Kids Say the Darnedest Things

Unhelpful Hints and Teasers


It is part of a parent’s duty to engage in good-natured ribbing with your kids.

This is MRB Chapter 12 (Just Because…) and, to a certain extent, Chapter 9 (Education. Yes, really – I think this leads to a certain level of mental gymnastics that is helpful to figuring out other things).

Our kids have sort of embraced it. They’ve started with the puns and sarcasm and ribbing of their own.


At Eldest Progeny’s request, here is her list of Unhelpful Hints for Gift-Giving Occasions (her words; my comments are in italics):

Kid: Mooooom, what did you get me?

Parent: Here’s a hint:

  • Not an elephant.
  • Not a giraffe.
  • Not a house.
  • Not a swimming pool.
  • Not a hippo. (My addition – this is the point where I would probably start singing “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas.)
  • Not a home on Mars.
  • Not a bowling ball (flat presents only).
  • Not extra homework.
  • Not a huge spacecraft headed to the moon as we speak.

Kid: Daaaad, what did you get me?

Parent: Sweetie, I got you nothing but…..

  • socks. (I would start singing that MLP classic Nothing Says Christmas Like a Pair of Socks)
  • pink fluffy unicorns (for boys).
  • shoes (for girls). (She’s young, and doesn’t appreciate the value of a perfect pair of boots under a Christmas tree...)
  • a wolf.


And, that’s what life is like in our house. I’m so proud.


Cogito ergo Sum

It should be no surprise to anyone else with young children that Frozen is popular in our house. Also probably not surprising, is that the kids and I have large swaths of it memorized.

This morning on the way to school, the kids were quoting Olaf.


 Olaf: You built me. Remember that?

Elsa: And you’re alive?

Olaf: Umm…I think so?

The kids thought it was silly that Olaf wasn’t sure if he is alive or not. So I asked the kids how they know for sure that they are alive. I wasn’t expecting Descartes or anything – I was just curious to know what their answer would be.

“I can wiggle!”

Me: So can jello, and it’s not alive.

“I wear tennis shoes.”

Me: Yes, but sometimes you get rocks in your shoes, too, and they’re not alive.

“I can stick out my tongue while wiggling and wearing tennis shoes at the same time. Aaaaah!”


I began to wonder if it would ever occur to a robot to stick out its tongue in an attempt to prove that it is “alive.”

I wish I understood more of Alan Turing’s work. I’ll have to pick up a biography at some point (add it to my ever-growing “To Read” list). It is his work that led to the Turing Test – if a human, through written conversation, can not discriminate the difference between a computer and a human, than the computer can be said to be “intelligent,” or to be “thinking” in a very basic sense. This is the basis for those aggravating CAPTCHAs we see everywhere. (Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart. Really. Awkward acronym, no?)

As I understand it, one of Turing’s ideas for creating artificial intelligence is that rather than create a machine with a complex “mind,” it would be best to create a machine with a simple, child-like mind, and teach it.

I don’t believe that a child’s mind is as simple as he would imagine.

There have been a lot of devices used in the science fiction and fantasy worlds to either illustrate “self-ness” or create sympathy for the automaton. Self-awareness (Short Circuit‘s Johnny Five); curiosity (“Star Trek: the Next Generation’s” Lieutenant Commander Data); hope and discontent (Philip K. Dick); subjective morality (Pinocchio); depression and paranoia (Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy‘s Marvin the Paranoid Android and Star Wars‘ C-3PO); love (A.I.‘s David); being loved (Frosty the Snowman); sarcasm (ask an iPhone’s Siri, “What is the average airspeed of an unladen swallow?”).

My kids are still young, so I hope they can be forgiven this, but they are only familiar with a tiny bit of the sci/fi fantasy multiverse. (I assure you, we’re working on it.) Without any point of reference for proving life v. automation, they came up with silliness.

I am alive, because I know how to have fun.


If people never did silly things nothing intelligent would ever get done. – Ludwig Wittgenstein