Saturday, March 16, 2013

Aspies and the Butterfly effect

Katie teaches me something new on a regular basis, even when I least expect it.

She is a fan of Dr Who and has pulled me into that world with her.  Dr. Who is a long running  British series about a guy with no name and his ever changing companions who travel through time in a big blue police box, that is "bigger on the inside".

I have to stop here to tell you.  I hate time travel.  I get all caught up in it and can't figure out how anyone can keep it straight.  Back to the Future is especially mind numbing to me.  Don't even get me started.

Anyway Katie recently started blogging herself.  She fancies herself a writer and has taken to the platform like a fish to water.  Today she is writing about time travel.  She kept going on and on about stepping on butterflies and how this could alter the outcome of history should you step on one in the past.  She claims it is a well known discussion among science fiction fans and indeed if you google, like I did, butterflies and time travel, you will even see a Wikipedia article about it.

Apparently it is closely related to chaos theory which states something about how a small change  at one place in a nonlinear system can amount to an even larger change down the line.  All I remember about chaos theory is that is has to do with fractal geometry and if something is a fraction off at the start, it can be miles off down the line.  In short as my son says, it's rocket science and frankly gives me a headache.  It is also mentioned that the flapping wings of a butterfly can possible alter the atmosphere and possibly alter the path of a tornado.  This is heavy stuff.

Of course when I told her about all this we had a discussion about chaos theory and her brother piped in and we had a grand old time.  We discussed Back to the Future, Star Trek, Dr. Who and even the classic It's a Wonderful Life, where Clarence the angel shows George Bailey what life would be like if he had never been born.  Little things make a big difference i.e. the butterfly effect.

It's times like these that I marvel at the possible effects my kids and other Aspies will have on the future of the world.  There are some who are trying very hard to discover the gene that causes Autism. They want to develop a prenatal test to detect the presence of this elusive gene.  And to what end?  Termination?  How can we possibly tell if this gene will result in someone who is so profoundly affected vs someone like us?  And who can say that those profoundly affected kids won't somehow challenge those who care for them to make an even greater positive change in the world.  That's assuming they themselves won't alter time.  Talk about boggling the mind.  Each of us is a butterfly capable of changing the future, even without a time machine or a Tardis.


Templates can be good sometimes.  I use one on my web site so that all the 118 plus pages are the same and the menu buttons that took me forever to learn how to code show up consistently from page to page.  I use a very simple template on this blog because that's all Google had when I started it.  They have so many other options now.  Today, I changed the font.  I like fonts.  I have over 5000 on my computer.  I don't use them often.

The font here is called "Coming Soon".  If I compose the post with notes on my iPad and then copy it here, it comes out larger and more of a comic sans type font.  I am not sure which I like best.  I am also getting to the age where I sometimes see better without my glasses.  This is annoying if only because the dang things are not cheap.

Anyway, if anyone finds this font hard to read, please, please let me know.  Use the comment link.  I'll get it.  Promise!


Thursday, March 14, 2013

He's a good boy!

We've all seen it too many times.  A life is cut short always too soon.  The evening news reports that someone's child has been shot and killed by law enforcement in the commission of a crime.  We will never find out why he was seen climbing out of the window of a business late at night.  We'll never hear his side of the story and he'll never hear the tongue lashing from his disappointed mother.  What we do hear is his grief stricken mother blaming the authorities and her declaration that he is a "good boy".  While I am not one to automatically defend the police, it always amazes me that his mother claims he is a good boy.  A good boy would not be breaking into someone else's property.  A good boy would not do this to his mom.  Maybe she is remembering the boy he used to be.  Maybe he fell in with a bad crowd and was influenced by others.  But we will never know because he was caught doing something wrong and killed in the process.

This seems to happen every time.  You never hear the mother say anything like, He was always getting into trouble or, I've never been able to control him, or he never listens to me anymore since he started hanging around with those bad kids, or started taking drugs or dropped out of school.  Always she says, he was a good boy.

So why does this concern me?  I think it is because, that after hearing this opinion so many times, the the general consensus becomes that a  mothers opinion of her child can't be taken seriously.  The unspoken word is that since she's his mother, her view is tainted.

This becomes a problem for us when trying to get school officials to understand the child with Aspergers.  Aspies who don't realize something they say is rude, gets punished instead of learning why their comment is inappropriate so they can alter the behavior.  When my children lash out, it is because they are over stimulated or overwhelmed.  If this happens in the classroom, there is always a reason for it.  If that reason is figured out, the whole class usually benefits.

Kids with Aspergers usually have an above average intelligence.  Past teachers have told me, that they use my kids as a sort of barometer for the rest of the class.  If the smartest kid in the class can't keep up, then chances are no one else can either.  This was brought to our attention recently when one of the kids had a substitute teacher.  When it became clear that this sub would be teaching for an extended period and have to keep the class on the same pace as the regular teacher, things got rough.  He had to get the class up to speed in a short period of time.  When Katie couldn't keep up and lashed out disrespectfully, she was called down to the office, talked to and threatened with in School suspension if the behavior was repeated.

Now I get to say it.  Katie is a good girl.  Do you believe me?  Well she is.  I rarely if ever have to discipline her.  She never deliberately misbehaves.  One time she sorta kinda misbehaved and it drove her crazy.  She came to me in some distress, worried that she had done the worst thing.  I was either taking a nap or gone and she had helped herself to a soda without asking.  She always asks and unless it is the last one and I want it, I always say yes.  It's not a big thing.  But she was convinced that since she didn't ask first, she would be in big trouble.  It bothered her so much, that she had to snitch on herself.  I never would have known.  That is the worst thing she has ever done unless she was in some Asperger induced distress, and then she can't help herself anymore than some one in a wheel chair can get up and walk.

Luckily she is attending a school, with a great principle and wonderful teachers.  After several emails back and forth, her school understands that if Katie was disrespectful. She didn't mean to be and something was wrong.  Her regular teacher is back and all is right with the world.  But it wasn't always like this.

In the past, we sometimes had trouble getting  people to realize that even though she couldn't always control her behavior, I didn't think that she should be able to behave anyway she wanted to.  But there are more effective ways to alter the behavior of some Aspies than to threaten punishment.  In Katie's case, if you can explain to her why others act the way they do and why her behavior is wrong, she can usually find a better way to make her distress known and communicate what her needs are.

Aspergers is a neurologically based  developmental delay.  Because of this and also possibly due to our style of parenting, Katie doesn't understand why her classmates act the way they do.  Sometimes it is normal teenage behavior, sometimes it is due to a cultural difference.  Sometimes I have to dig way back to my classes in sociology to explain typical teenage behavior.  She listens very carefully to my explanation and sometimes you can see the lightbulb go off.  "Oh I get it", she'll say.  "That's dumb" and usually "ok" and she'll be fine.  The problem is that i won't know what she doesn't know until the situation comes up.  If it is timed right, we can avoid a meltdown.  Luckily as I said, her school is pretty good about these things.  Yesterday she had a problem with a particularly loud and boisterous assembly.  A teacher noticed her difficulties and moved her to a quieter room.  I learned today that her principle heard the noise and her first thought was how Katie was handling it.  She told me she looked all over for her before finding out she had already been cared for.  It is good to know that they are all looking out for her.  She is a good girl

Thursday, March 7, 2013


I am  a grammar snob.

There, I said it.  It annoys me to no end when people, especially journalists, can't manage to make the subject and verb to agree.  It would seem that at least people who make their living writing would get the grammar right.  I am not perfect.  I admit that also.  But I am not a writer.  I am a nurse, mom, geek, but not a writer.  I don't expect much.  Semi-colon use eludes me.  But please, please, please, don't make me listen to another "I -me" screw up.

When we were kids,  my mother would constantly correct our grammar.  "I ain't got no homework"  was quickly corrected to "I don't have any homework."  I learned grammar, not so much by the rules but by what sounded right.  And the source of what sounded right was my mom.  So it really bothers me when I hear news readers read their copy and get it wrong.  Millions of people are hearing it, many of them are kids.  And they are hearing it wrong!!!!!

Another thing I remember from when I was young was being corrected when someone would say.  "Bobby and me are going outside."  No, it's "Bobby and I are going outside"  (Bobby is my brother.  He's a cool dude.)  That one was easy.  Even the rule was easy.  Just get rid of Bobby (sorry buddy) and see if it sounds right.  "Me am going outside" Makes me cringe just typing that.  After a while it seemed everyone decided to use "I" all the time.  It made them sound intelligent.  At least until they started using it incorrectly.  Please give Mike and I a cookie. (He's my other brother)  Arrrrrrggggggg.  Makes me crazy!!!  Would you say "Please give I a cookie"?  It happens all the time.  Even on CNN.  And you know they get everything right all the time.

Pretty soon, if it hasn't happened already, the whole world will think that rotten grammar sounds right.  Now kids will have to learn the rules if they want to speak correctly.  But I don't know if they care any more.  Already we see words spelled wrong and I don't mean just typos.  I mean using lite for light and site for sight.  I will admit occasionally typing "their" when I mean  "there".  But at least when I proofread, I know to change it.  I also don't get too annoyed when I read comments online and the spelling and grammar are so atrocious that I can't figure out what the person is trying to say.  I know you can't edit some of those pages.  But it is really annoying when reading an online news report and the actual article is full of errors and missing words.  It's OK for a while if it is breaking news, but for crying out loud, fix it before a couple hours go by.  The newspaper isn't full of missing words or typing errors.  Why is it OK for the online version to be such a mess?

I think I am raising a spelling snob.  Katie loves to look over my shoulder and watch the red lines appear as I type and can't wait to tell me I spelled something wrong.  The problem is, she usually does it before I am finished with the sentence.  I never said I was a typist.  I have to look at my fingers when I type.  But at least she notices.  Her grammar and spelling are impeccable.  So maybe I am channelling my mom.  Maybe Mom is standing over Katie's shoulder from heaven watching her write and correcting her.  I like thinking that.

Monday, March 4, 2013


I had what I called a computer scare this past week.  It shouldn't have been a scare but it was and I wonder if I have become complacent or if my interests have changed.  There is some background  that I need to explore

Let's take a walk down memory lane shall we.

I've been a computer nerd from way back.  Way way back.  Heck I even have a slide rule.

We purchased our first computer for the kids for Christmas (yeah right).  We got it on lay-a-way for $650.00 from a place called Mostly Closeouts in the early 80's.  It was an Apple Clone (remember those?) from Franklin Computers.  It had an Open F key where Apple once had the Open Apple key and ran on something called F dos.  Back then computers didn't come with hard drives, just a floppy drive and if you were lucky two floppy drives.  If you wanted to run a program, you had to insert a 5 1/2 inch disk and turn on the computer.  Some programs required swapping out multiple floppies.  Such fun.  But we didn't know that at the time.  We didn't know anything.  We took it into the back room, closed the door so the kids couldn't see, and turned it on.  It Beeped!!  Scared the heck out of us!  We turned it off.  The kids later told us that they heard the beep and knew they were getting a computer for Christmas.

I got good at trouble shooting that Franklin.  We had purchased Word Perfect and had a heck of a time introducing the computer to the printer.  I was on first name basis with the Word Perfect help desk.  Support was free then and local.  No calls to India needed. After a lot playing with the switches on the back of the machine, we just got used to printing pages that had a solitary K in the upper right hand corner.  This was easily fixed with White Out.  We weren't that picky.

A couple years later we came into what seemed like a wind fall and bought an honest to goodness Windows PC.  It cost over 1700 dollars and had to be taken up to the check out counter on a four wheeled dolly.  We needed help getting it into the car.  OK maybe it wasn't that big but it seemed like it.  It ran Windows 3.0.  Still support was free and local as I found out when all of a sudden my Games window disappeared .  It turns out you weren't supposed to just turn it off by flipping the power switch, like we did with the Franklin.  You were actually supposed to shut it down through the file menu.  Why the heck didn't anyone tell us that?

We kept this computer for a while.  In the meantime (around the mid to late 1990's) one of the kids built a computer for school and the other got a laptop with Windows 95.  Once again, I was lost.  Where the heck was my Program Manager and all the programs and I have to turn it off by using the start button?  I didn't bother worrying about it because the company I worked for was still using dos.  Windows would have to wait.

Eventually I got introduced to Windows 95 and 98.  We had discovered Dell and could avoid the trip to the checkout with the dolly by ordering our computer on line.  I was home with my third child at the time, having resigned from the company that was STILL using dos based programs.  I was having fun. Win 98 was pretty stable and you could spend hours personalizing the thing with themes and screen savers.  I remember downloading loads and loads of free games and screen savers at my son's college because they had a fast (for the times) connection.  I had a bag full of 3 1/4 inch (not very floppy) floppies and they had loads of fun things to do on them. Viruses were not a problem and lots of geeks made lots of programs and gave everything away for free.  It was great

Still Windows wasn't perfect and I became pretty good at fixing  problems.  My little boy even had fun but sometimes he'd get into a friend's computer and change the colors around.  I remember being called by someone who was in a panic because her menu bar was blank!  She couldn't do anything because File, Edit, View etc. were gone.  I felt like a miracle worker because I knew how to access all of it by key stroke alone, and could get into control panel and change the text color back to normal.  I also learned how to fix things by simply searching the internet for fixes.  As the school computers got older, they needed more and more fixing.  Windows was prone to problems and if I wasn't fixing my own computers I was cleaning, maintaining and fixing more and more of my friends and their friends computers.

Then we got a great deal on a computer from my husband's job.  They would even give us a coupon for a free upgrade to the newest operating system- Windows ME.  Unfortunately we never had to use the coupon because it came with ME already loaded.  What a nightmare that was.  There were days when it would take 20 restarts to get the thing to work.  Thank the maker for Windows XP.

But my computer woes weren't over.  Of course by now support was no longer free nor local.  Dell, once known for excellent customer service, now became pretty crappy.  There were times when I knew more than the "expert" on the other end of the line and the world.  I swear, they must have been reading from cue cards.  Chat support was better but not great.  I got really good at reinstalling Windows.  I had one computer that had the mother board replaced four times before they gave up and replaced the whole machine.  That happened twice all within the three year warranty period.  When the third replacement machine came with Vista installed, I gave it to my kid and gave up on windows altogether.

During this time while I was getting really good at Windows troubleshooting and sometimes making money at it,  my son in law's family (from California) were singing the praises of Apple.  So what the heck, I went on Ebay and bought an Apple Power PC iBook running OSX Tiger.  It was pretty reasonable because Apple was moving to intel based machines and was soon to be releasing the Leopard OS.  I just wanted to learn a new platform.

Wow was I impressed.  I was used to setting aside a huge chunk of time setting up a new machine on our home network even as familiar with Windows as I was.  The setup of this little machine was so easy.  Open box, plug it in, turn it on.  It found my network in seconds even before I went looking for it.  It was so cool,  except.........   It never broke down.  I was used to going to my favorite download site, Major geeks, to download all the necessary freeware programs with each new Windows computer.  Disk cleaners, Unzipper programs, Spyware scanners, Registry Cleaners, Malware removal tools, Uninstallers, Virus scanners, DeFraggers, etc.  Plus the requisite helper programs:  Font managers, PDF creators,  backup programs and drivers for microphones, web cams, printers etc.  But I didn't need any of these.  I did install a virus scanner  and mac Janitor , but the thing came with a web cam and microphone and research on the web told me I didn't need to do all the maintenance I was used to.  It felt weird.  I wasn't naive enough to think Apple was immune to viruses, but the majority of the malware out there was aimed at the ubiquitous PC world so all I could do was install a virus checker and let it do it's job.

So I  waited for a problem so I could learn how to fix it........  It never came.  The only problem happened because I thought I should be doing something.  I don't know how I did it but somehow,  I managed to duplicate my entire system and started getting "startup disk full" errors.  I took it to the Apple store and even though I didn't buy it there or get an extended warranty, the guy there only took a few minutes to figure it out.  He put a bunch of stuff in the trash and told me to empty the trash when I got home because it would take awhile.  That machine is still operating well and being used by my husband.

So fast forward to this week.  I have a 2007 iMac desktop and a 2009 mac Book pro and very little knowledge of how to fix either.  They work well even if they sometimes feel a little slow when I am using Safari to wander around the internet.  Then Friday while I was working on a web site on my 2007 iMac, I decided to reboot it because since I leave it on all the time, it was getting a little slow.  It wouldn't reboot. no matter how many times I tried.

A search brought me to MacRumors and a whole page of things to try.  When none of them worked, I tried the last thing on the list,  Restore from Time machine backup.  Less than two hours later, I was back in business.  I sent my computer nerd son an email telling him to kiss his time capsule. (I had turned him into a mac convert a couple years ago).  I still don't know a whole lot about fixing a Mac.  Maybe, I'll try to learn.  But for now I am happy.  Once again, my computer just works even if I don't know just how it does.