Thursday, November 29, 2007

One half of one thing I can't resist

Prometheus has blogged The Alternate RNA Universe and I have a chance (and inspiration from a great post) to tackle a section of DNA (which I've been meaning to do since, oh, '79):

Monday, November 26, 2007

"Canadian Centre for Diversity"

Speaking of radio, on a local station I heard (yesterday) what I think is a very good advertisement. Paraphrasing:

"You can hear my voice but you don't know if my skin is white, black, or brown. You don't know if I'm reading this in text or Braille."

No mention of autistics (that I've found so far) in the web site, so I'll be cautious. The site is not quite autistic-friendly (there are animations, scrolling text) and the download is borderline dialup-friendly (at 56k; a marathon at 28.8k).

The splash page (with Flash animation) is here:

"Skip intro" lands here:

Friday, November 23, 2007

Basic chemistry and the "Lupron Protocol"

Real scientists reference peer reviewed scientific papers, not the breakfast broadsheet. This seems like an important thing to remember.

I understand from... a credible source that the UK organization "Treating Autism" lists "Lupron" as a "New and promising treatment". I've now checked Treating Autism's web site and I see that's true, the page is here. So I wonder how many people have read the following, which is about "testosterone sheets" (integral to the "Lupron Protocol" idea) and the very real absence of "minimal hot benzene" in autistics:

For those not facile with chemistry-speak, the authors took equal numbers of molecules of testosterone and mercuric chloride and dissolved the mixture in the minimal amount of hot benzene that it took to dissolve the mixture.

This is not a condition even remotely similar to anything found in living tissue - of any vertebrate species. In other words, it isn't likely to happen in autistic children unless you dissolve them in hot benzene.

The full article is here. I think of this whenever I hear "Lupron" mentioned. Also Kathleen Seidel's series "Significant Misrepresentations: Mark Geier, David Geier & the Evolution of the Lupron Protocol", now part sixteen.

I agree we should value peer reviewed science above the less-than-thorough kind. Also I gather there are 'junk science' journals just as there are 'tabloids' in the newspaper market. From high school chemistry (which I failed) I recall not only that burnt sulfur smells the way it does (previous post), but also that true science involves rigor. This seems like the thing to watch for in autism research, or in autism researchers.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Back to the Grinning Zone

Added a list of links to pages and projects that got set aside (or forgotten), for one reason or another. Now that some sites offer free remote-link image hosting (such as Photobucket) it's possible to restore pages that previously strained my local web space. Such as The Great Canadian Grinning Zone (just replaced the hit counter, which had stopped working, apparently due to successive changes in ownership).

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

"Burnt sulfur should smell like roses!"

But it doesn't. It smells like rotten eggs. This is a useful summary (for me) about what's wrong with arguments-of-denial in autism. Put another way: "There's the way it oughta be, and there's the way it is."

I've been thinking about the failed 'conversion' (to prevailing autism advocacy standards) at "The Crux of the Matter" blog. The author, "Sandy", falls in with the wrong company (a prominent autism advocacy spindoctor) and suddenly there's room for only one side to the story. A well known and very polite autistic person, jypsy, is barred from commenting - and the whole thing comes crashing down (the post and comments are removed). Those who are interested can find more details in this post by Steve D ("One Dad's Opinion" blog) and another of the deleted comments here

Since that episode I've been admiring Skeptico's Bingo Night! post - and have now linked (at right) to those skepticism blogs that I've noticed only in passing (while being overwhelmed by everything else). Likewise's Curbie Bingo. Considering the now predictable contributions of people like Fredericton, New Brunswick lawyer Harold L. Doherty, I would add a square: "newspaper science".

More to say but I'll leave that for another post. The comments here have been turned off for a while (I wouldn't have been able to deal with them), now they're back on.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Australian landscapes

This is one in a series of high resolution photos in Tony Langdon's (orienteering) article Navigating the Red Centre.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Bilingualism (and dance) reduces risk of dementia

An excerpt from the BBC article Being bilingual 'protects brain':

Researchers from York University in Canada carried out tests on 104 people between the ages of 30 and 88.


Writing in the journal of Psychology and Ageing, they said being bilingual may protect against mental decline in old age.

Previous studies have shown that keeping the brain active can protect against senile dementia.

So do "visual thinkers" qualify as bilingual? And another BBC article Dancing 'wards off dementia'.

Researchers in the United States have found that dancing, playing musical instruments, reading and playing board games can all reduce the risks of developing [senile dementia].


"Maintaining physical activity has been linked to better general health as people get older, preventing cardiovascular disease and falls and this research should not be taken as an recommendation to concentrate on cerebral exercise only."

Saturday, September 15, 2007

"The Physics of Dance"

Here's a page on "Physics and Dance" by George Gollin who is a "Professor of Physics at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign". I'd like to see a physics class that's taught via dance (black holes and all). They could start with this page. Thank you Dr Gollin.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Monday, September 03, 2007

Back to school

I first met "Sarah" (age 12) last fall when her family moved into the building down the street. This summer we continued our acquaintance and found that we "click" (said her mom). I've since discovered Estee's comment: I agree that a mentor is not something you "get" artificially. I'm not Sarah's mentor in a formal sense, though this is something her family mentioned and we discussed.

In the rush to function in the "adult" world often I forget about the kids. Not because we don't get along (we always have) and not because kids aren't everywhere in the autism arena, but because I have no current connection in the real world. That's now been corrected. I learned there are a lot of kids in the building at the end of the street. By now the toys I bought (because none of them had any) are well used, including a dozen or so jet balls that disappeared, one by one, into the ether.

The adults joined in (frisbee, soccer) and I discovered that developmental disabilities are not uncommon, at least in this spontaneous assembly of neighbours. Unfortunately the majority in this group routinely use racist, homophobic, etc., comments, comments the kids repeat. I challenged the hateful remarks ("Did you just use the 'N' word?") but realized I'm only one within a local, self-reinforcing culture.

Sarah coined her own words, "bouncy baw" (jet ball), "freefree" (freezie), which were also contagious even among the adults, the same adults who before had mocked Sarah's language and 'stupidity'. When not beaten down and hanging her head, Sarah isn't stupid. She showed this many times, using 'adult' combinations of short sentences and head gestures - gestures more sophisticated than many I'd seen among the adults.

One visitor, a superintendent (with a wife and kids), described his continuing impulse control issues. An hour or so later he was unloading on Sarah for her impulsive behaviour. I thought he could have used their common difficulty to connect with Sarah, to say it's okay I struggle with that too and look, I grew up and I'm doing okay... he didn't. I explained to Sarah that he has the same issue and she immediately stopped crying and got a kind of "ohhhhh" look on her face.

The adults deny and the kids carry the burden.

Now they're going back to school and I wonder what my next step will be. Here are three things the kids (both disabled and not) refreshed for me:

1. All children should have a childhood.
2. Successful completion of a project is less important than the child's self-concept.
3. Parents (and mentors, educators, professionals) are important for two reasons (among many others): the good they can do, and the damage they can do.

"Autism - We are born this way"

Christschool's Neurotypicalism Everyday - Movie Trailer (thanks TMoB) led to another excellent video, Autism - We are born this way:

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Inappropriate observations

From the archive:

"There are two sides to every puzzle", 031201

And for those who "inappropriately" collect garbage: 'Trashballs' turn rubbish to art. Chris Goodwin's blog is here.

See also Junk architect recycles Ghana's waste and The e-waste man mountain

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Friday, February 23, 2007

Where do we draw the line?

A couple excerpts:

A line does not in reality exist to mark the boundaries of an object against its surroundings or against other objects. Tone, colour, three-dimensional vision and movement tell us where the edges of objects are in real life. The linear outline is a translation, an invented language, or rather the first phrases of a language with which we have learned to represent the visual world. - John Raynes

fig·u·ra·tive \'fi-g(y)ə-rə-tiv\ adj (14c) 1 a: representing by a figure or resemblance : EMBLEMATIC b : of or relating to representation of form in art <~ sculpture> 2 a: expressing one thing in terms usually denoting another with which it may be regarded as analogous : METAPHORICAL <~ language> b : characterized by figures of speech fig·u·ra·tive·ly advfig·u·ra·tive·ness n - Merriam Webster's

Monday, February 19, 2007

Here there be spiders

Apparently many autism advocates hope our attention will stick to certain pages and articles on the web and that all others will be ignored. This would be a "web spider" approach?

Response to Harold Doherty's most recent effort to fix our attention can be found in Ballastexistenz, Left Brain/Right Brain, The Autism Crisis and elsewhere. If anyone wants to look.

Something similar could be said of me since I'm not extremely well read in autism news and research. I absorb the most obvious information and can only admire those who manage a larger part of all there is to know. At least I know that many of Mr Doherty's claims in his recent article are untrue. One example:

"The sirens will not talk about such realities as lack of communication, self injurious behavior, or lack of awareness of potentially life threatening dangers posed by automobiles or broken glass."

Searching my local copy of TMoB, a public discussion forum, "communication" appears in 82 of 527 digests, "self-injury" in 7. Googling "autistic" and "self-injury" returns 79,600 entries, the Autism Information Library ( top of the list.

Obviously Mr Doherty's claim that autistics will not discuss this or that is untrue. So what is he doing?

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

"Bay of Fundy Blog"

Not many blogs make my pulse quicken. Terri McCulloch's Bay of Fundy Blog definitely made my heart jump (you'll recall it's somewhere in New Brunswick), first because of the concept drawings here and here in her series of posts on "tidal energy".

Not much I can write that Terri hasn't mentioned already. Such as: it's a bit tricky to get your head around exactly what 100 billion tonnes of seawater looks like filling and emptying the bay twice a day. Add the concept of turbines poised within that environment... no wonder so many autistics are engineers. [sigh]

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

A perfect freehand circle

Unfortunately freehand circle drawing doesn't get near as much press as I think it should. While watching a Posautive video I noticed another video, World Freehand Circle Drawing Champion. Mr Overwijk's drawing was disappointing because it's not a perfect circle, though I admire him for at least being conscious that this is possible and for making the effort. Searching the web for the real life event, for a truly perfect freehand circle, brought me to this article in the Ottawa Citizen, Glebe math teacher circles the web.

Maybe there's a metaphor here about the quest to fulfill a "grand design", to create an ideal society. Maybe not. But anyone who's willing to exchange their compass for the "feat" of drawing a freehand circle is a-okay with me.

Edit: thought I better double-check my 'certainty':

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Hominid update

One of my favourite sites is Kennis & Kennis where I just noticed their newest addition: Complete Neanderthals. I've been hoping for years that these guys would do this.

I have a longstanding interest in all hominids, including us moderns. I gather this interest in physical characteristics and differences is called morphology. The Diva is interested in morphology too so I know I'm not kooky or anything.

Above is a half finished model of A. afarensis, dubbed "Alphie". Alphie didn't survive the most recent 'sculpture purge'. I think her terracotta remains are resting in a Michigan landfill. Her replacement is more than half finished, this time in Plastillina, a rubbery professional sculpting clay. Visible in the background is this model (below), which a few people have also seen before (sorry, it's a slow process).

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Erasure of Autistics

Did someone say "Chimera"? See Michelle's post re today's Toronto opening of the theatre production "Chimera".

This isn't the first time Toronto (or "the world") has seen Chimera and autism mentioned in the same breath. The Chimera was once the mascot of The Autism Project, Ontario, beginning 1999. The original graphic:

This reminds me of Autism Ontario's former "Cycle for Autism" logo, which is a clear example of how autistics who produce anything useful are promptly removed from the equation, are given no credit whatsoever. The original concept/graphic (mine):