Guest Blog by my amazing wife.

  Seeing should equate to believing, or at least that is what common sense would lead you to think.  But in an age where there is a greater ability to photographically document more of our world and what happens in it than any other time in history, almost the opposite is in fact true.  Seeing isn’t necessarily believing and critical thinking and skepticism should almost always play a role.  Ever heard of Photoshop?  Case in point…..I am a habitual oversharer of my children on social media and I cannot remember the last time I posted a daily photo of my children that I hadn’t digitally altered. Now granted, my transgressions are minor…..a little brightness here, a little more color contrast there.  But a photo taken out of the context in which it was taken and posted for my friends and family is a different experience for them than it was for me in the moment.  So why do I take the time and effort to post them at all?  Well that is a whole different story altogether. My children are what are affectionately known as Military brats. They are the children of an active duty Army officer and do not know the stability of a more ‘normal’ existence.  In his third year of life, my son has already lived in three different states.  My daughter had lived in two states by the age of 7 months. We already have family conversations of our other houses and other cars and other things we used to do in those places.  So posting pictures of my children in their every day activities accomplishes three very different missions.  For them, it is effectively their baby book that gives them some roots.  They will be able to look back and see where they’ve been, what they’ve done, who they’ve known and those photos will trigger memories that they may have not otherwise remembered.  And being able to look back and see the kind of life you have had makes being unmoored to one place less…scary. Almost as important, the photos allow their extended family (i.e. Nanas and Bopbops) who are scattered around the world the ability to feel part of their lives.  They get to see them grow on a daily basis and not just the once a year they may see them in person. They get to follow their triumphs and challenges, and these shared experiences give them not only something to talk about, but ways to build bonds. What could possibly be more important as a parent of gypsy children than a way to build consistency and connections with people?  And last but certainly not least, I often refer to my friends and family on social media as my online village, and the fact that they are actively and enthusiastically engaged in my children’s lives brings me endless joy.  Seeing and believing is in the eye of the beholder, and in this case the same photo of my children will 1) create memories for them, 2) cultivate bonds with people around the world who love them and 3) allow me to be part of a supportive and encouraging community.  No matter what context you look at that in, it’s a win! 

How my “ ways of seeing” has changed during this course.

I have always been a critical person. I will never just accept something simply because other people believe it is true. I do not assume whatever is shown on the daily news is reality. Everybody who shares information has an agenda. Information is rarely used in a purely selfless way. I am not paranoia. I just have a healthy dose of skepticism. I attribute this perspective to several aspects that influenced my life. I could be because I grew up during a time where modern technology had not yet completely taken over our lives. Information was not readily available to me through the Internet, Facebook, Twitter, or other social media. When I wanted to know something, learn about what happened in the world, I had to actively go and find it. The information did not come to me. I had to go towards the information. I have lived in several different places, and experienced influences of various cultures. This allows me to see the world from a fluid perspective instead of a fixed one. This course, basically enhanced my believe that this is not a bad way to see the world around me. However, it is not something that just happens. This course has also shown me that I have to be continues aware of the power social media, mechanical reproduction, and virtual reality have in our lives. It is impossible to change how important seeing has become in and for our society. We are an ocularcentric group of people, that, according to me will not change any time soon. This, however, does not mean that we should be taken advantage of just because we learn, believe through what we see. For me personally, I think I am good. The bigger concern, for me, are my children. How am I going to transform them in critical individual thinkers? This will not be easy. It is basically a fight of two parents against the social-media-fake-news-world. I just hope they will understand that seeing is should not equal believing. That images can be manipulated through mechanical reproducing these images. That face value, is not the only way to analyses something. I know it will be difficult, because visual technology will be such a big part of their lives. However, I am ready to do battle, only because I will never allow my children to become brainless geniuses, who are smart because they believe what is presented to then by the institutions who rule the world.

Django Unchained, but not Really

This movie shows the othering of a person who is already being othered. In the United States, during the slave period, African Americans were seen as less. They were considered biological inferior. This creates clear group boundaries between, on the one hand, whites, who were free citizens with full access to the benefits that came with that citizenship. On the other hand, there were the blacks, who were slaves, and had no legal benefits whatsoever. When Django is freed, he falls somewhere in between those two groups. He is no longer a slave, but he is not a white American either. For the white group, he is still considered inferior, and for the black group, he is considered a traitor. This situation must have been very difficult. I believe being othered while not belonging to a specific social group, leaves one without support. The movie, for me clearly presents how horrible that time must have been for African Americans. It also shows that there is basically no escaping from. Even tough Django was a freed slave. He was neither really free, nor a slave anymore. This indicates that othering is such a powerful social construction. Groups are established not on certain traits or a person’s status. No group boundaries are established by the members of the group. They decided who is in and who is out. This is so clearly visible in the United States of today too. I guaranteed you; the moment non-whites become the majority in the States. The white dominant group will change the qualifications needed to be part of the dominant white group. There will be only two groups left in the United States, whites, and blacks. Everybody who does not belong to those groups will be incorporated in the white group. Asians, Hispanic, etc. will be accepted to the white groups, so that this group can remain the dominate groups with a clear majority of numbers.

Object Permanence

Object permanence is the understanding that objects continue to exist even when they cannot be observed. This is one of the most remarkable developmental stages a child goes through. This is also, in my opinion, one of the most breathtaking changes a parent can see in his children. Why do you think peek-a-boo is such a fun game for babies?  A baby really thinks you are gone when you hide your face behind your hands. In their mind, what they cannot see, does not exist anymore. This is such an amazing concept. Their brain is not yet developed enough to understand that an object does not stops existing when it is out of sight. We, as adults, know when something is extracted out of our view, it still exists. We just cannot see it anymore. Not for babies though, what cannot be seen, is gone forever. Even when they see you hiding it. You can put their favorite toy under a blanket, right before their noises, they still will think it has disappeared forever. I always wondered though, where do babies think, objects go that they cannot see anymore? For instance, when my daughter is sitting on the table eating and her plastic fork falls down on the ground, out of her sight. Does she assume; “well, the universe now swallowed my spoon, and it is just gone?” Or did she just forget it ever existed?  My daughter who is now 16months is entering the last stage of this developmental stage. She is at the point that when you put her toy under a blanket, she knows it is not gone. She has to see you doing it though. When her spoon falls down to the ground she understands it is not gone. She loves that concept, by the way. She thinks it is so funny to drop things on the ground, so mammy or daddy can pick it up. For her, it must be something like, “oh look at that, it magically appeared again.”  Soon she will enter in the last stage and be fully aware that out of sight is not out of existence. Her brain will become developed to the point it can retain an image that is not visible anymore. This will be a better sweet day, because it means the end for peek-a-boo. When I think of this development, it always amazes me how special a human brain is and how for granted we take some concepts. Imagine, this development stage is skipped. Life would be very difficult. On the other hand, maybe it would be a lot easier.

Spooky Eyes

Yesterday, my son came running into our room after he went to the toilet, screaming that he had seen something spooky. Apparently, there were two eyes that watched him. Because he seemed really upset, I decided to investigate that set of eyes. When I walked up to the toilet, there was indeed something that resembled a set of eyes, staring at us from the dark toilet. After entering the toilet, with my son following close behind me and holding on to my legs, I turned on the light. Those eyes, were actually two shiny silver closet doorknobs. After I pointed that out to my son, I expected that he would calm down. After all, he would see, that what he had seen was not spooky. This was not the case. He still was convinced that he saw a set of spooky eyes. After I asked him what I could do to get the spooky eyes away. He told me to close the door, and that would resolve the issue. I thought that was pretty interesting. After I showed him evidence, that what he had seen was not a set of spooky eyes but just doorknobs, I assumed he would understand. Nope, he truly believed that what he had seen was true. He had seen a set of eyes watching at him, so there was a set of eyes watching at him. Case closed. The only way to solve the problem was to close the door, so he could not see the eyes anymore. He does not yet understand that not everything you see, is actually there. Nonetheless, for him out of sight was out of mind. I asked him why closing the door stopped making him scared. In his little three-year-old brain, what he cannot see, cannot scare him. He did not matter if it was still there. The only thing that was important for him, was that he could no longer see those eyes. Or maybe, his intention was no longer to allow those eyes to watch at him. Indeed, seeing is believing, for him what he can see is reality. What he cannot see, cannot hurt or scare him. Interesting little creatures those kids of today. 

Do you know what your kids are watching on You Tube?

As a parent, I try to limit my kids’ exposure to violence, foul language and other child unfriendly images on TV and in their daily lives. This means no watching UFC, violent movies, or Tosh O. Because, in my opinion, these are things a child should not see.  While I think, I am pretty successful, I have to admit that I dropped the ball. My oldest boy loves watching YouTube clips on my phone. He started watching fire trucks, police cars and cartoons. I always make sure he is watching appropriate material. Recently, however, I was sitting next to him, and I noticed that he was watching a clip featuring people dressed as Elsa and Spider-Man. At first glance, that seemed okay. When I watched closer, I noticed that Spider-Man was groping Elsa. I took my phone and looked at what my son was watching, and my faith in humanity received a big hit. Clip after clip Spider-Man and Elsa were doing sadistic, violent, and pornographic things to each other. Rape, abortions, child abuse, all kinds of pornographic fetishes, it was all covered. The worst part was that these clips received thousands and thousands of views. I am sure many of them were children. It is pure click bait for them. My kid loves Spider-Man, so when he sees a clip with Spider-Man, he wants to watch it. I know it is my duty as a parent to protect my kids from this kind of garbage, and I know I dropped the ball. However, the sick individuals who are posting these clips and making money of them are partly to blame too.  This is my message to them. I am not blaming you personally. That would be the same as blaming a person for having cancer. Sometimes there is not much you can do when getting sick, and sick they are. Nobody wants to get sick, but some people do get sick. The people who are posting these sorts of clips on You Tube are mentally really messed up and need professional help. How else can you explain this behavior? Maybe they have unresolved issues stemming from their childhood, maybe they were not loved enough, whatever it is I beg you, get help. Clearly, something is wrong with you. Instead of trying to mess up other kids, take responsibility, stop polluting our society and get better.

You Really Need To See This, or You Will Not Believe it.

Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder just made his 40the triple-double. For the non-basketball people, that is 10 or more points scored, 10 or more rebounds, and 10 or more assists during a game. The record holder, for now is, Oscar Robertson with 41 triple-doubles in a single season. Before you say,” so what,” let me explain how hard it is to get a triple double, let alone get 40. The scoring part is probably the easiest. Any NBA superstar can score 10 or more points during a game. The rebound part is a bit harder. Besides a great offensive player, to rebound the ball, you need a defensive mind too. You have to be able to read the trajectory of the ball. Otherwise, you have no idea where the ball will end up after somebody misses a basket. The assist part is the hardest. For this part, you are depending on your teammates. Yes, you can make sure he is wide open, so he can take a non-contested shot. But he still has to make that shot, because at that level, there are no easy baskets. Combining these three elements, is almost impossible, only a handful of players is able to do that. Russell already did these 40 times. There are still six games to play in the regular season. This means he has six changes, to tie, or hopefully break the record. A record, by the way, obtained during the 1961-1962 season. Is there a good chance he will break the record? I believe so. Do I have to see it before I believe it? I am afraid so.  History is in the making. However, so much can still go wrong, I hope not, but noting is guaranteed these days. To make Westbrook’s season even more special, he will only be the second player in NBA history to average a triple double for a whole season. The next game is tomorrow, at home in Oklahoma City. Watch the game to witness history, and if you do not care about history, just watch the game. He truly is having a season unlike any other ever seen. It is just a joy to see him play and compete. He is a true warrior, a gladiator.

Beauty in the eye……..

What if the adage “Beauty lays in the eye of the beholder” should be taken literally? What if, what we think is beautiful, is not just because of different perceptions, interpretations, or tastes. It is not only beauty of course.  What if the differences in what we see can be contributed to our eyes and not our brain.  Image that we experience all these differences only because we see them in a different way. What if our eyes determine what we think is beautiful, and not our brain? Lately there has been some breakthrough about the fact that colors actually can be seen differently through a different set of eyes. I understand that how red, a red is, depends on emotional, and psychological factors. What if there is a biological factor too? I still remember when my wife, and I were picking paint colors to paint our living room. You know the drill. You go to the home-improvement store and pick out some color samples. After narrowing the options down from a gazillion different tints of beige to just five, my wife asked me which one I liked the most. To be honest, at that point it lost all interest, and would have gone with whatever color. However, when I looked at all five samples, I only noticed three different shades of beige. I was certain that two of the samples were exactly the same. When I checked the numbers of the samples, to my surprise, they were different. When I told my wife that I could not see the difference between those two samples, she thought I was joking. But I was not, clearly, she could more colors than me. Well maybe not more colors, but definitely more variations of one color. What if that is for all other things too? When my wife tells me, she likes a painting, that I do not like. Maybe, we differ from opinion because we actually see a different painting. And I am not talking the different perception we have of that painting. Because I understand that a different perception can depend upon many factors. I am talking about the physical, biological way of seeing.  Maybe, just like the colors, I actually see it differently. Just a though worth thinking about.

Being Invisible

What would you do if you could become invisible? Just imagine, you discover a way to make yourself completely invisible. What would you do, how would you take advantage from it? It must be an amazing feeling knowing that whatever you do; nobody can see what you are doing. How hard would it be not to take advantage of your unique situation? How difficult would it be not breaking any laws? Just image, one morning you wake up and decide to spend the day invisible for all others. Of course, this is best done somewhere warm, since you have to walk around naked. It is impossible to take your car and just drive off. Imagine the panic that would break out when people see a car on the road without a driver, or any other occupants. So, what do you do, a bus, train, maybe jumping in somebody’s car without them noticing? Anyhow, it would be your first criminal act of the day. Using public transportation without paying, is, even when invisible, against the law. When you arrive at your destination, a museum, for instance, you just walk in, again, breaking a law. At the museum, there is a three-year-old brat, that is being obnoxious and extremely disrespectful against his parents. How temped would you be to scare the living daylight out of that kid? Teach him a lesson he would never forget. I know I would.  It is not against the law, but still, it is probably frowned upon in our modern society. I can keep naming instances were being invisible would give you an advantage. Imagine being able to join meeting where important information is being discussed. You would have access to information that can make you a very rich man. Imagine how much Microsoft would pay you for exclusive information about the latest Apple product. The possibilities are limitless. However, most of them are not exactly legal. From the moment, you realize you can get away with everything you do, even a crime, it will be hard not to try to take advantage of that. I believe the main reason why people do not commit crimes is because of the risk of being caught and what it can cost them in fines, or jail time. When this aspect falls away, well I guess everybody should determine for himself how far he would go. However, deep down, I think most people will have a hard time to stay on the straight and narrow. I am not saying people are inherently evil, but it is a slippery slope, and before you know it…….

PS: I attached a picture of an invisible person.

HEAR ME, HEAR ME

I did it. Can you believe that? This is a truly historic day. I am going to become so famous and rich. I probably will receive multiple prices. I am sure the Nobel prize for chemistry, physics, maybe even the Nobel prize for peace. OMG, I have to make sure this knowledge of gargantuan magnitude is not going to be used for evil purposes. This is definitely something I have to take into consideration. However, let us take one step at the time. I still cannot believe that I am the one making this discovery. I cannot see anybody making a more significant discovery in the next decades. Except, the person who will discover and create a time machine or invent a cure for al diseases and creates eternal life for mankind. I believe those two will rank right up there with my discovery. However, I do not think time travel or eternal life is even close to be discovered. This makes me, for now at least, the most important person who has ever walked the earth. Take that Einstein, and all the other geniuses of the past. Like most incredible discoveries, it happened rather by accident. I should have figured it out earlier though. I noticed it at other times and in other places too. That is why I confidently can say that my discovery can be generalized. It is not just a one-time thing, that depends on where it happens, no, it is timeless and worldwide. I first did not believe it myself, so I tested my hypothesis. All the data that I collected only confirmed my hypothesis. In addition to that, when I was researching others, who were in the same situation, my findings were also confirmed. I am just the person who puts tow and two together. I have not quite yet figured out how it all works. I probably need some scientific help to figure that part out. This does not change the fact that the first step is made in a discovery process that will completely change the world. I am also willing to post it right here in a form of peer review. I invite everybody who can prove that my findings are incorrect to speak up. This is a matter of such proportion that it has to become general knowledge. So here goes; I discovered a way to become invisible. I mean truly invisible, where people are unable to see you. I invite everybody to test this out. It is very easy to do. It requires only a few steps. However, it comes with a warning. Being invisible can be dangerous, one can get hurt. Step one, buy a bicycle, or if you already have one, take it out of the garage. Step two, get outside and take it for a spin. Step three, see how you become invisible to people driving cars, people walking their dogs, or even regular pedestrians. This is also where the warning comes in effect. When drivers are unable to see you, they might come dangerously close to you, or even hit you. When you survive this experiment, which I hope you do, come home and write your findings down. You will see that my discovery is correct. Everybody who rides a bike becomes invisible for all other people who are participating in traffic.