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Showing posts from 2009

Support Group

Last night I appeared at the Adults with AS Support Group in St. Cloud, MN. This is a group open to anyone in Minnesota. The Web address for the group is: I am of mixed views on support groups, both traditional groups and online groups. The groups are great when they offer useful advise and mentoring, with an emphasis on solving problems. Groups are horrible when they are nothing but "gripe and moan" (you know the saying) sessions. Complaining leads to more negativity and a sense there is no hope. The St. Cloud group seems to emphasize solutions, and therefore I want to make sure Minnesota residents know that this group is available. Knowing how to cope with any limits is important. And this does not strike me as a group of people who will simply complain about life for two hours every couple of weeks. It was an honor to speak to the group and I wanted to thank them publicly.

That's Snake Oil for You

The Chicago Tribune has a great story on how DAN! and other organizations use valid science to justify their "treatments" for autism. The sad fact that parents trust these quacks worries me. It's also why I am not going to continue down the autism research path after I complete the dissertation.,0,2618338

The Autistic Mind and Patterns

The research for my dissertation indicates many individuals with autism disorders and/or savant abilities view language in terms of patterns and rules. This results in the "stilted" usage, the "little professor" forms of writing and speech. I'm wondering how this also challenges basic assumptions of learning and language. I love patterns. Root words and basic grammar appeal to me. I wish language were more like computer programming, in which a keyword or key phrase has a single meaning and single purpose. No one doubts you can be creative and original with computers, though they are linguistically rigid. The study of Latin would intrigue me for the same reason. Rules are rules. Esperanto also comes to mind. No wonder Tammet and others like to construct languages with rules and patterns. I used to create alphabets and languages -- I even have notebooks with my ideas from fourth and fifth grade. Rules are great because they reduce confusion. Just some thoughts as

Speaking Invitation

I'll be speaking at the St. Cloud, MN, public library December 3 at 7:30 p.m. The topic will be adults with autism spectrum disorders. The sponsor is the Asperger's Support Network, online at: The event is free and the ASN meets on a regular basis to support individuals in the "mid-state" region of Minnesota.

Are the Logical Deficient?

While working on the research for my dissertation, I have read page after page on writing pedagogy asserting that the goal of a university writing course should be to teach students that knowledge is socially constructed and that "truth" is relative to culture and community. The problem with this assertion is that students with autism and similar conditions (my scrambled brain, apparently), are not relativists. Various researchers (Wellcome 2008, Frith 2001) have found that individuals with these conditions are more logical, unaffected by emotional inputs or rhetorical framing. I've found quite a bit of research on this aspect of brain trauma and autism and am including these findings in my dissertation. If a group of people are "wired" to think there is a "truth" -- that knowledge is not created but discovered and then applied creatively -- who are educational theorists to consider such people "immature" or "simple-minded" in s

Survey to Assess Needs for Improved Course Designs

Survey to Assess Needs for Improved Course Designs As colleges and universities offer more courses online, it is important that we consider how students with autism spectrum disorders approach online communities, especially online classes. My experiences as a diagnosed high-functioning autistic student and instructor have led me to question how online courses could be designed to better serve students with autism spectrum disorders. I am conducting a survey, seeking to determine if there are characteristics of some online communities ASD individuals prefer. I am also interested in learning what qualities of online communities might be disliked by individuals with ASDs. If you are an individual with an officially diagnosed autism spectrum disorder interested in offering opinions about online communities, I hope you will consider completing this brief online survey. You do not have to be a student. However, you should have some experiences with online communities so you can explain what

The Job Hunt

Hunting for work is never easy, but for individuals with disabilities the question of "disclosure" arises. Do you tell an employer you are disabled? Do you assume certain group memberships or activities reveal the disability? What if people offering letters of reference mention the disability? Honestly, I don't have any answers for what is or isn't best. Since I use a cane at times, have a mildly noticeable limp, and one arm doesn't swing when I walk, I would have to say that most face-to-face interviews are going to reveal the more obvious (and minor) physical issues. None of them affect writing or technology work. Neurological issues are a tad more complex, as are those things that might be considered "different" about me. My wife says that intelligence is a disability, and I do agree that at some point you are odd because you're rare. I've thought about removing my American Mensa membership from documents, but that should actually be a good th

Conflicting Studies, Good/Bad Science

Time magazine has two stories on autism diagnostic rates. One report is on a careful census of adults, trying to determine if there is a real difference between generations. The second report is on a telephone survey that shows a sudden spike in rates based on poorly worded questions. I never trust phone surveys -- they have numerous validity issues. Article 1: For the First Time, a Census of Autistic Adults By CLAUDIA WALLIS Saturday, Oct. 03, 2009 On Sept. 22, England's National Health Service (NHS) released the first study of autism in the general adult population. The findings confirm the intuitive assumption: that ASD is just as common in adults as it is in children. Researchers at the University of Leicester, working with the NHS Information Center found that roughly 1 in 100 adults are on the spectrum — the same rate found for children in England, Japan, Canada and, for that matter, New Jersey. Article 2: New Study Sees a Higher Rate of Autism: Is the Jump Real? By

Autism in Media

With the film Adam receiving good reviews, I thought it might be useful to reflect on autism and pop media. Generally, portrayals of autism have resembled what I consider fringe notions of individuals with autism disorders. The depictions are too close to the The Empty Fortress described by Bruno Bettelheim or the long-standing French literary notion that autism is actually extreme narcissism -- a way to control other people. The "cure" brigade has added to the depictions of autism, unintentionally (or intentionally) feeding into misconceptions about the people with autism. On television, we have had narcissists and criminals. Law & Order: Criminal Intent, has featured an obsessed murderer, Wally Stevens, with Asperger's Syndrome. Stevens, an insurance investigator, was obsessed with patterns and order. When Dr. Gregory House wanted to excuse his narcissism, he left a DSM-IV entry on Asperger's Syndrome marked. While Dr. Wilson, the character's bes

Wandering (Literal and Figurative)

I wander. My original destination is not completely forgotten, but I end up taking a circuitous route. My wife complains that when we go anywhere, there's always the chance I'll wander away the moment I see something of interest. If I have my cell phone, it helps her find me. I am at least a creature of habit. If there are books, movies, music, or food, those are the places to search for me. I can spend hours in a music store and I love bookstores. In a place like Costco, I head right for the "media" tables. I check every stack of movies, CDs, and all the books to see what's new. Malls are a real problem -- there are so many things to see. Granted, there aren't as many bookstores and music shops are there used to be, but there is a lot of food. Very cool food, too! Maybe wandering is just who I am...

Rhetoric and Writing Studies

My doctoral committee is meeting next week as I head towards completion of my dissertation in the coming months. The focus of my final dissertation revision is changing slightly to accommodate my new plans in life. Originally, my focus was on language acquisition, especially written language, among individuals with autism. I adjusted my research to study secondary and post-secondary students with autism and their struggles with written language. Now, I'm going to shift away from that emphasis to focus more on creative writing. I am fascinated by fMRI images and studies of neurolinguistics. I have immersed myself in the science and theory of linguistics, from neural network theories to combination theories. The brain is an amazing thing. But, it is time to leave such things behind for my own sanity. My Ph.D is going to be in "Rhetoric, Scientific and Technical Communication," I have added a specialty in general writing pedagogy so I might teach creative writing

Changing Fields

I'm definitely leaving any and all cognitive research related to autism behind after 2010. I'm shifting back towards creative writing and, hopefully, new media rhetoric. I'm hoping to find a university where I can work on my poetry, scripts, and novels. Research is interesting, but the public conflict isn't. (If you wanted to be hated, be a major league umpire or an autism researcher.) The "autism debates" are both political and belief driven, only tangentially based on any real understanding of the sciences involved. The "reporters" covering science often either misunderstand or twist research results. Researchers do use a strange language. I admit that it confounds the public. I've tried, too many times, to explain that I could rarely, if ever, prove anything. The best I can do as a researcher is disprove other potential causes. Research, statistically, simply finds "Other potential causes for X are less likely than hypothesis A." We

Autism Diagnostic Rate

I've written many times that the diagnostic rate for any condition is not the same as the actual prevalence. Examples of sudden "explosions" in diagnoses, abound, from various cancers to mental health conditions. In some cases, diagnoses were impossible. In others, conditions were clarified and reclassified by improved science. Anyway... these are for consideration. I generally distrust some of the sources, but the links are interesting enough that people can read them and reach their own conclusions. The odds are, most people have conclusions and will decide to agree with those supporting an existing bias. From Left Brain/Right Brain is this good link: New Statistics Due. Autism Rate 1 in 100? And here the above blog's predictions about the media coverage are somewhat proved: David Kirby on HuffPost I don't care who you do or don't believe. What matters is we are about to be buried by another round of scary statistics. Parents are going to hear "1 in 100

Tough Weeks

A few weeks ago, I pulled a muscle and the pain has been severe. Vicodin several times a day. Upset stomach. Lots of bed rest because moving was miserable. I'm finally starting to get back to moving about, with only minor pain in my right hip area, and my eyes decide to start having problems again! The base membrane dystrophy leads to minor tears and "erosions" of the surface epithelial layer. The pain is so bad, I have come close to fainting. To go from one horrendous pain to another is too much for my system. Feeling lousy leaves me impatient, annoyed, and in no mood for people. I need quiet, calm, relaxing surroundings. It's also important that the room be slightly dim since my eyes hurt so much. I'm normally light sensitive, but in pain I am so sensitive that any light hurts. I have the brightness on my computer down to "one click" above black. I have the volume of audio down to cat's whisper (though our cats are not quiet). Driving during the da

Representations of AS

Characters with Asperger's Syndrome are currently featured in three films, including an animated feature: Not sure there's much else to say, but I wanted to record the link.

Social Skills Do Matter

The "look at me" approach to reading humans is painful, literally, for me -- and I know I am not alone. Considering many cultures dissuade direct eye contact, it must be assumed individuals in those cultures concentrate on intonation, gesture, and other non-verbal signals. Even personal space varies culture to culture, so the signals are not universal. When I discuss this with other adults, including the non-verbal (which I am only under stress), it seems many of us focus on the mouth to compensate for "hearing too much" background noise and distractions. If I'm in a public space, I have to concentrate on the mouth to make sense of the spoken words even though I have excellent hearing. I simply end up confusing conversations around me with what is being said in front of me. I end up finding myself reading journal articles and wondering why the conclusions of other researchers is often so far from my experiences and those of others I know. I often think at least

The Occasional Gathering

While I do write about some issues, this blog was started mainly because I would misplace notes to myself. I could shift to Google Docs or another online setting, but some people do seem to find the posts useful or interesting. I don't go out of my way to be an activist or to promote events. I simply write what I think I might use later, thought for self-reflection. I was recently asked why I "don't care more" about various causes. Why don't I attend various meetings and support groups? After all, the logic went, I should be active in organizations because they fight for my rights and promote social justice, etc., etc., etc. Honestly, I'm not that interested. Maybe I should be, but I don't like the negativity, the complaining, and the unhappiness at most meetings -- or on many online sites. I do not define myself by any particular limits. I don't dwell on the negative. I write complaints, deal with what I can, and move ahead. If I'm aroun

Expression and Autism

For those not familiar with my research focus, I study the communications skills of teens and adults with autism. My particular interest is original compositions by those diagnosed with autism. This research leads me to study language, neurology, psychology, and more. Neurolinguistics are important, for example, but I never assume that "composition" must refer to written or spoken language. We have elevated the printed word far beyond what seems reasonable to me -- most communication is non-textual. This summer I have a funded project to study online expression created by and/or for people with autism spectrum disorders. I have studied at least 100 sites, now. Many of these are blogs, a major form of online self-expression. Others are communities with online forums. I will be writing about my findings in August, after I generate statistical reports on my observations. Ethically, it would be incorrect to discuss any "findings" until my research is complete and review

Gatherings Missed

This week there is a major national conference on campus, sponsored by the academic department in which I (in theory) reside. However, either I missed the announcements or didn't understand them earlier this academic year. So, while other graduate students and instructors are meeting administrators from across the nation, I will be doing other things. I'm not sure if that's a positive or a negative. Honestly, I wasn't sure about my schedule this summer, so I probably would not have volunteered to help at the conference or registered to present a paper. In fact, I did have a medical procedure last week that included minor surgery and a biopsy. I knew that summer would be busy. On the negative side, I do realize networking and making contacts is important. The problem is that I am never comfortable in social settings. I do much better with a formal interview than trying to make a good impression in an unstructured setting. Since I am looking for a professorship next year

Research Project

I am currently analyzing online spaces dedicated to issues of autism spectrum disorders. I am also including spaced created by and/or for individuals with ASDs. This is a funded project, sponsored by my university, to help determine how we might design online courses to better accommodate students with special needs. It is a tedious process, but one that should pay dividends over the coming years as more students with diagnoses of HFA, AS, and PDD-NOS qualify for university admissions. Though there are a great many sites dedicated to autism, the thing I still notice most is the "tribal" nature of the spaces. There are clear divisions within this small universe of individuals with ASDs, families, advocates, researchers, and so on. The tone of many sites is aggressive -- not at all inviting. I do understand how this has come to pass, but it is a shame. Anyway, I'm concentrating more on design issues and accessibility than the rhetorical methods employed. At leas

Another Medical Moment

Monday I have yet another (not so exciting) medical procedure. Yet, it isn't the medical procedure I am about to have that annoys me. No, what is annoying me are my eyes. While I'm about to have some internal issues checked and verified, it is the pain of my eyes that distracts me each morning. I have strange, curling eyelashes over my left eye which keep getting lodged under the eyelids. I then have to flush the eye with sterile cleaner. My right eye just hurts. A lot. it is the familiar pain of the "erosions" I have had for the last year or so. The eye tears, as in rips, not drips, causing excruciating pain and sensitivity to light. I'm already "hypersensitive" to the world around me. Having my eyes hurt like they have been makes sunlight unbearable. Even though internal issues can be serious, there are few things that hurt as much as a scraping sensation in your eyes. In general, I see doctors too often. As a result, I'm not exactly read

Movie Night

Movies are a challenge for me. I can't even recall the last movie I saw before tonight. It was something in California -- either an X-Men movie or Star Wars, Episode I. (Neither would be my choice. I like cartoons and romantic comedies, usually.) But, I am in Davis, CA, alone, and wanted to do something tonight. Even though it was $11.50 (plus $4 for snacks), I decided to try Up! There is a lot to be said for going to a movie in a college town, in the theatre closest to campus. No children. No cell phones. Actually... almost no people on a Friday night showing in June. It was great. The movie was touching, emotional... and nothing like watching on a television. Because of the price, I doubt I would do this often. But, I'm glad I did. I had forgotten how huge the screens are. Anyway, it turns out that I can go to a movie -- when almost no one else is in the theater. Wish one person had been with me. The start of Up! would have been nice to share in a theater with her.

Angry Activism - Not Me...

I appreciate the power of passion -- but I also recognize its limits. I can seem passionate about a few things, but the general reality is that being "excited" and "enthusiastic" is not the same as being passionate. I'm interested in the language arts, visual design, and technology. But, my passion is not the passion of a missionary out to change the world. I might be opinionated, but that's not uncommon among artists. Reading blogs and columns by "autism advocates" sometimes leaves me uneasy. Their passion is angry, an unsettling bitterness pervades some of the writing. Even when I agree with a general claim or viewpoint, I find myself wishing the arguments were made in a more moderate tone. Maybe it is because I think everyone faces some challenges. I don't see any obstacles I face as particularly horrible. Insensitive, rude people bother me, but that's life. Because I realize there are costs to accommodation, treatments, and e

The Statistic

There are times when nothing makes sense. The universe, despite its patterns, seems random, chaotic, and even cruel. Yet, reality simply is. We can study statistics, predict possible outcomes, develop complex models for nearly every contained system… yet on the personal level those models are useless. We can predict that one person of every thousand contracts a given disease, a numeric formula safely separating the person from the calculation. Risk management, economics, and various sciences step in for the analysis. Everyone involved digests the numbers and accepts them as theoretical models. Yet the model is meaningless to the statistic… that one person. Parents hear statistics and worry. Contexts are often missing, especially comparison to other statistics. How dangerous is something, really, when compared to other risks? We know travel by car is very dangerous, but it is familiar. We worry about the unusual, the strange. In 2004, 27 children died in cribs according to th

Sore, exhausted, trapped

I have been very sore and sensitive for the last few weeks. My back, legs, and hands ache. Unfortunately, this drains me of any ability to deal with things I dislike. Trying to start a cultivator, also known as a tiller, I yanked too hard just as the starting cable seized. This pulled my shoulder, ripped skin from my middle finger, and caused a shooting back spasm. I was already tense and unhappy with progress on the house, so this left me even more tense, more anxious, about the yard and house. I don't like where we live. I hate being semi-urban, living within Minneapolis. The disorder of urban life is hard on my senses, as it is. The fact our yard is yet one more thing that's disgustingly incomplete annoys me. We've already made plans to have the garage painted. The crew will prep it, let us repair some of the wood, and then it will be painted white. I am at least glad it is one less thing we will need to do. I hate seeing the peeling paint, rotted wood, split

Another Step

Tonight, slightly after midnight, I e-mailed a second draft of my dissertation prospectus to my academic adviser. It was shy of 20K words, about 40 single-spaced pages. It has been a long journey, certainly. The prelims, the oral exam, and now the dissertation. I won't make my goal of having the doctorate before 40 -- I'm already there -- but I will have it at 41. I guess that's not too bad, all things considered. There were several tangential journeys along the way. Maybe it is too early, but I am wondering what might be next. Uncertainty is uncomfortable. I like routines. School was a routine. Teaching was a routine. Now what? There's the job hunt. There's the prospect of moving. There's uncertainty. In academia, if that's where I remain, there's the stress of trying to earn tenure. Anxiety. But, at least I proved I can do it. I survived a graduate program. Now, to get the dissertation done, defended, and those letters Ph.D after my name. Th

College and Realistic Goals

I often speak on post-secondary education and students with special needs. Every student I have met has "special needs" and quirks. Every human has limitations. Therefore, I have been stunned lately to hear and read advocates suggesting students with autism disorders or similar limitations can "do anything they want." No one can do "anything" simply because he or she wants. Our personalities and physical traits do set some limits. So, while I believe that most students can master a great many things — the key being practice and dedication (genius is effort) — there are some obstacles we cannot remove. Reading some recent blogs and articles, I was troubled by how many think students should receive special accommodations, even waivers of some admissions requirements. One advocate even argued that a student with severe dyslexia and autistic traits should be able to become an air traffic controller. Wow. Hello? Reality? I admit it... no one would want me tryin

Increasing Rates in California

From the San Jose Mercury News: Autism in California increases twelvefold By Sandy Kleffman Updated: 05/06/2009 08:12:02 PM PDT California saw a twelvefold increase during the past two decades in the number of autistic people who are receiving services through regional centers, a new state study reveals. Notice this is the number of people receiving services. This may or may not reflect an increase in autism diagnoses, a decrease in social stigma, or other factors. Also, in a slower economy, more people seek public assistance. From 1987 to 2007, the number of children and adults with autism served by regional centers rose from 2,701 to 34,656, notes a study released this week by the state Department of Developmental Services. This is a huge increase, but I would like to know the percentage increase. I realize that California did not double in population, so no matter what this is an exponential increase in autism services. St

Genes and Autism

This is from an interview conducted May 1 with researcher Hakon Hakonarson, the lead researcher on an autism genetic database analysis conducted by Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Question: Could any of these genetic differences be identified in utero? Response: Yes, all of them could be tested in utero; we have identified 10 new variations (9 rare and 1 common) and we have replicated (and confired) four other once that were previously published (neurexin 1, contactin 4, 15q11 and 22q11). However, we do not have a yes or no answer as to whether the fetus will be autistic -- but if we are testing a fetus in an autistic family the value of the test is much higher. I know something more should be said, but I'm not sure what. We know that autism is a set of symptoms, without a clear etiology. But, this genetic finding certainly brings us closer to understanding some of the symptoms consistent with the DSM-IV criteria for autism disorders. Experiments on mice reveal

Sensitivity and Baseball

Last night I attended a baseball game at the Metrodome. I was fine with the noise inside the stadium, which is incredibly loud. I bought food (diet soda, two kosher dogs) before the game and never left my seat. I enjoy baseball, and was able to focus on the action. When people were playing with beach balls and tossing paper airplanes, I kept my focus on the field. For some reason, it offends me that people would pay to attend a game and then not watch — or even make it harder for others to watch. Ignoring the people though is better than what one moron did: he proceeded to get into a fight over the silly beach balls. Watching the game was good, despite the distractions. It's less annoying to have people act up at a sporting event that during a movie! What bothered me was leaving. The crush of the crowd, the smell of smoke (lots and lots of smokers), the traffic, and everything else makes me tense and nervous. I would prefer to wait a bit longer and let the crowds pass me

Too Many Interests...

I have too many interests, or I have too little time. Maybe both are true. When do people finish projects? The writing is piling up, a long backlog of things I hope to complete. I'm hoping this summer is all about finishing things, so I can start the next projects. I need a better routine, more focus on each project. I need a "one at a time" approach, instead of the scattershot one of my brain. I flitter about, story to story, project to project, leaving far too many incomplete stories in my wake. I want time to paint, to play music, to write... all while doing the things I must for school. Home renovations also have to be completed before we can sell the house and move onward in life. Then, there are the computer projects I'd like to tackle. Far too many ideas. Maybe once I'm done with the education, I can focus on writing like other professors. It's a dream. Plus, once I am teaching somewhere, the creative projects will carry some weight.

Steady Progress, Ph.D in Sight

On April 8, 2009, I completed my preliminary examinations towards my doctorate. The written and oral exams were during a busy, difficult month. There were family emergencies, personal medical nonsense, and the general stress of examinations. Honestly, I thought a lot more about my parents and my own health than I did about the exams. It has been a long journey to this stage. Knowing that I am now at the dissertation is nice. Ideally, I will complete the doctorate by the end of this year, December 2009. That would be great. I know that having the "Ph.D" after my name will matter to some people. I'm not sure I am any smarter or wiser, but I have proof that my wife and I are persistent.

Stress from Stressful People (Doctors)

I get extremely anxious around stressful people. People with no humility, too much need to be right, too much intensity... they annoy me. I am currently reading Blink by Malcolm Gladwell. In the book, he mentions that the doctors most likely to be sued are the worst doctors: they are the ones with poor interpersonal skills. They don't listen to patients. They sound condescending. They even hold patients in contempt, at times. The quality of a doctor, in terms of his or her knowledge and skills, had no correlation to lawsuits. Jerks get sued, nice people do not. As parents of "challenging" young patients know, those of us with stimuli sensitivities and other unique characteristics have a low tolerance for "aggressive" behaviors. We tend to become defensive or flee. Those are our two general options: flight or fight. In my case, I prefer to run away from conflicts. I had to deal with an aggressive, annoying doctor today. I will not be seeing her again — I will se

Body by Acme

The running gag in Warner Bros. cartoons is that any product from Acme Corp. is far from the "acme" of its kind. Acme rockets are the Yugos of rocket science. Acme trebuchet? It slings the operator, not the stone, as poor Wile E. Coyote should realize by now. About the only things that do work, with unfortunate regularity, are Acme explosives. My body is apparently an Acme product. You fix one thing, another fails. I've had too many medical procedures and tests in the last few years. This week I endured a sleep study, with wires to every limb and EKG leads scattered all over my scalp. Two straps, one around my chest and one across my stomach. A wire and tape around my neck. Fun, fun, fun. Not as bad as the eye surgeries, and less invasive than the upcoming surgeries to fix tears and rips in various locations, but the sleep study was still miserable. The paradox is that a sleep study leaves you sleepy.

Long Week, Survived.

Written Exams... Testing Sanity I spent the entire week taking my written exams, receiving questions on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. With 24 hours to respond to each question, this meant I worked on exams six days straight. Immediately after completing my Monday-Tuesday exam, I had to rush to teach a writing course while also dealing with a potentially severe medical issue. Friday morning began with nearly 90 minutes of medical nonsense, straightening out records for an upcoming surgery and some tests, right before I had to begin my last exam cycle. In other words, my focus was elsewhere until about noon when my mind seemed to click into writing mode. Back to Routines Now, it's back to routines. I have a paper to prepare for Computers and Writing, to be presented this summer at U.C. Davis. I have numerous Web site projects to get back on track. Plus, I have my creative writing projects. I miss having time for fun things.

Court Makes Tough, Probably Correct Decision

Let the record show that on February 12, 2009, the "vaccine court" created to tackle an issue that scares congressional leaders, issued a finding that gives politicians some cover. Sure, there will be some anti-vaccine politicians who use this to play to particular audiences, but others can say the scientific consensus has been reached and the subject is settled. (I could make an argument that the vaccine debate is like global warming: consensus settles nothing for some people.) Court says measles vaccine not to blame for autism By KEVIN FREKING – WASHINGTON (AP) A special vaccine court ruled against parents with autistic children Thursday, saying that vaccines are not to blame for their children's neurological disorder. The judges in the cases said the evidence was overwhelmingly contrary to the parents' claims — and backed years of science that found no risk. "It was abundantly clear that petitioners' theories of causation were speculative and unpersuasive,

Fighting the Cold, My Body, etc.

I have been fighting the side-effects of the cold weather this winter. After being hospitalized with a low blood count, a week of nosebleeds from the dry air is the last thing I needed. Yesterday, I was late to my classroom because I had a 30-minute (seriously) nosebleed. The blood loss left me dizzy and exhausted. Then, I had several incidents today. I ended up asleep on top of the bed for nearly three hours. My body simply gave out after so much misery. My left knee and left shoulder are very sore, too. I can't explain the knee issue, beyond slipping (but not falling) a few times on the ice. I catch myself, but it hurts. The shoulder pain is horrible. It's swollen, with a lump right near my neck. I have been told I also have a bursitis issue, which flares up in the cold weather. My skin dries out so badly that I have tried to use more lotion and oils. The problem is that I hate the sensation of the oily skin treatments. Plus, I end up with acne. My pores apparentl

Vaccines and Risks

There are risks to not vaccinating a child. Too bad many people don't understand the risks these outbreaks pose, even to vaccinated children. (CNN) -- A childhood illness that has mostly been curbed through vaccinations has killed one child and sickened four others in Minnesota, health officials said Friday. The five children were infected with a bacterial infection known as Hib: Haemophilus influenzae type b. Three of the affected children had not received any vaccinations, including the 7-month-old who died, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One of the infected children, a 5-month old, had not completed the three-dose series of the vaccination, and a 15-month old child had received all doses but had an immune deficiency. Authorities recommend that those younger than 2 years be vaccinated against 14 diseases, including Hib. I wish people understood that choices are being made that wil

Being True to Me

Once I earn my degree and escape Minnesota, I am going to do every thing I can to reset myself and my path in life. Since elementary school, I have wanted to be full-time writer. While I have an interest in different forms, from reporting to dramatic writing, I always view writing as a way to inform and educate a mass audience. I don't see the same divisions between reporting and creative writing that my professors saw. In fact, it's clear that journalism is changing... and a lot of great reporters did write with a creative flair before the 1970s. I'm not even sure what I will do with my degree. It's supposed to open doors, in theory. "I have Ph.D form a writing / communications program. You should publish me." Okay, maybe that's not the exact pitch, but it was meant to help. Plus, in theory it gives me the ability to teach -- thereby funding my writing time. Honestly, I want to sit and write. I want to string words together in such a manner as

Routine Destroyed...

I like my routines. In fact, I am desperate to maintain them when I am under stress. For the last few years, I have listened to WCCO (830, Minneapolis) at night. The overnight hosts on this local station simply talked. They'd talk about local music, the weather, and stupid news headlines. They were seldom political; mainly it was just people chatting like they might over shared drinks. Now, WCCO is carrying a syndicated show at night. It's horrible. The old WCCO reminded me of KGO (810, S.F.) at times. While KGO can get too political, there were also the familiar callers, the nights when "best burger in the Bay Area" was the topic. Just chatting. National shows have to be loud, it seems. The hosts need passionate topics, so they can't avoid the political nonsense. I just want friendly voices in the night. So, I'm back to using Internet radio and listening to old-time radio shows. You can't get much friendlier than Fibber McGee or George Burns. Wh