Houston, we are go for liftoff!
August 2, 2014 5:11 AM   Subscribe

Previously, on Metafilter, we met Jeff Highsmith, who designed and built a pseudo Apollo Mission Control panel play desk for his son. He's done it again, with a "spacecraft" for his other son.
posted by pjern (20 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Spectacular. I want one for my room!
posted by sevenyearlurk at 6:16 AM on August 2, 2014

He's a piker. I want the control panel for the Death Star Planet Killer!
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 6:32 AM on August 2, 2014

Today in "You Are An Inadequate Parent"...
posted by fungible at 6:34 AM on August 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

I want the control panel for the Death Star Planet Killer!

Here ya go.
posted by localroger at 6:47 AM on August 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

My dad just took me fishing a few times.....
posted by easily confused at 6:57 AM on August 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

What a great guy.

But is it wrong that I read bits like "....this will be great for hands-on activities and building their communication skills", and can't help flashing forward ten years to them smoking a joint in there while listening to death metal/gangster rap?
posted by colie at 8:25 AM on August 2, 2014 [4 favorites]

Yes, it is wrong.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:35 AM on August 2, 2014

Actually there are probably astronauts up there smoking joints and listening to metal these days anyway. Didn't they play golf on the moon in the 70s, or was that in The Simpsons?
posted by colie at 8:51 AM on August 2, 2014

To handle oxygen and hydrogen related monitoring and control, I designed the Cryogenics panel. Both O2 and H2 require “stirring” within their tanks to get accurate pressure and quantity measurements. When Mission Control instructed the crew of Apollo 13 to stir their cryo tanks, faulty wiring on the fan in the O2 tank sparked and caused the explosion that started the emergency. The “O2 Fan” switch on my spaceship’s control panel does something similar, playing a bit of fan noise, then the sound of an explosion (which the bass shaker really helps to convey), followed by the O2 pressure and quantity meters dropping into the red. As with the actual mission, loss of oxygen causes a fuel cell failure (fuel cells generate electricity), and my status panel displays “Main B Bus Undervolt,” and the audio from the infamous radio call plays, “Houston, we’ve had a problem. We’ve had a Main Bus B Underplot.”
I wish he would have put a little more thought into it...
posted by mazola at 8:58 AM on August 2, 2014 [4 favorites]

On the one hand, bravo.

On the other hand, you could get your kids the most amazing play thing ever and your best odds are maybe 50-50 that they won't be bored of it in a month and never use it again.

On the third hand, fuck this guy. I'm a perfectly loving attentive parent even if I can't seem to get the kids to swimming lessons on time or make it through a "game" of Candyland. It makes me happy to think this is some nerd's vanity project and his kids would rather he go throw rocks in the lake with them.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 9:39 AM on August 2, 2014 [5 favorites]

Man, that's harsh, but the whole thing does remind me a bit of the expression 'when you set a trap, leave some room for the mouse.'
posted by colie at 9:49 AM on August 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Slarty, doing a rant about a neat project someone else did doesn't really make you come off well.
posted by happyroach at 12:40 PM on August 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

I still dream of covered switches. (>_<)
posted by xtian at 2:19 PM on August 2, 2014

In the previous thread: Nanukthedog predicts this one.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 3:00 PM on August 2, 2014

Slarty, doing a rant

Well, it's hardly a rant, but I don't give a fuck how I come off.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 4:14 PM on August 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

Look, if his kids don't want to play with it, I will.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:06 PM on August 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

I dunno, parent does something for their kid that--presumably--their kid would like. That's good, right?

There is no difference between that being reading a bedtime story or building them an actual spaceship that launches them into space (something most parents of my acquaintance would happily do, sometimes).

Love your kids. Do what you can do within your financial and creative means to make them happy. That's all you gotta do. Doesn't matter that someone else has more money and/or creativity; are your kids happy and healthy? That's what matters.

Some kids would kill for someone to read them a bedtime story, FFS. It's not an arms race or a competition. People provide for their kids as best they can. There's no--or should be no--judgement, whether in- or externally imposed.

Point being, Slartybartfast, are you making your kids happy and healthy? Having read you here for years, I cannot believe otherwise. In fact, I can only believe that you are raising your kids to be happy and healthy and smart adults. You're doing nothing wrong, you're not failing at all. YMMV but when it comes to child rearing I really think that comparing yourself to others is a fool's game; if you're turning babies into humans you're doing the right thing--and it doesn't matter one goddamn bit if that means building a spaceship desk or making sure there's food on the plates and roofs over heads and supportive intelligent adults around. And on the last point, again from reading your comments for years, you have that shit covered and then some.

I don't have kids. Hopefully I will someday. So feel absolutely free to take that opinion with a grain of salt or discount it entirely; I don't have your experience and you know more than I do.

But I was a kid once, as we all were, and I would have given up internal organs for a parent that actually gave a fuck. You obviously give every fuck there is, so your kids are in good hands. They don't need a space desk. They need you.

Sorry for rambling. I just hate seeing someone who, from what they present here, is obviously an involved and caring parent thinking they're not so good because someone else does something. Caring and attention and understanding and love are what kids need, and I for one have no doubt that your kids are getting that in abundance.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:25 PM on August 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

There probably are some parents who do things* for their kids, gritting their teeth the whole time, hating the process, but no matter how objectively "nice" these activities might be I suspect that the kids don't get much out of them. So whether it's throwing a ball, fishing, reading, making cool projects it has to be partly about the adult enjoying the process. If this guy is doing this to avoid interacting with his children, then it's all about him and selfish (I don't get this vibe from him, but the video doesn't really give you enough info to tell for certain). If it's an activity that he finds interesting and enjoyable that the kids also like and get benefit from and they all get to share, then it's great! Not necessarily better than something less expensive (all that kit must add up), complicated and wonderfully over the top, but then so what?

It's impossible to predict up front who will get exactly what out of which activity, but as your kids grow up and go off to college and into the wider world you see things that must have been shaped, encouraged or enhanced by the activities you shared with them. I was one of the readers: nightly from the earliest age pretty much until they went off to college -- literally thousands of hours of reading to them -- and it shows, both in their relationship to poetry and literature and in our bond. But I could only sustain it because I was also enjoying it. I wouldn't read things that I didn't like or found boring (at least if they insisted they'd get a little bit of that stuff, but much more of something that I found pleasurable). Luckily there are several lifetimes of the good stuff that we could all agree on.

I don't see it as a competition, and it doesn't seem that Jeff Highsmith does either -- he's just a geeky overachiever maker dad who is sharing something cool he did with/for his kids with us. If you'd prefer to make cupcakes with your kids, tell stories, or go birdwatching, or whatever, then you are doing just as well as he is, and more power to both of you.

*I don't mean necessary but potentially uncongenial things like doing the laundry or going to work so everybody can eat -- everybody gets to do their share of that crap.
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 9:45 PM on August 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

My dad was born too soon to be part of the 'maker' movement, but I bet he would have been if he were my age. He was always building stuff for us: an indoor climbing frame, a car-shaped bed for my brother, eventually bits and pieces of the house my parents live in. When we got old enough he involved us as much as we wanted to be involved. Even if we couldn't operate the machinery ourselves, he'd ask our advice and go over plans and prototype things for us to critique. I have so many happy memories taking things apart to see how they worked, with my dad over my shoulder giving tips and tricks. He made me feel smart, and capable and creative in a very practical way.

It was dad's birthday the other day, and I honestly had the thought, "I don't know what he wants as a gift; the only things I know he likes are things to make his kids happy." And of course I knew that wasn't quite true: actually he brought us up to be happy inhabitants of his world, a world in which the intellect was a playground and the imagination a progenitor of change and creation. But, seriously, the first impulse I have is to share my interests back with him (which is exactly what he wants).

So what I'm trying to say is that I don't think Jeff Highsmith is pursuing a 'vanity project' at the expense of his kids. I've been those kids, and I know that they're growing up just taking it for granted that somebody smart and curious and skilful cares about them more than anything else in the world, and wants them to grow up to be smart and curious and skilful too.

I'm an adult now (after a fashion) and some of my favourite and most treasured times are when I go over to my dad's house and spend an afternoon puttering around with him in his wood shop, making some foolish thing we've got it into our heads to make. And we don't need to be weepy and demonstrative and sentimental, because we both know what it means.

So good for you, Jeff Highsmith. I hope that one day, when your kids grow up, they don't know what to give you for your birthday.
posted by Dreadnought at 9:02 AM on August 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

some of my favourite and most treasured times are when I go over to my dad's house and spend an afternoon puttering around with him in his wood shop,

Yeah my granddad used to make me toys and magic trick props in his shed. Forty years later, the making process and the toys (now gone but they show up in in photos of me beaming aged 4 etc) are among the most vivid things in my brain and I expect I will be thinking of them when I'm nearly breathing my last.

It was dad's birthday the other day, and I honestly had the thought, "I don't know what he wants as a gift; the only things I know he likes are things to make his kids happy."

In my experience these dads like to receive POWER TOOLS!
posted by colie at 9:57 AM on August 3, 2014

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