Saturday, April 11, 2015


For those of you following my Facebook posts, here is your answer.  Yes!  We made it into Microcon!  Here's how it went- 

Nadia and I showed up at the library, where the convention was being held.  The meeting rooms and the restrooms are on the same level, so no one stopped me as I went downstairs, assuming I was taking my small child to the bathroom.  

Muh hahaha!

But when I got to the meeting room, it was locked!  LOCKED!  And not one of those pickable locks - it was one of those keypads where you have to know the password.  I did not know the password.  I was sad.  But, I suppose these foreign dignitaries need certain security measures to prevent assassinations/troll attacks, etc.  

But then, a miracle!  Out of the room stepped an extremely tall man, about my age.  I liked his intelligent eyes, and kind face.  I also was extremely impressed with his fancy purple velvet cape, and his metal breastplate.  Yep.  I knew what I had to do.

I waited for a minute, and then I followed him.

Here's the thing.  When you want something from a stranger, you can't just ask, straight away.  It scares people off.  You have to verbally fuck around for a while.  This is where it helps to play dumb.  So I approached him and asked "Excuse me - what's going on in that room down there?"

He was only too happy to tell me!  He explained about Microcon, and how it was a meeting of people who had formed their own independent countries.  He himself was the King of Arcadia.  He introduced me to his family - two adorable children and a wife.  The kids seemed quite happy in their prince and princess regalia - I wanted the princess dress for Nadia - it was truly fabulous.  The Queen was dressed in regular thirty-something-American-mom clothes, and she looked like she needed a hundred beers.  Whether that was from the convention, or from wrangling two small children, or from her queenly duties, I do not know.  

The King of Arcadia then said the magic words.  "Would you like to join us?"


And so, I was escorted into Microcon by the King of Arcadia Himself!

When we got into the room, a presentation was in progress.  It was a suited young man from California Republic, talking about the plans for updating their embassy.  He had a very fundamentalist look about him.

All around, everyone was fascinating.  There were men in very serious looking military clothes.  There were lots of people in Ren-Faire type clothes.  Many people were dressed in ordinary outfits.  There was one guy who was wearing a crown that looked suspiciously like a Burger King crown, but I withhold my judgment.  After all, it is not for me to look askance at other cultures.  Maybe Burger King is a very important part of life in his country.  

The California Repubic fellow ended his speech, and was followed by The King of Uberstadt, a kingdom located on an island in the Pacific Northwest.  He began telling the story of how he got the idea to form a country, his inspirations, etc.  

And then, Nadia.

I should preface this by saying that it was Nadia's naptime, and I had no business taking her to a meeting of foreign dignitaries.  I fed her a large lunch, hoping that the food would make her content and a bit logey, but it didn't.  Unfortunately, she is conditioned to sleep about a half hour after lunch.  It is our routine, every single day.  Lunch, play for a little bit, nap.  It's Pavlovian.

First, Nadia was fascinated by the cameramen.  (There were cameramen.  Documentary makers, maybe?  Not sure.)  She kept pointing to the cameras, wanting me to take her to them.  I refused.  She started yelling.  "Shhh!" I shushed her.  This worked, sort of.

And then she saw it.  The Hat.

If you haven't spent much time with Nadia lately, you may not know this, but Nadia is very into hats lately.  She LOVES them.  She puts them on.  She takes them off again.  She puts them on  you.  She takes them off of you.  She loves hats.  LOVES them.  

Well this one gentleman had a very fancy, colorful hat with feathers in it.  It was very eye-catching and fun.  Nadia wanted that hat.  She kept pointing at it, over and over, saying "that"  "that"  "that", which is her catch-all phrase for "Give it to me".  I tried to distract her with a pamphlet for the Republic of Molossia, which was even less effective than it sounds, if that's possible.  But Nadia simply refused to respect the King of Uberstadt's authority, and continued to mak noise during his speech.

She began crying.  Crying like the saddest little girl in the world.  And I knew my fun was over.  I suppose I could have tried to get the hat for her, but I don't think that would have gone over very well.  Besides, the meeting was very quiet and serious, and not really a place for a child Nadia's age.  I was extremely disappointed.    

I will probably never get the opportunity to attend another Microcon again.  I am sad.

Concluding Thoughts - 

I know that to most people, these folks are crazy.  Deserving of contempt even.  They are jokes.  But I actually rather respect them, and here's why you should too!

It takes a very special and awesome kind of person to decide to form a brand new country.  There are certain personailty traits one must have to take this kind of action.

1) Confidence
You must have confidence in yourself and your own abilities in order to say "You know, I think I could run my own country!"  Some people might call it over-confidence, or even arrogance, but those are the kinds of people who lack confidence themselves, and who feel threatened by people who aren't crippled by self-doubt.

2) A Can-Do-Attitude!
To start your own country, you have to be the sort of person who is willing to roll up your sleeves and solve problems yourself.  You don't wait for politicians in Washington to solve your problems for you, or for lobbyists to help your cause - you just do it!  Yourself!

3) Imagination
People who start their own countries are not bound by the conventions of the societies into which they are born.  They have the creativity and imagination to see that the world could be different.  They have an idea in their minds of what they want the world to be, and they do their damndest to make it happen!  

4) Independence
If you form your own country, you open yourself up to ridicule and scorn.  They know this.  They have no illusions about how they are perceived by others - but adhering to their principles and ideals is more important to them than acceptance in mainstream society.  We can debate whether this is actually a posititve trait or not - after all, it is important to work and play well with others, as humans are social animals - but I think we can all agree that a certain amount of independence is desirable in most people.

Are these countries doomed?  Probably.  Are they taken seriously by "real" countries?  No.  Are they making any real difference in the world? Meh, debatable.  But I still think there is something admirable about microcountries and the people who found them.  These are people who were, for whatever reason, unhappy with the way things were in their natal countries, and so, rather than whine about how awful things are, they simply said "Fuck it.  I'm gonna start my own country.  And everything's gonna be done exactly how I want it done.  I am the captain of my soul, I am the master of my fate!"  Is it the most effective solution?  Probably not.  But dammit, they do it anyway.  And I like that about them.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Teaching Kids to Share

It's extremely common for children's programs to tackle the "sharing" issue.  And with good reason!  Generosity is one of the most important characteristics a person can have.  I would be extremely disappointed if Nadia turned out to be a miserly person who refused to help others in need.  Helping others who need help is, in my opinion, like 85% of what it is to be a good person.  


The way in which these children's programs tackle the subject leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

The show or book will start off with two characters.  We'll call them Ben and Jerry.

Ben has a really cool toy.  He's playing with it by himself.  Jerry comes up to Ben and says he wants to play with it.  Ben says no, because it's his toy, etc.  Jerry whines.  A teacher or other well meaning adult intervenes and makes Ben share the toy with Jerry.  Together, Ben and Jerry learn that it's much more fun to share the toy than it is to play with it by oneself.  The end.  

Ok.  So Ben has learned that sharing is a good thing to do, and that it can even be fun.  Great!  I fully support this message.

But what has Jerry learned?

Jerry has learned that if he wants something that someone else has, he is entitled to it, or at least to a portion of it.  If Jerry lacks a cool toy, then it is Ben's responsibility to share his cool toy with Jerry.  Jerry is never encouraged to find his own toy.  Jerry is never told that he should wait until Ben is done playing with the toy, and then play with it.  It is always Ben who forced to share, whether he wants to or not.  

Also, it is never, ever discussed that Ben might have a good reason for not wanting to share with Jerry. Maybe that toy was given to Ben by his dead grandmother, and it is special to him, and he wants to make sure it doesn't get broken.  Maybe Jerry is a gross kid who wipes his boogers all over toys.  Maybe Ben simply doesn't like Jerry and doesn't want to play with him.  

I know that I'm moving into morally fuzzy territory here.  After all, it's mean for Ben to exclude Jerry from his game, isn't it?  Shouldn't all kids get along and be nice to each other and like each other?  Yes, in an ideal world.  But in reality, some kids are not very likeable, just like how some adults are not very likeable.  It's never ok to be cruel to someone we don't like.  Children need to know that it's NEVER ok to be mean to another person.  We have to control ourselves and make an honest effort to be kind, even to mean, gross people.  But it doesn't follow that we have to spend our free time socializing with people we don't like.  

I am terrified of the day that some evil little asshole is mean to Nadia.  Of course, I hope that it will never happen, that she will be universally loved by everyone she meets, and that she will never lack for awesome toys to play with, and that her entire life will be nothing but sunshine and rainbows.  But that might be a tad unrealistic.  Someday, there might be a little tyrant on the playground, who has the most awesome of all possible toys, and maybe Nadia will ask to share it.  I hope that the little tyrant says yes, and allows Nadia to play with her.  But if the tyrant refuses, I hope that Nadia maintains her dignity, refuses to whine to a teacher, and finds new friends and makes her own fun.