story. I can understand their reasons for not being able to show Superman, but the story that he was off-world and the plot where it is unsafe, and almost certain suicide, for Supergirl to fly out into space, directly contradicts itself. I looked past all the cheesy dialogue earlier in the series (her aunt referring to her as “my niece” and so on) and I looked past the casting of the annoying as hell living scarecrow, Calista Flockhart, but this… this is terrible writing. Now I wonder if the show will be renewed for a second season after all. If it is, I hope the writers do a better job and write stories that make some sense. At least stick to your own rules, for fuck’s sake.

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This meme again (The apologist meme about “nothing and then nothing exploded”)

I wasn’t going to write anything today, but recently a family member shared this old chestnut of an anti-atheist meme, and even though I have written about this subject before, it might be worth tackling it again from a different angle.


I pointed out to him, and rightly so, that this is a straw man argument… To which he responded that I am fixated on the straw man argument. (What???) Let’s ignore his ad hominem, OK? (Ignore that he responded by attacking me rather than my argument.)

Two things:

  1. Atheism is the disbelief in all gods.
  2. A straw man argument is an oversimplified, or caricaturized, or misrepresented version of an apposing view. It is used to argue against an argument that is easily defeated (because it isn’t the real opposing view).

This meme was the follow-up share to a question, a “challenge” for atheists, to state how anything could result out of nothing. (Paraphrased.) Getting back to point one, atheism is the disbelief in all gods. It isn’t the belief in anything else. I don’t have to believe in the Big Bang to be an atheist… I just have to believe that all the gods ever invented, were invented by man, as explanations for stuff that man did not understand.

Answering the so-called challenge is to defend a straw man, to defend the view of atheism which is not about atheism at all. The challenge also stated that it should be answered without referring to god. (Again… What???) Atheism is about the disbelief in gods, and my views on other subjects like this deliberate misunderstanding of cosmology pretending to be atheism, are not representative of all atheists anyway.

Also, stating that the answer should not refer to “God” reveals that the person asking assumes the existence of only one god, the “true” god, which also happens to be the god that he was taught to believe in since his childhood. (Or some sort of rationalized version of that “true” god.) This is not how you debate logically. If you start with the assumption that god exists, and ignore or discard anything that contradicts it, paint a picture of the opposing view which is not based on the actual opposing view, and then disregard the valid criticism that points out that your idea of that opposing view is a straw man, there is no debate to be had. A debate where you simply want to win, by saying or writing things that others with similar views will agree with, but disregarding anything else, is a waste of time. You learn nothing.

(Regarding my last point above, at least for me, debating is never about winning. It’s about presenting my logical argument, which I base on years of deliberation and previous debates, which I believe is correct but may itself contain fallacies. It’s about presenting that argument, about learning from my opponent while my opponent also learns from me, with the objective being to refine the argument, to improve it and reach the best logical and realistic view that is possible. And if my opinion turns out to be completely wrong, I change it. My current views on atheism didn’t come to me in a day. It took more than twenty years to reach them, and while my logic is pretty solid, there’s always room to learn more, to improve and to change any opinions that are wrong. It’s very easy to fall into the trap of becoming skilled at debating itself, to win at all costs, so I am extra careful not to do so.)

The fact is, I can’t explain how anything comes out of nothing, but I don’t have to because I don’t believe that. (I’ll get back to that point.) You can’t explain where your god came from. So you will resort to special pleading and claim that he always existed, therefore you don’t have to answer the question. (This leads on to an argument from first cause, which I have also written about before.) And that’s where your “nothing exploding” bullshit falls apart. If you can assume that your god always existed, why not the universe too? (Told you I’d get back to that.) You didn’t solve the problem (of explaining how the universe came to exist)… You just fabricated a magical explanation for it, then accused anyone who doesn’t believe in your magic, of not making sense.

Edit: I feel that this must be added. I hate this… hate responding to Facebook shares and arguments by my family member, although I can console myself that he doesn’t read these posts. We are getting quite close after years lost due to my meth addiction. Lately our relationship is improving, and I struggle with reconciling that with partaking in arguments online, which I worry may affect the relationship negatively. I respect the opposing view, but his arguments are often smug and condescending, and littered with a complete misunderstanding of my views as an atheist. I am accused of being intolerant, disrespectful, obnoxious and angry, and those accusations are not only patently wrong, they’re insulting. I can’t seem to reach him; get him to understand that my views are based on pure logic and are different to his, but do not insult anyone or assume that theists are less intelligent. I do hope that one day he can come to some sort of understanding of what atheism really is, but that’s probably never going to happen.

In a nutshell, theists believe in a god or gods without any evidence to support the claim. Atheists don’t. That’s it! All apologist arguments are rhetoric and nothing more. Some of them like the one featured in this post, rely on misrepresenting the view of atheists, but don’t let such arguments fool you. No logic lies behind their assumptions and fallacies, and there are no good apologist arguments.

Posted in Skepticism | Tagged , , , , , | 7 Comments

Who else modified QBASIC’s NIBBLES to run on Windows 95?

I just read a blog post by Raymond Chen. It’s a  historical post about getting an old MS-DOS game to run on Windows 95…

But what really got my attention was one of the comments, where the commenter mentioned a problem with the old QBASIC game, NIBBLES. He mentioned the issue it had when trying to run it on Windows 95, and the obvious fix that anyone could make since it came with source code.

I did that too! I feel like such an old geek now. I wonder who else did that back then?

Posted in Computer, General | Tagged | Leave a comment

The definition of insanity is NOT doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

I’ve been meaning to write about this for years, but I lost the link to the article I originally read that inspired me, and I also forgot the word, “perseveration”. Note that I’m not actually interested in what the true definition of insanity may be and don’t cover it here; for that you can read the linked article.

The bogus definition of insanity I’m referring to is this one:

The definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over and expect different results.

The first time I heard that cringeworthy “definition” of insanity was in the Life Skills class of the rehab I attended back in 2009. It struck me as false then, but everybody else (there were between thirty and forty of us) accepted it credulously. It was used in the context of a statement that claimed you can’t stop using drugs by yourself. The gist was that we have all tried, and failed many times, and since the definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over and expect different results, trying to quit drugs on your own is impossible and you would be insane to think yourself able to do so. Of course this is absolute bullshit.

I knew it was bullshit, but dared not say so because I also knew that nobody would believe me. At least in the context of addiction it appeared true because we had all tried to quit, and all failed. But that would obviously be the case, since we were in a rehab (FFS), meaning the argument depended on a moot point, albeit one that would be lost on the class and the counsellor running it. Also, disagreeing with the lessons that we were taught would at best lead me to be labelled as uncooperative and “in denial”, and at worst, it would set me on the path to be kicked out of the rehab. But that doesn’t change the fact that the statement is obviously untrue. Think about it… If it was insane to do the same thing over and over, expecting different results, then nobody would ever:

  1. Learn to read and write
  2. Lose weight
  3. Improve at running, or cycling, or swimming, or playing a musical instrument, or their work, or anything else that takes practice

Of course there are many other examples, but the point is, if that definition were true, none of us would progress intellectually past two years old, and I’d be sitting here drooling on my desk rather than writing this.

However, there is also a pathological kind of repetitious behaviour, called perseveration. It annoys me that I forgot that word, because I believe that the using of methamphetamine and the resultant tweaking, is in fact an excellent example of perseveration. I’d go so far as to say that what I have described in the past as tweaking, is perseveration. The writer of the article I linked to in the first line describes it as being “stuck in a non-productive pattern due to a glitch in brain function” and that is exactly what meth does. In the case of meth, it is a direct psychological side-effect of the drug, which results in a pattern of behaviour that leads nowhere (while users think they have energy). But that’s not what I want to write about today…

Most of the time, when we repeat the same thing, it’s called perseverance, which Google helpfully tells me is defined as “steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success”. In other words, to keep at it, to try and even when you fail, don’t give up. That contradicts the bogus insanity definition completely, because in reality, you will never get the same result after doing the same thing. You will learn, improve, and succeed where you used to fail. And that old adage, practice makes perfect, is a good one. Most of the time, it is necessary to repeat the same thing over and over again. And we learn from our mistakes. So this nonsensical definition of insanity isn’t just wrong, it’s dangerously wrong.

The linked article also mentions that people use the fake definition of insanity in avoidance, which is a defence mechanism. It’s a way of coping with difficulties by not coping; an excuse to do nothing and to deny personal responsibility for one’s actions. The reason that I have an issue with it is, when taught in recovery, it gives addicts an excuse not only not to try, but when combined with the 12 steps of woo, it absolves them of both the responsibility of making poor choices (and using drugs) and also of the necessity to try to change the behaviour. (It’s not your fault. It’s a disease and you can’t manage it. You need to practice powerlessness and ask your higher power to save you… Bullshit!)

Posted in Addiction, Methamphetamine, Recovery | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

More thoughts on my JVC LT-55n935 TV, which is really a “rebranded” Kogan TV

As mentioned in my last post, I’ve had plenty of issues with my “JVC” 55” smart TV, purchased directly from NuWorld.

After a few short minutes searching on the model number last night, I found many people who had similar issues to mine. And via two separate forum posts on totally different forums, it became clear that my JVC TV is not a JVC at all, but a rebranded Kogan TV.

Yes, I’d never heard of Kogan either. And the original Kogan formware has sorted out the issues with the TV, at least for now. You’ll have to read yesterday’s post for details, but the issues with the TV got worse over time, and it was basically unusable before I flashed it with the original Kogan firmware.

But here’s the real problems:

  1. I bought that particular TV because the brand name of JVC was pushed in my face. Actually I was at work and I sent Megan (my ex) and my mother to get it, simply trusting their choice. But that’s not the point. They were assured it was a good TV, a known brand with a good reputation.
  2. They would never have bought the TV if they knew it was a make that none of us had ever heard of.
  3. The salesperson at NuWorld, the sales manager here in Johannesburg by the name of Andre, arranged the sale personally. He must have been aware of both the rebrand and the known issues with this TV.
  4. When the issues came up with the TV months later (actually the slowing down of menu items and occasional errors started almost immediately) and Nuworld was called, this Andre jerk was unhelpful and rude over the phone. (“Who do you think you’re speaking to? I am the sales manager. We don’t sell directly to the public.”) That even though he arranged the sale himself, through my ex neighbour who used to own a restaurant in their business area. My neighbour was named Clive Govender.
  5. I have a copy of the letter from their repair agents, who suggested that the TV be replaced when I first complained about it. That never happened.

But what I really wonder is, is this kind of rebranding even legal? An unknown brand, at least in this country, was misrepresented as a known and popular brand. I can’t find any information about the rebranding online, apart from the forum posts, so it isn’t clear to me how others with the same problem even found out that their TVs were rebranded.

From my research online, Kogan only sells TVs via the internet, in Australia. Here is a scathing review of Kogan TVs published in Australia.

Update: Today I spoke to an acquaintance whose husband does the imports for one of the large retailers here, and it turns out that this rebranding is quite normal. So when you buy a TV here, if it isn’t one of the better-known brand names like Sony, Samsung or LG, it’s probably rebranded. So in a way I was lucky… I got an Australian TV and not something from China.

Posted in TV | Tagged , , | 2 Comments