Friday, April 25, 2008

Logos, Symbols, Ribbons...

Update 20 Jan 2011: I have written on the origins and evolution of the puzzle piece logo.  
Ribbons and wristbands are a fairly poor way to indicate interest in a cause. When there is a dedicated color of ribbon or wristband for every issue or cause, none of the rainbow matters. A chest full of ribbons, aligned in some proto-military fashion, seems ludicrous.

So, one more ribbon should matter. But it does.

The Autism Awareness campaign uses either a puzzle-piece pattern or a tie-dye pattern with purple dominant. For some reason, these do bother me more than the dozens (hundreds?) of ribbons we are supposed to associate with causes.

Autistic individuals are puzzles? They are distorted, psychedelic minds? Exactly what is the message? Not that all people aren't puzzles, but to think one group is any more puzzling is a curious claim. How does this promote understanding? The claim that we are all part of the greater puzzle... no, a puzzle is a mystery. The message to me that autism and autistic people are strange, mysterious.

I wish there were other symbols, less reductive symbols, for autism awareness. Puzzle pieces are simply offensive.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

I Know I'm Lucky

I probably don't express it often enough, and certainly not well enough, but I am lucky to have a wife who is also my best friend and the reason I haven't given up while in Minnesota. Somedays are really tough on me, which means they are even tougher on her.

I have wanted to quit and return home to California throughout most of this semester. But I'm here to eventually give her the life she deserves. She certainly deserves a break after helping me through two graduate programs.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Moving Ahead

Matters within the university seem somewhat settled, thanks to the support of some good people.

I've decided not to pursue anything this summer related to school. I know most everything I do relates, in some way, but I need to decompress and focus on my writing and maybe even some painting. Ideally, a bit of software work for myself will be finished, too.

This semester has left me needing some time away from all things "university" — time to recover my energy.

I might not be the best creative writer, but I'm pretty good. It helps to step back and not always be focused on education, social causes, and serious matters. A bit of laughter would be good.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

New Project... Why?

It's currently 1:30 a.m. and I'm typing this without the ability to view it well. For some reason, my vision — literally overnight — went blurry. I can see the shapes of things, but not definite lines. I have to close my left eye to see anything well, but then my right eye tires and things get slightly fuzzy. Slightly fuzzy is better than nothing.

And yet, as I struggle to see, I have launched a new, potentially massive, project:

What is The Autistic Place? And why am I creating yet another Web site? Don't I have a life? (Not to mention school work, teaching, a home to remodel....)

The Autistic Place is a Web portal. Think of a "Yahoo" or "MSN" dedicated to autism. It has discussion areas (forums), full blog capabilities (including Blogger API support), collaborative "book" editing (think Wikipedia with editors), and much more. The system is based on Drupal ( with various modules added and some tweaking of the underlying PHP code. You have to love open source projects!

Honestly, I would have loved another domain name, but most were taken (or for sell at fees that would make Jack Sparrow blush). So, the site has a name that isn't ideal, but will work.

My goal is to have a place where students with autism spectrum disorders, parents, teachers, and researchers call all coexist and share knowledge. I'd love to create a place that is a bridge for various communities. Too many of the autism sites are political. The worst sites are "segregated" to keep out "neurotypical" (aka "normal") individual. That doesn't seem helpful, to me.

The Web site is designed to be as simple, clean, and efficient as possible. The information on the site is supposed to be more important than online toys — but I'm sure someone will want a few bells and whistles added later. (Not actual noises though; I hate noises from Web pages.)

Who knows if anyone will ever locate the site. I hope a few people do. Promoting it won't be easy, but it is worth a shot. So, if you read my blog, please take a look at The Autistic Place and let me know what you think.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Autism Awareness... and Misinformation

Why in the world CNN and many other media outlets decided to give "equal time" to various autism experts like Jenny McCarthy is beyond me. This is like giving equal time to the Flat Earth Society when discussing El NiƱo and ocean currents. McCarthy, Kirby, and others are
using Autism Awareness Day to promote misinformation, speculation, and conspiracy theories.

I was going to rant and rave, but I know the anti-vaccine mob will never be convinced of anything. We could present a thousand reports on genetic predisposition, genetic triggers, and alternative environmental factors... it would not matter. Some, like myself, believe there are environmental triggers, but the popular media can't write a story without mentioning MMR vaccines.

Autism clusters in California overlap specific agricultural crops. This points to anything from soil contamination to the residual pesticides wafting in the local air. Who knows? I certainly would be curious to map asthma and autism, too. There are a lot of potential triggers to investigate. But, no... let's worry about vaccines.

Among the idiocy on CNN: Animals don't get vaccines and you don't see plagues among them.

Actually, you do see mass die-offs of various species. Humans are not alone in experiencing plagues — but we don't always notice when animals die in massive numbers. Even plants suffer from sudden epidemics, usually spread by insects or animals indirectly. Massive areas of oak, pine, and elm have died in California and other states.

Other nonsense: Autism rates are higher in the United States.

We don't know that. Other nations don't have the epidemiological resources we have. Do you really think the autism case counts in other regions are accurate? As if we can believe Chinese statistics? We still can't get accurate TB numbers from several continents, and TB is a definite health threat. Autism is a lot harder to diagnose and count than TB cases.

Anyway, I'm just exhausted with the media. They tell heartbreaking stories, spread anecdotes that are not evidence... and people increasingly distrust doctors, researchers, and the overall health system. (And these people think national health care would be more open and honest???)

No matter what scientists report, no matter how many peer-review journal articles verify the results, people will question science. It's amazing.