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Showing posts from April, 2013

Find a Place, a Community

A former classmate recently asked me if I belong, actively, to any of our academic communities. The very question reminded me how outside the community of scholars in my academic discipline I am. The word "community" is overused in composition and rhetoric. Beyond overused, I've wondered if it is part of an inside joke.

He clarified, thankfully, by asking which groups of scholars would know my name or my work. I asked why that matters; as long as I'm writing at home with my cats and my wife, I don't need to be known. I wasn't understanding his point.

"To build an academic career, you need to be known."

That makes sense, I suppose. You have to publish papers and appear at conferences to earn tenure. You must be a part of the "community" to reach the top of the field.

I doubt I'm destined for the top of rhetoric or writing studies. I'm on the fringes of the community.

My friend advised me to focus on the communities I would…

Writing and Autism: Abstractions

Note: This post is part of a continuing, irregular series on writing and autism. (See: Autism and Writing)

Autistic writers struggle with "abstraction," according to the limited research available. I would love to conduct more research on this topic, since I also dislike abstractions in writing — yet I am a creative writer. The signs of this challenge with abstraction include:
Using figurative language poorly or incorrectly, an issue associated with "undeveloped" metaphorical thinking (and second language learners) What does this reveal about autism? More importantly for students with autism spectrum disorders, how can you pass required writing courses if you don't even understand what writing processors consider "mature" writing? Based on my experiences, most writing teachers cannot appreciate how autistics experience written language.
What's an Abstraction? An abstraction is any thought that cannot be readily converted to a concrete metric or re…

Sex, Love, and Autism

Question: You and your wife seem to have a good relationship. I worry that my child isn't going to find love, since he struggles with friendships. He's an Aspie, and says he wants to have a girlfriend. What should I tell him? I don't worry about sex, since he doesn't date, but maybe he will. Any thoughts?

I am not the best person to answer questions about relationships. I don't know what "normal" is for anyone, autistic or not.

I've had brief discussions about this with some of the more well-known autistic adults. Some have said they simply don't think about relationships. They have friends, but they don't really think about connections. If you don't have a desire for friends, I cannot imagine you have a desire for love. Others, however, have indicated they really, really long for a romantic connection. Then, I've met autistics who are hypersexual, but they don't seem to realize that sex isn't love or even friendship.

My fi…

Job Search Blues

Note: I wanted to leave this post as it was, with some additional thoughts as an intro.

Some of my friends are unemployed, a few are underemployed, and most have struggled through the economic cycles of our lifetimes. I have friends with doctorates, living with family and working retail jobs. It is easy to get depressed when you look around and see so many gifted people wondering if they can survive.

I don't know what is ahead for me, but I'm never giving up — I will write, and write, and write some more. I am a writer. Whatever else I must do to survive, that's okay. I've told my own students that life should be about what you love. I love writing, and I love teaching about writing.

Follow your dreams, but be prepared for the struggles along the way.

Original Post:

I am tired, physically and emotionally drained, from this "go-round" on the job market. I keep arriving at the starting point… I'm a writer, trying to earn enough to live on so I can do what I…

Autism and Working from Home

This semester, I've been working from home on research and projects. That means no driving to campus, no teaching, and no interacting with colleagues on a daily basis. I still respond to email, and I send a few notes, but most of my time is spent alone in my comfy recliner with my MacBook Pro and the television tuned to CNBC or one of the educational channels.

I like this arrangement. Working at home is ideal — something I'd love to do permanently. As a writer, that would be pretty great.

Though I enjoy teaching, my wife and I both notice that I'm doing much better without having to navigate the workplace. I might miss the classroom, but at the moment I'm not missing anything else about the workplace.

My wife also telecommutes. We're both introverts. People exhaust us. I'm positive we're both more productive at home.

I work well alone. Give me a task, leave me alone, and I can (sometimes) focus better than in an office. There are distractions (cats)…

Networking and Self-Promotion… Being an Artist

Saturday night, my wife and I attended the "B.U.S. 8" (Bricolage Urban Scrawl) fundraiser at Pittsburgh's New Hazlett Theater. The event supports the Bricolage Production Company's theater season. The theater, and its lobby, were packed with people. That's never easy for me, but this was something I had to do — pure self-interest as an artist.

Why in the world would someone so sensitive to the stimulation that is a city go into Pittsburgh? I find Pittsburgh to be worse for my mind and body than Minneapolis. The streets are confusing and narrow; driving into the city is exhausting. Once in the city, it is one of the worst maintained places I've been. Though Pittsburgh is often listed as one of the most "livable" cities, I assume such reviews are based on the suburbs and higher-end neighborhoods. There are some beautiful spaces and great little communities within the larger city. It's just the city is… a mess.

The city is also home to a thrivi…

Random Update and On Malls without People

When I'm a bit tired and stressed, I like to walk around (some) of the local malls. People have asked how I can like malls when I don't like crowded spaces. Well… some malls are "alive" and some are "dead" inside.

Readers know that I do a lot — I have to keep my mind occupied. However, I also get overwhelmed and need a break when I'm tired. I was really tired yesterday.

My wife and I have been painting our house. We signed the closing papers one year ago, April 13, 2012. What I most remember is that our Mimi was in poor health. She passed away three weeks later. Today, we were painting the "kids' room" blue and I thought about how much I loved our kids. Our newest members of the family, Misty and Lucy, were unhappy with the closed door. Lucy managed to chew the corner of a paint drop cloth, tugging at it with her claws under the door.

Tangent: Misty Kitty is sitting with me as I type tonight, and Lucy is on the top of their new cat tr…

Autism Acceptance Month

It is that time again. It's that time of the year when I see a spike in traffic to some old blog posts on puzzle pieces and autism awareness. It is either Autism Awareness or Autism Acceptance month, or something along those lines. I get messages asking if I'll discuss "promoting autism awareness," which seems a bit odd to me by now.

Awareness? Who isn't "aware" of autism? The media (including some celebrities) have done a great job promoting "awareness" of autism. There are plenty of news stories and events promoting the ideas of an autism "epidemic" (which implies a contagion, but that's a rhetorical debate), various possible causes, and the "suffering" of families, especially parents. I don't know how anyone cannot be aware of autism.

Acceptance? At least it sounds better than tolerance. I don't want to be "tolerated" — I want to be included and accepted for the person I am. I can support a campa…

Obama to Unveil Initiative to Map the Human Brain - NYTimes.com

I have been debating the potential for computer artificial intelligence to perform some complex tasks, such as analyzing passages of writing. One of my arguments has been that as we study the brain, we learn more about math, engineering, and programming. That's because the human brain is a type of computer.

To my way of thinking, autism is an input/output processing issue. I feel overwhelmed by sensory input. If I could "lower the volume" and "decrease the brightness" of things around me, that would reduce my stress greatly — and my headaches. But we need to know a lot more about the brain before we can address how to redirect or reprogram sensory input.

Now, we have an initiative to study the brain as never before:
Obama to Unveil Initiative to Map the Human Brain
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/02/science/obama-to-unveil-initiative-to-map-the-human-brain.html
President Obama on Tuesday will announce a broad new research initiative, starting with $100 million…