Hank Green Ruined My Bunny Slippers

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If you’re anything like me, well first off, I’m so, so sorry. But if you’re like me you appreciate sparkling water, especially now that it comes in a plethora of delicious artificial flavors. I’m not a snob, either. I like the LaCroix, the Bubly, StoreBrandica — it’s all delicious.

But, it’s also a bit spendy. It hurts me every time I spend $6.99 for a pack of (8) 12oz cans of water. Yes, they are usually painted in pretty colors, and come with pre-dissolved carbon dioxide and 3 drops of chemical flavoring; but it still feels like I’m paying a lot for something so very simple. (If you add the 10 cents per can for the Michigan deposit, it’s even worse, because I’m nowhere near responsible enough to take my empties back to the store. Seriously, if you’re a Boy Scout troop or a Little League team doing a fundraiser, stop at our house. We have 537 bags of empty cans piled in the back room.)

So anyway, in an attempt to Hackzor The Planet, I bought a Soda Stream machine (The “Source” if it matters, but I think they’re all exactly the same thing, I’m not sure why they have so many models. THEY DO ONE THING.) I figured if I could make my OWN bubbly water, I might be able to find flavors and stick it to man! Actually, I don’t know if a man owns LaCroix and/or Bubly. But saying, “stick it to the person” seems less revolutionary and more pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey. But yeah, I bought a Soda Stream machine and a set of (3) reusable bottles. Because I love the planet. Of course those bottles are made of plastic, so maybe I hate the planet and just want to save money? I dunno, it failed anyway (he foreshadows like a BOSS).

I tried to find “flavor drops” that would make my homemade bubble water taste like something other than salty fizz. (Also why does carbonated water taste salty? There’s no salt… There’s carbonic acid, but why does that taste like salt? Shouldn’t it taste… acid-y? Or carbonic-y?)

So, flavor drops. The only thing I could find was some co-branded thick goo from the Bubly company, which you add a surprisingly large amount of to your freshly carboned water. It’s supposed to be just like the cans you buy at the store, and with the cost of those little bottles of goo, it certainly should taste like Bubly, because it costs just as much. Also, they only come in the lamest of flavors. And I didn’t want Bubly, I wanted something different. And cheaper.

Then I found these Capella brand drops, which come in a crazy variety of flavors. They seem perfect, so I bought a LOT of them. If you go directly to their website (instead of that Amazon affiliate link), they have even more flavors. Some sound better than they taste, and some taste exactly like you’d expect. My favorites are the gummy bear flavor and the Swedish Fish flavor. (I think they’re called something similar to the brand name, but not exactly so they don’t get sued — but that Swedish Fish flavor is pretty gnarly to drink in bubbly water.)

Unfortunately, every flavor adds a sort of “waxy” flavor to the water. Waxy might not be the right word, but they don’t seem to have the same sort of delicious flavor that store-bought cans have. I know they’re artificial, but the store brand flavors seem more “real” somehow.

And that’s when Hank Green ruined my bunny slippers.

I’m a fan of John & Hank Green. That’s no secret. Anyone in Nerdfighteria worth their salt is familiar with the podcast they do together, “Dear Hank & John.” I’m even a $5 Patreon supporter, so I get a *bonus* podcast every time they record an episode. Totally worth the price on the tin. Anyway, during one of the episodes, Hank was talking about how he also enjoys LaCroix-ish things. Like me, he has tried to make his own concoctions from home. (OMG we’re so alike, we should totally be BFFs… just sayin) During one of the episodes, Hank said that he adds some orange juice concentrate to his SodaStreamed tap water. Now don’t get me wrong, I know that fruit juice of any kind is just sugar water, and it’s not, “good for you” in any significant way. But still, it sounded like a pretty great idea.

And so I bought some orange juice concentrate. And I did it with aforethought, y’all. I got pulp-free, because while Fizzy Floaters might be a great band name, chunky bubble water sounds pretty gross. I also bought the kind that comes in a plastic container. Not because I hate the planet (although we established above that maybe I do…), but because I didn’t want the cardboard to get weird and soggy. Anyway, I put the plastic, pulp-free concentrate container in the fridge so that it would be pourable. The next day, along with my cup of coffee, I decided to prepare an all-natural carbonated bottle of slightly orange-y water. Unfortunately, Hank did not specify how much concentrate he adds to how much water — but I thought this was a, “less is more” kind of situation. I didn’t want carbonated orange juice, I wanted carbonated water with a refreshing hint of citrus. So after making a bottle of plain bubble water, I slowly poured a tiny bit of the concentrate into the bottle.

Now, I’m not sure if you know how science works. I thought I did. And Hank is “The Science One” when it comes to the Green brothers. But in some sort of Mark Rober inspired reaction, my innocent bottle of sparkling water turned into a fountain of citrus and shame that makes Mentos and Diet Coke look about as exciting as those weird ash-snake firework things that come in the cheap 4th of July fireworks packs. The explosion that took place on my counter hit the kitchen ceiling. Much like an untethered rocket ship, the bottle of fury fueled by some sort of zero-point energy launched its frothy exhaust into my pouring hand, which shot the mostly full container of concentrate against the side wall of the kitchen. It had enough force behind it that it bounced off the wall, and came back (still about half full) to hit me square in the chest and get further accelerated by the now spinning bottle of fury on the counter.

Further experimentation should be done, because I think the OJ concentrate combine with the freshly carbonated water created some sort of Jesus-level loaves and fish situation. That single 20oz bottle of water somehow left about 5 inches of angry standing water in our entire kitchen. The rest of the orange juice concentrate dumped directly on my slippers and my cup of coffee somehow poured itself *into* one of my slippers during the 7 seconds of chaos.

So yeah. That’s how Hank Green ruined my bunny slippers. And I have no idea if his Molotov Cocktail of Doom actually tastes good, because all of the ingredients were now a permanent part of my kitchen decor.

The moral of the story? Um… I dunno. Stock up on LaCroix when it goes on sale?

The Real Reasons I’m a Creator

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I’m not going to lie, it does feel a little silly when people in my meat-space life find out that while I do have a day job, the vast majority of my energy goes into creative endeavors. Being a YouTuber at 48 years old smacks of midlife crisis, and being a small YouTuber feels somehow even sadder.

This is probably where you’d expect me to get all noble, and say that I’m not creating content for monetary gain. I’m doing it because I want to make the world a better place. I want to share knowledge, and I want to provide skills in order to help other people do good things. A rising tide lifts all ships, and that sorta thing. And that is true, to an extent. But the thing is, I do actually hope to make an income in order to allow me to do all those noble things. The money isn’t really the *reason*, but it has to be a part of the process. I wish it weren’t the case, but it is. Largely because I can’t work full time and also be a creator forever. I’ve been doing it for a year and a half now, and while it’s been manageable — it’s a lot.

I also want to support my family as a creator, because I need to have some flexibility when it comes to mental health. Yes, part of that means I occasionally need a “day off” for mental health (Donna and I are staying in a cabin for 2 nights later this month, which will be the first vacation we’ve had since 2019, and even then it was a single night out for our anniversary). But more than that, I need the flexibility to fail at human-ing from time to time.

My official diagnosis is Severe Inattentive Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder. (the double whammy of “inattentive attention deficit” seems a bit mean, but whatever) And while medicine doesn’t help me very much, the knowledge of the condition has helped me navigate life with severe ADHD a lot better. But while that’s the loudest part of my official diagnosis, I also have an even more insidious diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder. It’s quiet, dark, shameful (not really, but it feels that way), and it rears its ugly head during the worst possible times.

I usually just knuckle under and push through the depression. And while it both rips up my insides while also making me numb, for the most part I just accept it. Too many people are depending on me, so not showing up isn’t an option. Sometimes it’s bad enough that I can’t hide it from those around me, and they know I’m miserable — but they also don’t know how to help. Because they can’t. And if you’ve been following me as a creator, those odd multi-week stretches of really low productivity? Yeah, I’m doing my best to hang on. My dayjob is such that I can manage to keep servers going even if I’m painfully numb, but being creative is mostly not possible. Showering is mostly not possible.

And I realize the irony of wanting to be a full time creator in order to help deal with my mental illness — when I JUST SAID that I could do my dayjob even in a depressive funk. But the thing is, it doesn’t mean I’m able to heal. It just means I push it down enough to move forward. Surviving and living are different, even if the Venn diagram has significant overlap. I need to be able to flake, and still be providing value for others and security for my family. And so that’s why I’m building a library of content. And why I want to continue building that library, and the community of people who care about learning; because if I’m your employee, I’m apt to let you down. But if I can share my insights, knowledge, quirks, silliness, skills, and kindness with you? Perhaps that value isn’t tied to how many hours a day I work.

I do believe my work provides value. Some days I think that value is more or less than other days (depression, you see, is a crafty liar). And so I want to be a creator so that I can share all the valuable parts of me. My hope is that when I’ve built up enough of that value into consumable content, if I flake for a week while I stare at the ceiling, I won’t feel like I’m stealing from those people who support me. I want to disconnect my value from the hours I’m present, because I’m built in an unreliable way.

Anyway. Maybe it’s a midlife crisis. If it is, that means I’ll live to be like… 96 years old, which would be AWESOME. But whatever it is that convinced me creation was my path from here, I’m grateful. It’s scary, and uncertain — but it means I get to share the parts of me that I think others might find valuable. And every time you find value in something I’ve created, you punch my depression in the junk. Because it tries to tell me I’m a burden and provide negative value to those around me. And that is a lie. A lie which calls for a junk-punch.

So if you’re reading this, thank you for punching my depression in the junk. He’s a total douchecanoe, and deserved it.

RedHat: Rocky Times with its Alma Mater

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Intellectually, I understand the importance of Open Source licenses. The nuances of GPLv2 and GPLv3 can change the entire way a piece of software is used, developed, and shared.

But I don’t really care all that much.

Sure, I lose a lot of “cred” when I dismiss licensing so offhandedly. How can I call myself an Open Source evangelist, or even an enthusiast, if I don’t have thoughts on licensing? Honestly? It’s because I’m not passionate about Open Source Software due to its legal allowances and limitations. Heck, I didn’t even build my career around Linux because of software at all. I’m an Open Source advocate because of people. Period. End of sentence.

Does that make me anti capitalism? Against monetization? A GNU/Linux zealot? Nope. But it also doesn’t me pro-capitalism, entrepreneurial, or a Microsoft fanboi. It basically means I don’t care a whole lot about the non-people-parts of the entire movement, or community, or vertical marketplace. I don’t even really know what a vertical marketplace is, or if I made that up. I love Open Source because it changed my life, and never asked anything in return. And the “it” that changed my life, really means people.

In 1999, when I had my car accident, the aftermath was pretty grim. I’ve told the story countless times, but the headline version is, “Woman in 5th month of pregnancy forced to bus tables in order to support family of 3 as main breadwinner battles against head injury, no longer able to leave the house, much less work.”

When I tell the story, whether on a podcast, to a news reporter, or in the posts on this very blog, I jokingly say that I learned Linux because it was all I could afford. But if I wanted to learn other products, I could have found a way to “get” those software packages. And while I wish I could say it was my pristine moral standards that made me settle on Linux instead of pirating commercial products — that would be a lie. It was because Linux, and by extension Open Source Software, was purposefully designed to give me everything I might need, for free. And then when I needed help, provide that help whether I could afford to pay for it or not.

I could have pirated Microsoft Windows Server, but I couldn’t call Microsoft to ask questions about setting up an Active Directory! Yet, if I wanted to know how to make two Linux machines share user data, I could reach out to folks for help on NIS/ypserv/ypbind, and if I said I was just trying to figure it out, they’d be MORE excited to help me. And perhaps it is the licensing that created that sort of community, but legalese doesn’t garner my gratitude and respect. Kindness does. Kind people do. And that’s why for the past several decades, I’ve built my career around Open Source Software.

RedHat recently made news by deftly tiptoeing through the GPL (I don’t even know or care what version), and legally restricting people from taking their source code and compiling clones of their commercial, flagship version of Linux. Their rationale is that groups like Rocky Linux and Alma Linux were simply taking RedHat’s hard work, repackaging it, and giving it away free. Which… is true. For many Linux users, that’s simply what Open Source meant. RedHat took the work of others and created their commercial product, but since they used other people’s work, they had to release their work as well. In fact, RedHat has been one of the few companies to make incredible amounts of money selling a product that companies could get for free. Their support, both in making the distro and in integrating after the fact meant they could add value beyond their code itself.

But it seems they weren’t making the amount of money they thought they should be making, and so using legally-allowable restrictions, have stopped the proliferation of clones. Some giants in the community think they’ve violated at the very least the spirit of Open Source. Others (several of whom I respect) have taken a more corporate-sided stance on the issue.

Me? It just makes me sad. And before anyone responds with, “If it weren’t for corporate money, Linux and the Open Source community wouldn’t even exist!” — I’m not sad about RedHat protecting their financial interests. I’m sad because the kindness of Open Source has been tossed out in order to… make it successful? Have Rocky and/or Alma been taking advantage of RedHat? I have no idea. Really. But it was the community of people working together in order to make sure everyone could play that takes a hit.

I can already hear the response that RedHat allows people to use their commercial product for up to 16 servers without paying for a license! And yep, that’s true. But the joy of Open Source used to be not worrying about licenses in order to participate in the global, shared experience of working together. I didn’t fall in love with Shareware, I fell in love with freedom.

Our community has been built around people contributing in whatever ways they can, and at times, by only participating. I’ve never contributed code to any project, but I’ve written and edited for Linux Journal. I’ve never done a pull request on a kernel module, but I have spent the bulk of my career teaching people how to use Open Source to make the world a better place, one person at a time.

My contributions to Open Source, and the world in general, doesn’t have a clear business plan. While I’ve been paid for many of the things I’ve taught and created, monetization has never been the reason. If making money motivated me more, perhaps I’d have more of it, and my voice would be heard in more places. But a rationale isn’t the same as a motivation. My YouTube channel is monetized, and that’s my rationale for investing the time into making videos to help people. But I assure you, I haven’t spent every spare moment this past two years making videos so I could bring in $150/month in YouTube ad revenue. That revenue is nice, but it’s not what keeps me excited. When someone leaves a comment that they finally understand octal notation and sticky bits after watching my video — that is what motivates me.

It’s the people. It always has been.

So am I on RedHat’s side? Am I on Rocky Linux’s side? Not really. I’m on the side of working together to make the world a better place. I’m on the side of kindness for no reason other than a kind world is a world I want to be part of. Maybe RedHat’s contributions have made my particular livelihood possible. Maybe not. But we have different motivations, and gauge success by different metrics. That’s OK. But it still makes me sad.

Better Class of Loser

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A couple days ago, I tweeted about ADHD. I do that kind of often, because I was only recently diagnosed. That doesn’t mean I recently “developed” ADHD, that’s not how it works. It means that a condition I’ve had my whole life was diagnosed after a long (and expensive) battery of tests and interviews.

There are people who think ADHD isn’t really a thing, or that it’s just laziness, addiction, technology-overload, or lack of exercise. But while some or all of those things might be intertwined with ADHD, at the very least it explains why some people are more prone to those eventualities. And while a *cause* for poor behavior and/or performance isn’t an *excuse* for it — having a frame of reference for why a person behaves the way they do is foundational to building the skills required to live a productive and fulfilling life.

No one would suggest a blind person keep getting stronger and stronger glasses, or brighter and brighter lights. That’s silly. But if someone has ADHD, it’s just as silly for them to just “buckle down and focus”, because it’s not willpower they lack, but the executive function to manage tasks in a traditional way. When I referred to myself as “kind of a loser” — it wasn’t me trash talking myself. (I do that sometimes, I know, but this wasn’t that) It was me recognizing that while an ADHD diagnosis is earth-shatteringly beneficial to how I do life, it doesn’t fix 46 years of poor coping overnight.

I’ve had a really good paying job for most of the past 10 years or so. And yet, we’re in massive, almost unsurmountable debt. Realizing that folks with ADHD are often terrible with finances for a multitude of reasons explains some of that, and gives us some insight on how we might effectively change how we do things in the future. But it doesn’t get rid of the debt. That’s sort of what I was getting at with my tweet.

I have a terrible time staying on task when it comes to work. I shine when things go sideways, which makes me very effective during disastrous situations — but I struggle horribly on a normal day. Knowing that I have ADHD helps me realize that I’m not a garbage human being, but it doesn’t automatically train me to deal with my shortcomings. That will take time, and it won’t be easy or quick. And even when I do develop tools and strategies to rely on my strengths while protecting my weaknesses, I’ll still fail. Maybe just not as often. Eventually.

So while I’ve managed to get some really great jobs, I’ve also managed to make some really terrible choices. Now I see those choices for what they were — poor choices, but also uninformed poor choices. As I learn to drive this crazy non-typical brain properly, hopefully my future choices will be a little less destructive.

It’s amazing the amount of success I’ve had in my life. And I like many aspects of who I am. But undoing 46 years of collateral damage and unlearning a lifetime of dysfunctional coping strategies is a lot. So I tend to shout at the clouds a bit, like in the tweet above.

My catch phrase is directed at myself at least as much as it’s meant for others. Learn everything, do what you love, and most importantly, be kind. That last part includes being kind to yourself.

The Scholastic Book Fair

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I ran across a tweet someone had screenshotted and shared on Facebook recently, and is often my practice, I looked it up so I could give proper attribution to the original author. It turns out the tweet was from 2019, but it’s one of those tweets that only improves as it ages, proving its worthiness by how true it remains.

Now, I don’t actually believe in magic, per se. There are unexplainable things, amazing illusionists, and unimaginable technology that we just haven’t invented yet. But actual magic? In a practical sense, no. But there are a few things which come surprisingly close.

Music, and its ability to tie mathematical formulas to human emotion is about as close to magic as I can fathom. Part of it is how truly brilliant, beautiful music is defined by its perfect imperfections. And part of it is how something so mathematically definable is also pure art.

Speaking of art, it’s not just music, but all forms of art that I find absolutely baffling. Like how the human condition can be somehow quantified and expressed in a medium other than life itself. Whether it’s Mona Lisa’s smile, or Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” (often credited to Van Gogh, but that’s another story altogether) — art somehow defines the part of humanity that is more than flesh and bone.

And books. Books are basically the distilled bits of an author’s soul, inked into paper, as an indelible snapshot of that author in the moment. And books, possibly more than other artforms (for me at least), have the uncanny ability to transport the reader to another place. Another time. Another life. And I don’t just mean fiction or literature — even non-fiction, or technical books can let the reader live inside another human’s mind, even if only for a single train of thought. And that is why this Tweet resonated with me so deeply.

Like I referenced in my re-tweet, I grew up a poor kid. We survived on welfare, living in inner-city Detroit. Somehow, my mom not only got me accepted into a private school in Dearborn, but also managed to drive me there every day. There’s no way she could afford the tuition, and I don’t really know how she managed the gas money to drive the 30 minutes every morning and afternoon. But she did, and I’ll be forever grateful for the sacrifices she had to make in order to make it happen.

But we certainly did not have money for the Scholastic Book Fair books when those colorful flyers were sent home. I’ve seen them as an adult, and for a nerdy little kid who escaped into books; there just couldn’t be much more powerful marketing. But it didn’t matter, because buying books for entertainment just wasn’t feasible. That was OK, because I’d often walk myself to the library and check out books (which is how I got the love for them in the first place). Still, it didn’t make the lack of book on Scholastic Book Fair day any less painful.

I also mentioned in the tweet that due to a head injury, a car accident in 1999 specifically, I don’t remember my childhood. I don’t remember much of anything before March of ’99, to be completely honest, except for a few faint flashes of memory that my brain may or may not have recreated as a memory based on something someone told me. (Memory is a funny thing) But there are some things that managed to stick in my Swiss cheese brain, and my 2nd grade book fair experience is one of them.

Ms. Sanzo, whose first name I likely never knew, was my teacher. Somehow she knew I was a big Smurfs fan, and managed to quietly purchase some Smurf-themed book that was in the flyer that year. I don’t remember the book. I don’t actually remember Ms. Sanzo, apart from a vague mental image of an older woman who took surprisingly little crap from unruly youngsters. But I remember that she gave me the book, somehow relaying that it was really mine, and that she’d taken care of the payment. And the part I remember most is that she did it quietly. I was a poor kid in a private school. That was partially masked thanks to school uniforms, but the vast majority of students in my class were from wealthy families. Being outed as the “welfare case” would have been painful, and somehow she stopped that from happening.

Ms. Sanzo: If you’re still with us, it’s very unlikely you remember the poor, nerdy, bespectacled 2nd grader for whom you purchased a Smurf book. But your kindness, not only in deed, but in method, impacted my life so deeply that it’s one of the few memories I have of my childhood. Your act of love resonated in my life for decades, and forever changed who I became. And continues to play a role in who I strive to be.

Books are one of the closest things to magic that I can imagine. And much like a magic wand is little more than a conduit for magic itself — a book can be a conduit for kindness and generosity, assuming it’s wielded by a strong enough magician.

If you can help a child get a book, I encourage you to do so. You might just change the whole world. Or, just one small life. Either would be magical.