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Rambling On…

Video: Autism Reality by Alex Plank — 12/15/2009

Video: Autism Reality by Alex Plank

Autism Reality is a 10 minute documentary film about autism by Alex Plank. The film features interviews with Dr. Temple Grandin, Alex himself, and a handful of others including Alex’s parents.

This film shows a perspective not often seen in autism media by portraying autism as a reality which is neither good nor bad, just a different way that some people are wired.

Alex is the founder of WrongPlanet.net, one of the earliest and largest online communities for people on the autistic spectrum.

A Friend In Need — 12/08/2009

A Friend In Need

Sometimes it is hard to be an aspie. I am very lucky because no matter how hard things get sometimes, I have people who can, and do, help me out. If it weren’t for those people, especially my family and Karen, I really don’t what my life would be like now. It is likely that I would be homeless or dead, but instead, I am happy and warm.

Most people are not as lucky as me. My friend aspietalk is having a very hard time and will be homeless in a couple of weeks. She has recently started to get connected with services that may help, but the process of getting help is slow and painful. Tons of red tape and disorganization that is difficult for even the most healthy and organized of people, and seems to be purposefully impossible for people who face various challenges due to health, psychology, and/or life situation. I will not rant about that now.

I am writing this to let people know about aspietalk’s situation and give a shout out to anyone who may be able to help with a donation to help her get through this time without ending up homeless again. She has been through too much for too long and really needs the help of kind strangers right now.

Please visit her site and use the PayPal Donate button to give what you can. While you are over there, I recommend reading her posts. She has a really amazing way painting pictures of her thoughts and experiences with words.

All Drupal All The Time – Too Bad I Can’t Breathe — 11/06/2009

All Drupal All The Time – Too Bad I Can’t Breathe

Writing on the iPhone. Hard to breathe. Shaky. Strangely okay besides that. Sometimes writing helps. Been very busy lately. All Drupal all the time. Besides from the insane learning curve and non-intuitive UI, I am in awe of its power and flexibility. After more than 15 hours of video tutorials and reading tons of docs, I am finally understanding how it works and how the code is organized. I am learning while building a site for an awesome organization. Will link to it when it is done. If all goes according to plan, it will launch around Jan. 1st, 2010. Not mentioning the org. because there is a board and I don’t know if things like that have to be decided about, but if someone who knows the answer and wants to post it in the comments, go for it πŸ™‚ I haven’t used Drupal to build a site since version 4.1 other than keeping my test site updated. Been wanting to learn it for real for a few years so very happy to finally get around to it. Still, it makes me appreciate the simplicity and clean code of WordPress even more than I already do. Been having some small jobs besides from that.

Me & K went to Monterey for K’s 40th birthday and had an awesome time. Happy birthday K! We went to the Monterey Bay Aquarium to see the seahorse exhibit. It was amazing. We also saw lots of sharks and rays and other random sea creatures. We stayed overnight at a nice bed and breakfast and got home the next day in time to give Halloween candy to kids. Not so many kids this year.

Still hard to breathe but not so dizzy anymore. Sometimes it is kind of annoying to be me but most of the time I like it. Enough writing for now. I think it helped some.

Letter in Response to Autism Speaks’ Exploitative Practice — 10/01/2009

Letter in Response to Autism Speaks’ Exploitative Practice

The Autistic Self Advocacy Network and other organizations representing the Cross-Disability Community are distributing this joint letter to the sponsors, donors and supporters of Autism Speaks following the organization’s latest offensive and damaging Public Service Announcement, “I am Autism“. If you are an organization that would like to sign on to the letter, please e-mail ASAN at info@autisticadvocacy.org before Close of Business Tuesday, October 6th, 2009. If you are an individual who would like to join ASAN’s upcoming protests of Autism Speaks in Ohio, New England, New York City and elsewhere across the country please e-mail ASAN at info@autisticadvocacy.org Thank you for your support and please feel free to distribute for additional signatories.

To the Sponsors, Donors and Supporters of Autism Speaks:
Continue reading

I’m Autistic: Another Awesome Video Response To Autism Speaks’ “I Am Autism” — 09/27/2009

I’m Autistic: Another Awesome Video Response To Autism Speaks’ “I Am Autism”

Responses to the the Autism Speaks’ “I Am Autism” video have been growing quickly. Here is another awesome video response to the tune of “I Am Woman” by Helen Reddy.

More Responses:

Don’t Speak For Me — 09/24/2009

Don’t Speak For Me

Check out this awesome response to the exceptionally horrible “I Am Autism” video by Autism Speaks. Link leads to Mike Stanton’s Action For Autism blog with video and commentary.

This video is just one part of Autism Speaks’ crusade to educate the world about how horrible autistic people are and how they will destroy the happiness of anyone who crosses their path.

If you haven’t seen the Autism Speaks video, it is exactly the same as this one except for the audio, which is almost the complete opposite. Lyrics are below.

A list of responses to the Autism Speaks video
is being compiled at I Speak of Dreams.

I… Am… Autism… Speaks…

I am Autism Speaks…

I am invisible to your children. And I will be invisible to you until it’s too late.

I know where you live. And guess what? It’s no use hiding.

I have my eyes on all of you… I am watching you all.

I am Autism Speaks.

I have no color… no religion… no morals… no love….

I speak the language of despair and disease. And with every voice I steal. I grow stronger.

I work quickly to make people believe your children are suffering worse than cancer or AIDS victims.

I am Autism Speaks.

And if you’re happily married… I’ll distroy your marriage with unattainable dreams and broken promises.

Your money will fall into my hands… And I will bankrupt you… And pay myself hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

I don’t sleep… And I’ll make sure you don’t either.

I will make it virtually impossible for you to leave your home without feeling the shame of diseased children.

I am Autism Speaks.

You have no defense against me…

Your advocates don’t have the money to fight me. And I relish your poverty.

I will make everyone think you and your children are diseased and disordered. And then… Turn on them.

I am Autism Speaks.

I have no interest in right or wrong.

I derive great pleasure out of your loneliness.

I will take away your hope.

I will rob you of your children and of your dreams.

I will make sure you will cry everyday.

You will wonder who will look after your children when you die.

And the Truth is… I… Do… Not… Care…

I am Autism Speaks.

And you are scared…

And you should be.

I am Autism Speaks.

You ignored me… And that was a Big mistake.

I am Autism Speaks…

And I speak in voices stolen from your children.

I am Autism Speaks.

Join the Protesting Autism Speaks “I am Autism” Video group on Facebook:

Don't Speak For Me Facebook Group - Protesting Autism Speaks

From Bev @ Asperger Square 8:

I Am Autism Speaks

Thanks to Turner & Kowalski for stirring things up.

Tech Support Cheat Sheet — 09/03/2009

Tech Support Cheat Sheet

Tech Support Secrets (click to enlarge)

[singlepic id=28 w=450 h=505 float=none]
From xkcd.

Thanks to Joni Mueller for the link πŸ™‚

Through My Eyes, sung by Thanh Bui — 08/30/2009

Through My Eyes, sung by Thanh Bui

Through My Eyes, sung by Thanh Bui is an attempt to help people get a handle on what it’s like to live with an autism spectrum disorder.

Ordinarily, a song this sweet would make me gag. I admit that in order to listen to it all the way through, my brain started translating it into a thrashier version of itself (in classic rock power ballad style). Personal musical tastes aside, I really liked this song and Thanh Bui’s beautiful voice brought me out of the thrash from time to time.

Thanks to Sharon for the link πŸ™‚

Music by Fiona Johnson. Words by Valerie Foley. Inspiration from the lives of those close to us who live with an ASD.

It will be available for download on iTunes soon. 

All proceeds to Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect)

Autism Myths #2 and #10 — 08/05/2009

Autism Myths #2 and #10

This post was inspired by an article written by Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg and published on The Commons. More of Rachel’s writing can be found on her blog, Asperger Journeys.

Rachel’s website includes a list of 100 Myths about Autism, and her article focuses on ten of those. After finishing the article, I found my thoughts lingering on myths #2 and #10.

Myth #2: Autism is a mental illness.

Autism is not a psychological disorder. It is a neurological condition in which the brain and nervous system are highly sensitive to sensory stimuli.

When the average person takes in sensory information from the environment, he or she intuitively filters it, prioritizes it, and responds in a purposeful way. For autistic people, sensory processing works very differently. The information comes in full force, without a great deal of filtering.

For example, I have almost no ability to filter auditory information. Anywhere I go, I hear a cacophony of sounds and voices, all at the same high volume. It is difficult for me to have a conversation with a lot of sound in the background, because for me, there is very little background. Any loud, crowded, unstructured situation causes me nearly immediate sensory overload.

I also experience the visual world very intensely. I am constantly scanning my environment, looking at numerous details, and attempting to order them into some sort of pattern. Because the visual world constantly changes, my ordering process never stops. It’s only recently that I’ve realized that most people do not experience the visual world with the same intensity that I do.

– Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg

I have been misdiagnosed throughout my life. All or most of these diagnoses were mental illnesses (i.e. shizophrenia, depression, anxiety, etc.). No idea if these were also correct to some degree or other, but finding out what is really going on has been a pretty big thing for me.

Treatment is the same for most of these things, so there were no major changes as far as meds go, but finding other people like me has been a major event in my life. I feel much less alone, have been exposed to massive amounts of information and resources, and finally have a name for “what is wrong with me”. Very helpful when telling other people. Much better than what I used to tell them: “My brain doesn’t work right”, “I hear screaming in my head”, “I don’t think right”, “I am crazy”.

I am not really sure how much it matters to other people whether it is psychological or neurological. Not even sure it matters to me, except that I am a stickler for accuracy. Honestly, I don’t really know what the difference is between psychological and neurological conditions affecting the brain. My guess is that for psychological things, it is an outside factor affecting the way the brain works, and for neurological things, it is the brain itself causing the ‘problem’. Any of you docs or social workers out there know the answer?

Rachel’s description of sensory processing is exactly the same as the way I experience it. I have personally never found the words to describe it so well, but she and many other people have, allowing me to share this description with others in a way that I could not before.

I think all of these first-hand descriptions and corroborations are very important in this time where autism awareness is growing by leaps and bounds, thanks to the internet and other media. The autistic spectrum is large and the range of people’s experiences varies greatly, but the amount of similarities in thought processes, perception, and experience is definitely worth documenting!

Myth #10: Autism is a disease in need of a cure.

This statement is the focus of passionate debate.

Like many others, I do not consider autism a disease. As researchers at the Swiss Brain-Mind Institute wrote in a 2007 article, β€œThe autistic person is an individual with remarkable and far above average capabilities due to greatly enhanced perception, attention, and memory. In fact, it is this hyper-functionality which could render the individual debilitated.”

At present, there is no cure for autism. I understand why some people on the spectrum might want a cure. Being autistic, even at a high-functioning level, is very difficult. For people on the severe end of the spectrum, the condition can be truly disabling.

Personally, I do not want to be cured. Autism makes me who I am, and it has given me many gifts. I am sensitive, empathetic, and artistic. I see great beauty in the world, and I feel its injustices very deeply. I am very direct in my speech, and for that reason, people intuitively trust me.

I would not want to be different. I am proud of who I am. It has taken me 50 years to discover the truth about my life. In the time remaining to me, I plan to mine that truth for all its worth.

– Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg

This is probably the most controversial myth of all. I am not even sure how I feel about it myself. As a generalization, I do not agree with it at all. Politically, I think it is a very dangerous statement. Personally, I wonder about it.

There are times in my life when I would rather have been dead than autistic. Of course at the time, I did not think of it in those terms, but I did think of it in terms of that bad things happened to me because I was different from everyone else and could not figure out how to ‘do things right’. The only way to make things better was to not exist at all. Luckily, my young black and white brain was more concerned with not making my family sad than with feeling better.

As an adult who is no longer in such constant pain, I now also realize that my best skills and attributes are most likely also due to being autistic. Of course there are many things that shape a person, but on a very basic level, I believe that being autistic has been a huge factor in becoming the person I am, not only due to genetic or physiological differences, but also due to the way people have treated me over the years as a direct result of my differences, and by my reactions to that treatment.

As a result of my own experiences, I am not always sure that I don’t want to be cured. For the most part, after several years of learning and trying to accept this, I am usually happy to be how I am. If I were ‘cured’, I would lose the best parts of myself along with the worst. My life would be easier for sure, but the price of losing myself is too high of a cost to pay.

My “choice” of not wanting to be cured has much to do with the fact that I have a loving supportive partner and family, and that I am able to gradually build my business and work for myself. As much as I feel that it is wrong to say that autism is a disease that needs to be cured, I also think that a cure might benefit many autistic people, regardless of how “functional” they are. I know those are fighting words in some circles, but I really wish they weren’t.

21 Favorite Mac Apps of the Moment — 07/18/2009

21 Favorite Mac Apps of the Moment

Update (8/3/09): Added SuperDuper! to list and changed title.

World of Goo
World of Goo

Just got my aluminum imac replaced by Apple. The old one was kind of possessed by gremlins or some such thing. After several failed repair attempts, part replacements, and countless hours of phone support, Apple agreed to give me a shiny new computer. Loving it πŸ™‚ The specs are not all that much different from the first one, but the parts are better, so it is faster and the graphics are extra kick ass.

While restoring my data, I was having an appreciation of all the great mac software out there. Much of it is free, donationware, or relatively low cost. Here are some of my current favorites (in no particular order):

  1. Caffeine (Free) – A one trick wonder. Puts a coffee cup icon in the menu bar that, when clicked, prevents your computer from automatically going to sleep, dimming, or starting screen savers. It is really great for reading long articles and watching videos or screencasts. You can set a default duration for it to stay on so that you don’t have to worry about forgetting to disable it.
  2. SuperDuper! ($27.95) – I can’t believe I left this one out! SuperDuper! is a backup program that will make a fully bootable backup, or “clone” of your mac’s hard drive. I clone mine nightly. During my aforementioned computer woes, I recovered my drive several times using SuperDuper! and booted my laptop from the clone while my imac was in the shop so that I could keep working.
  3. DropBox (Free to $199/yr.)- Online storage and file sync for mac, windows, and linux. First 2 GB of space is free and you can get up to 3 GB more by referring other people. If you click the link in this article, we will both get 250G extra space πŸ™‚ Paid accounts are available with 50 or 100 GB storage. One feature I love is that you can create public downloads by right-clicking on a file in your Public folder and selecting ‘Copy public link’. This allows anyone who has the link to download the file.
  4. Komodo Edit (Free) & Komodo IDE ($99-$245) – Both of these code editors are great. Komodo edit has an excellent set of features for a free app. Multiple languages, code formatting, auto-indent and more. Komodo IDE adds debugging, a code browser, source-control systems integration, and other handy tools like a regular expressions toolkit.
  5. MAMP (Free) – MAMP rocks! It is a really quick way to set up a local development environment. Installs and configures Apache, PHP, MySQL, and phpMyAdmin in a self-contained directory that will not interfere with any existing Apache installations.
  6. Transmit ($29.95) – There are some great free FTP clients out there, but I really love the Transmit interface, mac integration, and the fact that it can handle any FTP task I throw at it (SFTP, TLS/SSL, WebDav, iDisk, Amazon S3, server to server transfers and lots more. If you have mobileMe, you can sync your accounts between macs.
  7. Bookdog ($19.95) – Syncs bookmarks between browsers. Amazing. Removes duplicates, sorts, and verifies links. Syncs with del.icio.us and Google Bookmarks and works with tons of browsers.
  8. ImageWell (~$18) – I have had this tiny app for years and use it all the time. Great for quickly resizing images and adding watermarks. Photoshop and other apps will do the same thing, but none will do it as fast or as easy.
  9. ColorTagGen (Free) – Another app I use all the time. Lets you use the mac color picker to generate hexidecimal and RGB values of colors. A closely related app which I also use is Hex Color Picker (Donationware) which adds a tab to the system-wide color panel that allows you to see and edit the hex color code for any color.
  10. Bento – ($49) – Bento (made by FileMaker) is drag and drop easy to use database software. I can never decide if I like it or hate it, but find myself using it more and more. It is great for simple databases like a client list or home inventory, but I often wish it had more relational database features like FileMaker. Bento is also slow to open and I use it for information that I need to access quickly. On the other hand, it does more than a spreadsheet and makes data pretty.
  11. Together ($39) – Junk drawer software. A place to put all that random information that you want to be able to reference in the future. I tried a bunch of apps when it was time to replace my beloved Yojimbo, which was starting to feel out of date and cumbersome. Together came out on top for having the features I needed without being too complicated or too basic.
  12. Text Edit – Basic mac text editing program. I default to plain text format and use this all the time to clean text that was sent to me by clients in Word or copied from a web page. I also use it for a notepad and scratch pad.
  13. LaunchBar (~$34) – Quickly launch applications, access clipboard history, find documents, and much more with your keyboard. Very similar to QuickSilver, which I used to love, but started having problems with, possibly because it is in perpetual beta. Still, it is a classic and it is free.
  14. MenuCalendarClock (Free, $19.95 for advanced features) – I love this tiny app. Lets you customize the menu bar display of time and date (best to disable default time display in System Preferences). Clicking on the menu bar date/time drops down a calendar that highlights days with scheduled events. Hover over the dates and a tooltip appears showing the events for that day. Lots of other cool features. Not really sure which ones are in free vs. paid version, but there is a comparison at the site.
  15. DragThing (Shareware, $29) – Dock replacement. Allows you to create multiple docks, each with multiple tabs, and place them anywhere you want. Along with LaunchBar, this is one of the first things I install on any mac. I wrote a post about DragThing last year.
  16. Default Folder X ($34.95) – Adds many useful features to Open and Save dialog boxes. Choose recent and favorite folders quickly. Assign default folders for applications. Menu bar icon for fast access to favorite and recent folders, open finder windows, and all other folders through flyout menus.
  17. PathFinder ($39.95) – Finder replacement (works alongside of Finder). Adds about a million features that you wish were in the Finder. More sorting and display options, dual pane browser for side by side folders in one window, tabs, drop stack to hold files in a temporary stack, and more.
  18. 1Password ($39.95) – Store logins, passwords, credit card info, and secure notes. Integrates with most browsers allowing you to log into websites and enter credit card information with just a few keystrokes. You only need to remember one master password to allow the browsers access to the stored information. Pretty amazing if you have tons of logins to remember and/or shop online.
  19. TextExpander ($29.95), Typinator ($19.99) , TypeIt4Me ($27)   – Thanks to the many mac software bundles, I have somehow managed to have a license to all 3 of these apps. Currently I am using TextExpander, but I don’t think I have a preference. They all have their pros and cons. Mostly pros. All 3 apps basically do the same thing – inserting text and/or images when you type a short abbreviation. For example, when I type bsig, it automatically changes to my 4 line business email signature. Also great for canned responses, code snippets, email addresses, phone numbers, common typos, URLs, and anything else that you type regularly.
  20. Paparazzi (Donationware) – Another one trick wonder. Takes full page screenshots of web pages. Very handy for designers and developers that need to view an entire web page at one time.
  21. World of Goo ($20) – Not sure what to say about World of Goo except that you should try the demo (mac, windows, linux). Completely original game involving balls of goo with different physical properties. The “dialog” and sounds are funny, the graphics and animation are excellent, and it’s very fun! Warning: May also cause extreme frustration in certain circumstances.

That is all I can think of for now. Curious what other people’s favorite apps are. I’ll try just about anything that has a demo version.