TIME Family

My Father Transitioned When I Was a Kid and It Was Nothing Like Transparent

xoJane.com is where women go to be their unabashed selves, and where their unabashed selves are applauded

When I was four years old, my father transitioned. I wish I could’ve watched a TV show show about a family like mine


Suddenly, my childhood is trendy. My childhood won a Golden Globe Award. ABC Family is making a reality show about it. But I really knew that my time had come when the Kardashians got in on the action.

Back when it was still indie, back when prejudice was cooler than tolerance, back when the term “cis gender” didn’t even exist, I had a transgender parent. That gives me street cred in the alternative family scene. I can roll my eyes at the fictional, entitled, awful hipsters on Transparent and tell them that freaking out because your father is transitioning in 2015, when you’re adults, is pathetic.

My father transitioned when I was just four years old. I have a few vague, half-formed images of a man with a beard, but no real recollections of the person my mother thought she married, a person who, according to current gender theory, never really existed. That man was just a façade.

I remember that one day my mother told me that my father liked to play dress up, just like I did and that she had started wearing women’s clothes. It made sense to me. Dressing up was fun and boys were yucky, so of course my dad would rather be a girl. The fairytales we read to little girls are stories of transformation: a prince who is trapped in a frog’s body, a pumpkin that turns into a coach. A man becoming a woman struck me as far more plausible.

Eventually, she moved out and my parents got divorced. That was it. There were no family therapy sessions or dramatic confrontations. My mother has always prided herself on being progressive and open-minded. I think she felt that if she allowed herself to express any anger or sadness at the end of her marriage, she would be a bigot. So she took the attitude that it was no big deal. I took my cues from her.

In retrospect, she was too busy trying to pay the bills to dwell on her emotional state. For non-celebrities, transitioning has economic consequences. My father was starting out in academia, which today is one of the most transgender friendly workplaces, but back then, it was career suicide. All of her research appeared to be written by somebody else.

My mother had been out of the workforce since I was born, and had difficulty finding work. We fell out of the middle class temporarily. She hustled multiple part-time jobs until she finally found a full-time position in her field right before I started high school.

There was no vocabulary in existence to describe my relationship with my father. I called her by her first name, which sidestepped the issue of exactly who she was to me. In my mind, she was my father and she was a woman, and those two facts were in no way contradictory.

Other than her gender, she was like a lot of my friends’ fathers in that she was someone who I occasionally saw on the weekends and gave my mother a small check every month. I didn’t particularly enjoy her company, which had little to do with her being trans and a lot to do with her having a lousy personality. She was cold, intellectual, and humorless. She was one of life’s little annoyances, like having to wear complicated orthodontic appliances.

But as I grew older, I transformed from a happy, overachieving kid to a mopey, insecure, overachieving teen. I began to feel self-conscious about my family. I thought I was the only person on earth with a transgender parent. It was about five minutes before the Internet went mainstream, and with a couple of keystrokes, you could discover a subreddit full of people who shared the very thing you thought made you unique.

On the rare occasions that gay people were on TV, they were either dying tragically of AIDS in a very special episode or on daytime talk shows where they were pitted against evangelical Christians who thought they were going to burn in hell. Transgender people were considered outright freaks, if their existence was even acknowledged. I realized that, in the eyes of most of society, I was a freak too.

I felt terrible about the fact that it bothered me, because I didn’t want to be prejudiced. I didn’t have anyone to talk to about it. I was certain my loving but pragmatic and unemotional mother would consider it yet another case of me being a melodramatic drama queen.

In fact, when, as an adult, I told her that I thought maybe my relationship with my father had some sort of lasting psychological impact on me, she was genuinely perplexed. She said, “Why? It was a little weird, but it wasn’t like anyone hit you.”

If I could have watched a reality show about the sort of pretty, vapid, mean girls that I outwardly despised but secretly envied who had a transgender father, it would have made me feel so much better.

I wish I could say that eventually I forged a close relationship with my father. The opposite is true. After I graduated high school and was accepted into the fancy schmancy east coast college of my dreams, we had lunch. She told me that she had deliberately kept her distance from me as a child because she didn’t feel comfortable around children, but now that I was older and smart enough to get into a prestigious school, she wanted to get to know me better.

I was less than excited about the prospect.

In my freshman year, she wrote me a letter berating me for not sending her a thank you note for the $20 she sent me for my birthday. She informed me that since she was paying a portion of my tuition, I owed her regular reports on my life.

She was right. I was a thoughtless, self-absorbed college student. But I had decided that college was the time to reinvent myself. I was going to give up both red meat and my father. I wrote an angry letter back telling her to get out of my life. Half the people I know had similar fights with their families in college and made up a couple months later, but this one stuck.

We never contacted each other again, other than a bizarre incident years later when she wrote a letter to my boss requesting she send her, a complete stranger, an essay about my life. That solidified my belief that severing ties with her was the right decision. But I felt a lot of guilt and shame that maybe I wouldn’t have cut off a cis-gendered relative for inappropriate behavior that impacted my career.

Whenever the subject of my father came up, I just said that my parents were divorced and my mother raised me on my own.

The world has changed so much so fast. The president acknowledged transgender people in his State of the Union address. When he was running for president, he didn’t even support gay marriage. Laverne Cox is a fashion icon. Beneath the sensationalist headlines, most of the coverage of Bruce Jenner’s possible transition has been respectful.

And then there’s Transparent. I could write a separate essay about what a mindfuck it was to watch that show. Suffice it to say that it’s brilliant and that there are eerie superficial similarities between my family and the Pfeffermans. However, the show’s conceit that the children of a transgender woman all have their own gender and sexual issues is so far from my experience that it inspired me to share my story to provide a counterpoint.

Having a transgender parent made me aware at a very early age that there is a wide variety of sexual and gender identities. I knew that I wouldn’t be disowned no matter what mine turned out to be. As it turned out, I could not be more boring.

I am straight and cis gender. I am downright girly. I love getting manicures. I’d dress like Taylor Swift leaving the gym all the time if I had the money. I don’t even have any fetishes. I have never had a moment of doubt about my sexual orientation, nor do I think that my fondness for lipstick and high heels is in any way a reaction to having a transgender parent.

Sometimes I wonder if the reason why I haven’t had many longterm relationships is because of some deep-seated childhood issues. It’s possible. It’s equally likely that I’m single because the dating scene is horrible in L.A.

I do credit my father for a lot of my positive traits. She gave me the gifts of resilience and self-reliance. She taught me not to make assumptions about people based on their outward appearance. Most importantly, she taught me that I could transform myself into whoever I wanted to be. That gave me the courage to conquer my shyness and pursue my most grandiose dreams.

Writing this has been scary. I’m worried that my friends will think I’m a liar and a coward for hiding this aspect of my life for so long. I’m worried that I’ll be branded transphobic by the Internet for saying that my individual experience with my specific parent was not as wonderful as a basket of puppies sitting under a rainbow, or that I’ll be accused of mis-pronouning for using the phrase “my father.”

I’m concerned that potential dates will google me and be scared off. Based on past experience, the quickest way to get rid of a guy is to tell him. My theory is that it touches on every man’s fear of something happening to his penis.

But I hate the idea that a deliberately awful fictional family is going to be the image that most Americans have of the children of trans parents. I also realize that my fears are largely irrational and that keeping this one part of my life secret has, in a very Oprah way, kept me from being my authentic self.

Sara Bibel wrote this article for xoJane.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Parenting

6 Things You Should Know About Young Girls in School

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One day your child feels like part of the gang; the next she’s been elbowed out of the lunch table or left off the invitation list for a birthday party. Here’s what you need to know to get her through the clique years—and endless exclusive photo tagging—with fewer scars.

1. Cliquishness is ingrained—and it starts early. “We come from a hunter-gatherer society,” says Julie Paquette MacEvoy, an assistant professor of psychology at Boston College who studies children’s social and emotional development. “There was a greater chance of survival if you were part of a group. The urge to form cliques is evolutionarily ingrained.” By toddlerhood, this behavior starts to show up. A 2014 study published in Psychological Science showed that children as young as two will mimic their behavior to match that of their peers so they don’t stand out from the crowd. And not long after toddlerhood, we’re able to pinpoint the person in our group with whom we’re closest. “I don’t think we ever stop using that label [best friend],” says Rosalind Wiseman, a parenting educator and the author of Queen Bees and Wannabes ($10, amazon.com). Why are we so attached to it? “We need to have the sense that we matter. If we have a best friend, that means we count to someone.” And though children today certainly won’t perish if they don’t have a core group of buddies, there are benefits, like a boost to self-esteem and a sense of belonging, says Wiseman. Also, it just feels good to be included. That’s why it’s so painful to be left out.

2. There are two types of dominant personalities. They typically emerge during middle school: one is positive and fun to be around, and the other is influential but also manipulative, says Brett Laursen, a professor of psychology at Florida Atlantic University. If your child hangs out with a manipulative leader, she may feel demeaned fairly frequently. What helps: emphasizing the importance of thinking for herself and being her own person, not merely the sidekick of a bossy pal. “Have conversations about when it’s OK to give in and when it’s not,” says MacEvoy. For example, it’s fine to let the group’s leader decide which movie to watch if you don’t care, but it’s not OK for the queen bee to determine on her own who’s invited to go to the movie. If you happen to have a child who’s the leader of her clique, you can help her cultivate empathy by regularly asking her how her friends are feeling and doing.

3. Cliques can be physically painful. Research shows that exclusion triggers activity in the same part of the brain that controls physical pain, says Judith V. Jordan, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. For some kids, ejection from a friend group can be more painful than being rejected by a crush because that pain involves only one person. “When you’re pushed out of a clique, that’s an entire group of people who don’t value you, care about you, or want to hang out with you,” says MacEvoy.

4. Your child’s pain is easy to downplay—but don’t. Yes, you know clique trouble is a universal experience and we pretty much all survive. But it’s important to take your child’s grief seriously. If the situation seems to demand it, ask teachers for help in making sure the exclusion isn’t overt or cruel. (Have them keep an eye out for bullying and name calling.) At home, listen to your child’s daily recaps (if she’s willing to share) and empathize, says MacEvoy. Tell her you understand why she’s so upset and that you would be, too. But don’t go that extra step of disparaging or belittling other kids. As much as it may feel good to both of you in the moment, it sets the wrong example and could make reconciliation difficult for your child later.

5. Role play at home will make school easier. To help make the days ahead feel surmountable, ask your child if she would like to talk through hypothetical social scenarios. What should your child do if she has to eat lunch by herself? (Maybe she can read a book while she eats, or you two can talk about who else she could approach.) What should she do if one of the girls says something mean to her? (Walk away.) For younger kids (up to around age 11 or 12), this exercise tends to feel empowering, says MacEvoy. Teenagers may find it cheesy; offer them an ear instead. If there’s potential for your child to patch things up or make amends, discuss the reasons for the exclusion in the first place. “Often it involves a member of the opposite sex—especially in adolescence—or just sheer jealousy,” says MacEvoy. If your child offended just one member of her clique (and the rest of the girls are excluding her as an act of solidarity), encourage your kid to talk to the person with whom there’s a real problem. If they can make up, it may be possible for the whole group to get back together, albeit with a bit of tension in the ranks.

6. Sometimes you just have to find new friends. When a group has truly caused pain—or formally ousted your child—she may have no choice but to leave it behind and seek out new friends. If she’s feeling intimidated (and who wouldn’t be?), talk about trying to make just one new friend rather than entering a whole new clique. Think about it: There’s a world of difference between eating lunch alone and eating lunch across from someone else. Having additional friends is great, too, but children are much less lonely when they have even one supportive friend, says Steven R. Asher, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University, in Durham, North Carolina. It’s ultimately up to your child to find this new buddy (or buddies), but you can lay the groundwork. Nudge her toward a club, a sport, a volunteer activity, or even an after-school job where she can meet peers with similar interests. And take heart in the knowledge that this lonely state isn’t forever. Faris and his colleagues conducted an eight-week study in which they asked kids in the 8th through 12th grades to name their best friends every few weeks. “We found a shocking amount of turnover,” he says. In other words: Your child may feel excluded on Friday, but that doesn’t mean she’ll still be on the outs come Monday morning.

For more informed and practical parenting advice, sign up here for Time for Parents, Time’s free weekly newsletter.

This article originally appeared on RealSimple.com.

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TIME society

We’re in a Golden Age of Loyalty

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Zocalo Public Square is a not-for-profit Ideas Exchange that blends live events and humanities journalism.

Today, there is no compelling anti-American ideology or movement with broad appeal seducing our citizens into dividing their loyalties

When I was hired last year by Arizona State University, I faced the customary blizzard of new employee paperwork. You know the drill – forms that ask you to select your health insurance plan, seek the details on where to deposit your paycheck, and invite you to “solemnly” swear to support the Constitution of the United States and of the state, bear them “true faith and allegiance” and defend them against enemies, foreign and domestic.

OK, so the loyalty oath was a new one for me.

I signed it with gusto, even though –just between us – I am not sure what is in the Arizona constitution. But I don’t have any reservations about swearing an oath of loyalty; it’s an honor to work for a public institution. And lest you think this is a red state quirk, public employees in neighboring California, and many other states, must take similar loyalty oaths.

But the exercise does seem, happily, anachronistic and unnecessary. We’re living in what has to be the nation’s golden age of loyalty.

Today, there is no truly compelling cross-border anti-American ideology or movement with broad appeal seducing our residents or citizens into dividing their loyalties. Despite the disturbing tales of a few troubled Americans picking up and joining Al Qaeda, ISIS, or other terrorist groups, we’re currently in a bear market for global ideologies that transcend nationalism.

A time of such undivided loyalty is a rare luxury in American history. Our nation’s birth, after all, was a searing act of disloyalty against the former sovereign.

And those who did fight for independence had radically different ideas of what their new nation was to stand for, a confusion that would take the Civil War to resolve.

And for all America’s success as a melting pot, the strains of massive immigration and religious diversity once challenged national unity in a way they no longer do. Anti-Catholic prejudice in the mid-19th century, for instance, contributed to mass defections among Irish immigrants during the Mexican-American War, when the notorious St. Patrick’s Brigade switched sides and joined their fellow Catholics in the Mexican Army. During World War I, the political power of Irish and German immigrants arguably kept the country in the neutral column far longer than would have otherwise been the case.

Once the country went to war, concerns about the loyalty of German-Americans proved unwarranted. Indeed, official reaction to perceived disloyalty has usually been far more damaging than any real disloyalty. The Palmer raids toward the end of World War I and thereafter, triggered by fear of anarchists and the new Bolshevik menace; the internment of loyal Japanese-Americans during World War II; and the McCarthyite witch hunts of the early Cold War years all amounted to cases of self-destructive paranoia.

Communism was surely the most powerful cross-border temptress undermining national allegiances in modern times. Educated elites in democratic Western societies were disproportionately drawn to the internationalist communist cause. Last year’s nonfiction thriller, A Spy Among Us by Ben MacIntyre, depicting the treachery of Kim Philby, the urbane English spy who ultimately fled to Moscow, captured the degree to which Communism seduced Philby and his generation of Cambridge-educated elite (and some of their American counterparts). Disloyalty then was sufficiently in vogue to merit this cavalier observation from the famous novelist Graham Greene in a foreword to the memoirs Philby’s wrote in Moscow: “‘He betrayed his country’ – yes, perhaps he did, but who among us has not committed treason to someone more important than a country.”

There are no such temptations for ideological adultery today, which is another reason we are nostalgic for, the Cold War. That showdown between rational superpowers stands in stark contrast to today’s frustrating wars against failed states and amorphous terrorist groups. But we also miss the less tangible contest of ideas and ideologies tailored to Western, modern audiences, and the ensuing double-crossing and conflicted allegiances it provoked. This nostalgia is why TV shows like The Americans are culturally significant.

For now, the whole notion of betrayal as a threat to the nation is so devalued that it was humorous fodder at the Oscars, as host Neil Patrick Harris joked that “for some treason” Edward Snowden couldn’t be in the audience to celebrate the documentary about him. Subsequently, this spy who fled to Moscow chimed in that he found Harris’ joke funny.

We’ve come a long ways from the days when divided loyalties were no laughing matter.

Andrés Martinez is editorial director of Zocalo Public Square, for which he writes the Trade Winds column. He is also a professor of journalism at Arizona State University.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME society

6 Dresses That Are Way More Famous Than #TheDress

A brief look at dresses that have gone viral throughout history

TIME language

Oxford Dictionaries Adds Janky, EGOT and Ridesharing

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From the dictionary that keeps track of modern usage

Oxford Dictionaries Online added hundreds of words and phrases to its online database Thursday, many of which reflect the technology-influenced world we live in.

This branch of the Oxford family is focused on modern usage: the language people are using now. And if the addition is any indication, we are talking a lot about tech — from ridesharing to bioprinting — not to mention using more abbreviations and acronyms as words.

Here are some highlights from the quarterly update, along with definitions:

AFAIC (abbrev.): abbreviation for ‘as far as I’m concerned.’

awk (adj.): of a situation, causing uneasy embarrassment; awkward or uncomfortable.

bioprinting (n.): the use of 3-D printing technology with materials that incorporate viable living cells, e.g., to produce tissue for reconstructive surgery.

colorblocking (n.): in fashion and design, the use of contrasting blocks or panels of solid, typically bright color.

data scientist (n.): a person employed to analyze and interpret complex digital data, such as the usage statistics of a website, especially in order to assist a business in its decisionmaking.

divey (adj.): of a bar or similar establishment, shabby or sleazy

EGOT (n.): the achievement of having won all four of the major American entertainment awards (i.e., an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony).

janky (adj.): of extremely poor or unreliable quality.

koozie (n.): an insulating sleeve used to keep a canned or bottled drink cold.

McTwist (n.): in skateboarding and snowboarding, an aerial maneuver in which the boarder spins one and a half times while holding the edge of the board with one hand.

party foul (n.): an act or instance of unpleasant or unacceptable behavior at a party or other social gathering.

patient zero (n.): used to refer to the person identified as the first carrier of a communicable disease in an outbreak of related cases.

ridesharing (v.): to participate in an arrangement in which a passenger travels in a private vehicle driven by its owner, for free or for a fee, especially as arranged by means of a website or app.

sharing economy (n.): an economic system in which assets or services are shared between private individuals, either for free or for a fee, typically by means of the Internet.

superfan (n.): a person who has an extreme or obsessive admiration for a particular person or thing.

teachable moment (n.): an event or experience that presents a good opportunity for learning something about a particular aspect of life.

unbox (v.): remove (something, especially a newly purchased product) from a box or other packaging.

vishing (v.): the fraudulent practice of making phone calls or leaving voice messages purporting to be from reputable companies in order to induce individuals to reveal personal information, such as bank details and credit-card numbers.

TIME society

The Insidious Strangeness of Life for European Jews

The lives led by today's Jews are rather a frighteningly fragile, if not illusory, achievement

“Is it Jewish?” my mother, who was visiting from Germany, asked me last fall as we walked past a school on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Before I had a chance to respond, she answered her own question: “Oh, it can’t be. No policemen!”

I, too, had once seen the world through similar eyes. Growing up in Germany, I had taken for granted that two policemen would inevitably guard any Jewish school, kindergarten, retirement home or house of worship. This constant reality served as a daily reminder that, being Jewish, our existence in Germany was not entirely natural. Looking back, it was one of many reasons why I would never quite feel at home in the country in which I was born.

On the surface, today’s Jews can go about their lives as proudly, as openly, and as securely as members of the majority. But as the recent attacks in Denmark and France – and Europe’s response in the aftermath – remind us, this is a frighteningly fragile, if not illusory, achievement. Despite the gains of European Jews over the past few decades, it’s difficult to believe that you belong when the presence of a friendly police officer at the entrance to your school or synagogue suggests that your life would be in danger without their help.

The self-conscious expressions of solidarity that are now pouring forth across Europe will only help to reinforce that simultaneous sense of identification and alienation. Angela Merkel’s awkwardly phrased wish to “continue to live together well with the Jews who are in Germany today” is telling: heartfelt as her solidarity may be, her statement betrays a deep sense that Jews are a group apart.

In Germany, Jews have felt this way for a long time. What’s new is that Jews in other Western European countries are starting to feel the same way; all over Europe, Jews’ sense of belonging is rapidly eroding.

Fifteen or twenty years ago, when my mother and I used to drive across the French border for a day-trip to Strasbourg, or take the train up to Denmark or Sweden to visit my grandparents, Jewish life seemed less beleaguered. Synagogues did not stand in need of constant protection. Though their accents instantly marked my grandparents, my aunts and my uncles out as immigrants, they seemed to me to be more self-confident about their place in their adoptive countries. They were no typical Danes or Swedes, but Denmark and Sweden had come to be their home in a way that Germany, to my mother and me, never would.

But in the wake of recent terror attacks, what remains of that sense of normality in is quickly fading. It is being replaced by a state of constant threat. It now feels dangerous to shop for meat at a kosher supermarket, as did the victims of January’s shootings in Paris, or to attend a bat mitzvah, as did the victim of Saturday’s shooting in Copenhagen.

Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister, has seized upon this growing unease in his characteristically polarizing way. “Jews were killed on European land just because they were Jewish,” he said on Sunday. “This wave of attacks will continue. I say to the Jews of Europe – Israel is your home.”

Netanyahu’s comments were meant for home consumption. He is more concerned about upcoming elections in Israel than he is about the safety of European Jews. So it is hardly surprising that, in Europe, Jews and Gentiles alike have greeted his remarks with universal impatience. Helle Thorning-Schmidt, the Danish Prime Minister, responded that “the Jewish community have been in this country for centuries. They belong in Denmark.” Jair Melchior, Denmark’s chief rabbi, agreed, noting that “terror is not a reason to move to Israel.” Like most Danish Jews, my relatives in Copenhagen seem very concerned about recent developments, but not nearly concerned enough to leave.

Instead of fleeing the continent, Europe’s Jews are more likely to demand that the state do more to protect them. Menachem Margolin, the general director of the European Jewish Association, has already called on politicians to “secure all Jewish institutions 24/7.” By and large, his plea is likely to be heeded. Long resistant to providing the Jewish community with extra security, the Danish authorities have now put Copenhagen’s synagogue under armed guard. France has stepped up security for Jewish sites since the attacks in Paris. Even in Germany, where precautions have long been extensive, top officials have renewed their vow to do whatever it takes to protect the country’s Jews.

Complete safety against terrorism will always remain an illusion. This weekend’s attack will hardly be the last. When the jihadists strike again, Jews will once again rank among their prime targets. More tragedy is but a matter of time. Even so, heightened security should help to keep the threat to European Jews at manageable (if not tolerable) levels. For now, their lives are probably in no more danger in a European synagogue than they would be on an Israeli bus.

But though the new security measures may help to limit how much death the jihadists will visit upon Europe’s Jews, they have already succeeded in transforming their lived reality. Over the past months, Jewish life in Paris and Copenhagen has come to seem as strange, as abnormal and as precarious as it long has in Munich or Berlin. Though there will continue to be Jews in Europe, there will be fewer and fewer European Jews.

Yascha Mounk is a fellow at New America, where he writes about technological solutions to the political and environmental challenges of the 21st century. This piece was originally published in New America’s digital magazine, The Weekly Wonk. Sign up to get it delivered to your inbox each Thursday here, and follow @New America on Twitter.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME society

This Machine Is Surprisingly Great at Playing the Violin

It plays "Amazing Grace" and "Hello, Dolly," among other tunes

Seth Goldstein, a mechanical engineer who worked at the National Institutes of Health, has developed a machine that can play a full-sized violin.

Here is how the kinetic sculpture machine works, according to his website:

The horizontally orientated violin is rotated underneath a reciprocating violin bow while four mechanical fingers are moved to make contact, as appropriate, with the (highest) bowed string…When music is played on an electronic keyboard, a MIDI file is generated which is edited, and then used as the input to the violin computer. This computer generates numbers to control the electronics, powering the various motors to perform the prescribed motions which enable the violin to play the same notes as were originally played on the keyboard.

So far “Ro-Bow” can play an Irish jig, “Hello, Dolly,” “Amazing Grace” and Bach’s “Minuet in G Major,” according to a profile of Goldstein in the New York Times over the weekend.

TIME society

Burger King Franchisee of the Year Sells Huge Prize, Gives Employees Bonuses Instead

Food for thought

Burger King’s newly minted “Franchisee of the Year” sold a whopper of a prize and served up bonuses to Arizona employees, Phoenix’s 3TV reports.

The news station claims Tom Barnett of Barnett Management sold a Corvette and Rolex watch gifted by the corporate honchos, which generated enough dough to hand out $120,000 worth of bonuses to workers at roughly two dozen locations throughout the state.

“It was almost an entire month’s worth of pay for me,” Charity Callahan, who has worked at the chain for 15 years, told 3TV.

(h/t Consumerist)

Read next: The 17 Most Influential Burgers of All Time

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME society

11 Trends From the ’90s We Hope Never Return

Getty Images You're laughing now, but in 1998 you WISHED you looked as cool as this.

The baggy monstrosities known as JNCO jeans may be making a comeback, but we hope these other fads do not

Remember JNCOs? Those ugly, inexplicably wide-legged jeans popular among youths during the heart of the 1990s? Well, the brand is relaunching and will release a brand new line of clothing this fall, CNN reports. This will include new styles — like cargo pants and jogging pants — along with the original baggy “heritage” brand.

This got us thinking: what other trends from the ’90s do we hope never manage to come back into style? Here, a look at 11 fads we may have loved back then, but we hope stay in the past.

1. Bowl cuts with middle parts. Home Improvement‘s Jonathan Taylor Thomas (ugh, dreamboat much?) may have been able to pull off this look, but no one else ever will. Plus, it just looks so dated. If you saw someone walking around in 2015 with a middle-parted bowl cut, you’d genuinely think they were a time traveler.

2. Body glitter. Why did we roll sticky glitter all over ourselves like we were ready to attend a tween rave at a moment’s notice? Why did we do this? Ladies, put the roll-on glitter down and let your personalities be the part of you that shines brightest.

3. Dial-up Internet. Couldn’t you totally see hipsters bringing this ancient technology back — kind of like how they brought back record players — ironically? Can we please not? Wi-Fi is such a beautiful, beautiful gift and we should treat it as such.

4. Those pants that zip off and become shorts. Just, nah.

5. Frosted tips. Food Network personality Guy Fieri still rocks this look for some reason, but luckily, it has yet to return to the mainstream. Let’s pray it never does.

6. Crazy Bones. If you don’t recall, these were little plastic figurines. That’s all they were. But in the ’90s, elementary schoolers across the U.S. went absolutely nuts for them. What was even the point? They’re really just one big choking hazard. Luckily, today’s kids have iPads to play with so we’re probably safe from a Crazy Bones resurgence.

7. Butterfly hair clips. Okay, these were just plain cool at the time. They were versatile, but most commonly seen accompanying some kind of elaborate hairstyle. The whole craze got out of control, though, and eventually, we all agreed: enough is enough. Butterfly clips had a time in which to shine. That time is long over.

8. Lunchables. The sodium content in these things! Seriously, how are any of us even alive?

9. Light-up shoes. All the cool kids just had to have a pair of light-up LA Gear kicks, which came out in 1992. But eventually, the kids got bored of them and stopped making their parents buy them. In 1998, LA Gear filed for bankruptcy. But you know what, actually, light-up shoes were so awesome that we might be okay with a comeback.

10. Embarrassing screen names. In the early days of the Internet, it was all about making a cool screen name so you could partake in dazzling online banter like “sup” and “nm” and “kool.” Look, we get it, everybody was just excited to have Internet access, so we can excuse screen names like xoSoCCeRChiKxo and balla4adolla98. But can we all agree never to let that happen again? Just use your real name. Let’s keep it professional, guys.

11. Rat tails. Dear parents of the ’90s, why did you ever let this happen? Sincerely, everyone.

Read next: See ’90s Boy Band Members Then and Now

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In Defense of Terrible Coffee

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Zocalo Public Square is a not-for-profit Ideas Exchange that blends live events and humanities journalism.

Mass-brand coffee remains the dominant coffee in the U.S., even in this era of gourmet coffee. And that's okay

One June morning years ago, during a cross-country bike trip, my brothers, a couple of friends, and I sat in a diner in Sandpoint, Idaho, waiting for a drizzle to pass, eating eggs and drinking coffee.

The coffee, as I recall, was no great shakes. It likely came in thick, bone-white mugs, the rims pitted and slightly stained from years of use. We were just becoming aware of gourmet coffee in those days. And, sure, if you’d asked if we wanted the diner joe or a cup of Sumatra Mandheling like they served at Brillig Works in Boulder, we’d all have opted for the latter. But we weren’t in Boulder, the gourmet coffee was not available, and yet we had a blast, drinking the bitter diner joe, joking around, and, finally, too jacked up to sit still, rolling down the road.

These days, gourmet coffee is everywhere. And we’ve got a million new ways to prepare it. In addition to cold-pressed coffee, we’ve got the Japanese siphon process, a plethora of pod brewers, and coffee that comes from fancy machines like the Roasting Plant’s Javabot. And there are concoctions like the flat white—an espresso-and-steamed-milk blend—that suddenly become trendy when the Starbucks marketers put them in heavy rotation.

But it is easy to overlook an enduring truth amidst the gourmet coffee shuffle: Most coffee we drink in the U.S. is not the type favored by coffee connoisseurs. Folgers and Maxwell House remain the nation’s most popular coffee brands, by a long shot. Despite the gourmet coffee boom, this golden age of fine coffee, it’s primarily these mass-market blends that keep America caffeinated, and those diner cups full.

Once, hitchhiking through Wyoming in a snow squall, I caught a ride from a young couple. They were vagabonds who had made a tidy little home in their pickup with a camper shell. We pulled off at a truck stop in Rawlins. And I remember how that coffee—plain old truck-stop coffee—warmed us up, strangers waiting out a blizzard. When they dropped me off in Cheyenne a couple of hours later, I felt I was leaving old friends.

Over the years, how many late-night or early morning road trips, outdoors adventures with friends and family, or travels to remote job sites have been undergirded by diner coffee? Too many to count.

Is it just nostalgia that makes me appreciate—not crave, but appreciate—the coffee so often dissed as inferior? Probably. Who can deny the deep emotions triggered by a late-night cup of Joe, reminiscent of Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks: Adrift in midnight America, the clatter of the dishes, the warm cup of diner coffee. You don’t get that feeling at Starbucks.

So, partly, it’s a matter of nostalgia, but partly it’s a matter of caffeine.

Ounce per ounce, Folgers and Maxwell House coffees are more caffeinated than most specialty coffees. And there are two reasons for this. First, they tend to be lightly roasted. A light-roasted coffee has slightly more caffeine per bean than a dark-roasted coffee. Too, they typically include blends of arabica and robusta beans. Arabica, the mountain-grown coffees beloved by coffee connoisseurs, tends to taste smooth. Robusta, the cheaper, hardier, easier-to-grow coffee, often has a bitter tang (one coffee expert says it tastes like burnt rubber). But here’s the catch—robusta has much more caffeine than arabica, often twice as much.

So that cup of Java in the diner or truck stop, unless it is brewed weakly, will likely give you more of a jolt than a cup from an upscale café. And that caffeine is a big part of what pulls us off the two-lane road to a diner in the middle of nowhere, and brings us back to the downtown deli where the waitress is endlessly refilling your coffee cup.

Recently, I stopped at a country store at a northern Maine crossroads on a frosty morning. I’d only planned to ask directions, but got into a conversation about fishing with a friendly local. So I had a cup of coffee while we talked. Unlike some New England convenience stores, this one did not have 15 flavors of Green Mountain coffee in vacuum pots, just two of the old Pyrex coffee pots on hot plates. It sure wasn’t the gourmet stuff, but it definitely hit the spot.

Murray Carpenter is a Maine journalist, and the author of Caffeinated: How Our Daily Habit Helps, Hurts, and Hooks Us. He tweets at @Murray_journo. He wrote this for Zocalo Public Square.

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