Tuesday, March 25, 2008

A better daddy

So tonight I asked McKinley what I could do to be a better daddy.
"Um, get a new face, new hair, new eyebrows, some new pants... and a new shirt!"

Uh, "how would I get a new face?"

"Maybe smile, and paint on some eyelashes."

I'm still not really sure what she was getting at, but she sure is a sweet kid. Don't I smile enough?

A couple weeks back a co-worker said something like this: "You know, people with kids are at a different level in my book -- they've been tested, you know? They've been in situations where things are just totally and completely out of control, and that does something to a person."

I don't think he was saying that people without kids couldn't do as well or better, it's just that they haven't yet. Sort of like if you're going on a hike, and you have two boy scouts in front of you, one who's hiked the Grand Canyon and the other who hasn't -- it's not that one is necessarily a better hiker than the other, but you at least have a data point on the first.

Raising kids is totally different from everything else in that you can't just give up with them. For example, you can't just say, "I don't care that you're in the street, I'm done with you today!" You have these little incomplete brains connected to these high-energy devices that you are entirely responsible for, but don't have total control over.

For example, when Kyla and I walked in from outside this afternoon, the girls were all huddled around a cutting board with one of the Ginsu knives*, chopping up a squash. Apparently Kendy had managed to get one that was up on the counter (she's only 1!). Kinney later discovered she had sliced open her finger. Then later, I went to climb out of the shower and discovered that my towel was... crunchy. I'm pretty sure one of my kids sprayed it with hairspray.

What all this means is that parents quickly learn how long their fuse is, and how big the "package" is at the end of that fuse. Happily the reset-fuses seem to grow a little longer each time around, which I guess is part of the growing process the Lord has in mind for us.**

Still, it can be a little nerve-racking sometimes.
* For the record, we did not get them off an infomercial! We got 'em here.

Friday, March 21, 2008

OpenDNS: A safer internet

I spend a fair amount of time on the internet, probably associated with my N.A.D.D. -- which pretty much means that I'm hooked on the "content firehose" that is the internet. I'm amassing knowledge (and not wisdom) at an unhealthy rate, and I know it -- who cares that the world's longest ear-hair is 10 inches?

Anyway, it shouldn't take anyone long to discover that the internet's a fairly dangerous place in more ways than one -- ask me sometime about the first hit I got on a Yahoo! image search for "family" a few weeks back (with SafeSearch supposedly on!). If you're part of the internet generation reading this, you probably won't be surprised.

Of course there are lots of internet filter options, but so far it's been pretty hit and miss. Mostly it's software that's installed that you have to buy or subscribe to (or both!). Who wants to do that? Besides all the options on the Mac get mediocre to poor reviews.

Enter OpenDNS, a simple free service that takes care of most of the problem for you.

Here's the lowdown:
  • Content filters sit on your local machine watching the incoming traffic for keywords that meet a certain criteria, and if it finds them, it refuses to pass the data along to your browser.
  • DNS filter services (DNS = domain name server), on the other hand, replace your ISPs default DNS with their own servers, which keep track of which sites are okay and which are not -- if your computer requests a site that is objectionable, the DNS server points your browser to their "safe" server instead.
How does this work? The internet is just a bunch of computers connected together, passing files around. When you type in "cnn.com", your browser asks your OS to lookup the IP address of cnn.com, and your OS asks the DNS (domain name server). That's where the DNS filter service steps in, mis-directing your browser (in a good way) to their own safe servers.

OpenDNS* is a free DNS service that does this. You can block dozens of different types of categories, add white-list items (sites that will never be blocked), and keep logs of blocked requests if you like. To use it, just type their DNS server addresses into your DNS server fields in your router configuration window or in your network setup (you may need help with this part, if you don't know what this means).

How do they make money? By putting ads on the blocked or mis-entered pages -- so if you type "foxnewsss.com", you get a google search results page with ads that pay them if you click on them. I'm totally fine with that.

One of my favorite parts about this is that you can set the DNS servers on your router, so all computers in your house are protected, and it's pretty tricky to sidestep. Also, there are a ton of users already, but if you run across something that made it through, you can submit pages to the service for review.

Granted it won't catch everything (including my Yahoo! example above, unless I want to block all of Yahoo!), but it goes a long way in the right direction.

* Scrubit.com is a similar service that I used to use, but it doesn't allow all the fancy customizations.

Does anyone read this thing?

views since Feb. 9, 2008