Tuesday, May 25, 2010

My Language Habits

An acquaintance noted, "I never hear you swear."

Probably accurate. I seldom use harsh language, finding it generally pointless. Generally, I also find it offensive. Some people I find quite funny do (or did) use such language, but I'm not on stage performing like George Carlin or Denis Leary.

Language should be as precise and clear as possible. Clarity does not require any of Carlin's famous words.

The same acquaintance observed that I seem far too serious.

So the lesson for the week is that people expect others to be profane and funny? No wonder I like sitting at home with the cats. They are easier to entertain and don't mind that I'm quiet.

Part of me wishes humans could be entertained with laser pointers and catnip mice on strings.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Exhaustion of Conferences

I managed one partial day of an academic conference. The conference was from Wednesday through Sunday at noon. I attended four hours in the middle of Friday and that was more than enough for my system. Enough to attend a single presentation and give my own presentation before needing to recover from the social interactions.

I had hoped to last longer and attend most of the Friday and Saturday events and sessions. Unfortunately, the stress of being in an unfamiliar setting meant I started Friday a bit late. After trying to attend the luncheon, which was in a large and noisy ballroom, I had to sit in a room alone for an hour before delivering my own presentation.

After my presentation, I returned to the hotel and soon fell asleep. I decided it was definitely best to return home on Saturday. From Thursday through Saturday, I hadn't eaten a meal. Getting home was essential.

The drive, all 612.5 miles each way, was actually relaxing. Just me and my favorite music. It was preferable to trying to make small talk or listening to presentations that didn't quite match my personal interests at the moment.

It's always a struggle to attend conferences. I know networking is essential in most careers, but I hate large gatherings. I like small groups, in quiet settings. There were many reasons for being stressed in the conference setting, but the social aspects remain the most challenging. I takes far too much will power for me to attend presentations. The one I did attend, I ended up hearing (and now recalling) various conversations that were occurring while the speaker was presenting.

People seem to love gathering. I wanted to be home with my wife and cats.

Parents Pushing Therapies

On LinkedIn, in addition to scam therapies and nutcase "cures" for autism, parents keep asking for ways to "help" their children "become normal." Some of this is a desire for a better life for the child, but there is also a selfish desire to interact with the child in a comfortable way. People don't like atypical minds -- we're uncomfortable.

"Repairing" or "recovering" a child seems cruel to me. Let minds evolve at their own paces. And embrace differences, don't try to "fix" people who experience the world and process data in a different way.

There are days when I have no desire, no energy, to speak. The effort to organize and prepare speech is draining, a conscious effort to assemble thoughts in a way others will accept and respond to -- like having to translate from English to Chinese.

I have to mentally, often slowly, convert idioms and metaphors I hear into the visual "language" of my mind. Then, I have to take those mental images and translate back into English. In the process, things can and do get mangled. When writing, I can pause and revise each line, but speech is a different and more frustrating / exhausting task because of the immediacy.

Society demands I adapt if I want to engage in activities, even an attempt to change society. It would be nice if people could realize how much horrible, true physical pain speech can be. Sharp, horrible, cruel pain.

I still have nightmarish recollections of speech therapy. That was 35+ years ago of, "Look at me. Say three. This is three. Say three." I have nothing nice to say about the various "therapies" I endured. Nothing. I wish the therapists could endure something equal to the torture, so they'd comprehend what they are doing.

And the, "But look at what they helped you accomplish" line is a lousy, illogical response. Imagine painfully dying someone's skin and then telling that person, "Hey, we helped you overcome racism!" Gee, thanks.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Doctorate, Completed

Yesterday, I defended my doctoral dissertation and paid the last $120 in fees to the University of Minnesota. For the cost of tuition, they really should include the dissertation filing, even though the money is technically paid to a private publisher.

Here is a portion of the "ETD" report you receive after submitting the final project:

Print Date   :  05-12-2010
Campus : University of Minnesota, Twin Cities
Program : Graduate School
Plan : Rhetoric/Sci/Tech Comm Ph D Major
Degree Sought : Doctor of Philosophy
Plan : Supporting Program Minor

Dissertation: Online Pedagogy: Designing Writing Courses
for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Dissertation / Final Research Categories
736 : Speech & Rhetorical Studies
810 : Educational/Instructional Media Design
835 : Special Education
864 : English Education

It is complex enough you need a key to decipher the information.

The official degree program was "Rhetoric and Scientific and Technical Communication (RSTC)" at the University of Minnesota. The degree is granted by the Graduate School, but the primary departments overseeing the degree were the Department of Rhetoric and the Department of Writing Studies. The Department of Rhetoric was dissolved in 2008, as were a few other departments and programs within the university. The Department of Writing Studies became "home" though I took courses in other departments.

My interest remains writing, in general, though the degree implies a technical bias. This is because the Online Writing Lab was originally based within RSTC; my reason for attending UMN was an interest in how technology is affecting the writing and production / publishing processes.

The focus on students with autism was to learn more about how a marginalized community is using technology to remove barriers to self-expression. As a faculty member observed, the same study could have focused on a minority population or any marginalized socio-economic community. Technology is creating new opportunities while also perpetuating some barriers.

I did study autism and its affects on language development in detail. I also spent a lot of time researching special education laws and regulations. What I did not study was the "rhetoric of autism" or any particular debates around autism. My only concern was how individuals with autism use technology to create traditional and new media content -- and how the tools might be improved.

I am glad to be done, but it is interesting to see how tangled the degree explanation is.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Exhaustion Sets In...

I'm down to five days until my dissertation defense. Following the defense, I should have the doctorate. Grading should be done in the next day or two. Once I turn in final grades, I'm done teaching for a time. This means I really will be done with academia by Tuesday afternoon, shortly after lunch.

Today, though, I was too exhausted to do much of anything. I watched television and listened to the radio. My energy level is much lower than it should be.

I keep telling myself the degree was for a purpose. Right now, I'm hoping I can use it to give my creative writing some authority. If I ever do teach again, it will be a part-time post related to my creative interests.

Once I have a clear mind, I'll offer some general thoughts. I am trying to sort through a great many thoughts and some emotions.

It will be nice to be done.