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October 31, 2005

WriAShorStorWe.org

On a lark I registered wriashorstorwe.org last night, and I am in the process of setting it up. Yes, I realize I am the last man in America to still say "on a lark."

If you are chomping at the bit to post a link to the first installment of your story, you can do so in this thread. But I'd suggest you wait until writashorstorwe.org is active, where you can do it with trackbacks and all that other fancy hoohaw. It should be live this evening. Yes, I realize I am the last man in America to still say "chomping at the bit."

Update: Needs some work, but wriashorstorwe.org is online.


Happy Halloween

 


 

October 28, 2005

Led Zepplin's Least Popular Song

 


 

[ link | Humor]



The Bad Review Revue

Dukes of Hazzard: "The less said about Jessica Simpson's performance the better. From the neck down she fulfills all the requirements, but, honestly, I think General Lee might do a better job with the dialogue." -- Connie Ogle [ha!], MIAMI HERALD

cry_wolf: "These tropes have already been recycled enough to make Greenpeace proud." -- Marc Savlov, AUSTIN CHRONICLE

Stay: "[Director] Marc Forster takes a maximalist approach to this mumbo jumbo, which means that in addition to lots of wacky angles, shiny surfaces, seemingly endless stairs, and sets of twins, triplets and quadruplets, he deploys the unsettling vision of three talented actors - Ewan McGregor, Naomi Watts and Ryan Gosling - straining credulity and neck tendons in the service of serious claptrap." -- Manohla Dargis, NEW YORK TIMES

Domino: "The movie is trash shot to look like art imitating trash." -- Owen Gleiberman, ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY

Brothers Grimm: "Easily the ugliest film Gilliam's ever made, a movie shot with a lens someone forgot to wipe. It's also his loudest: Every scene is amped up to 11, and every line of dialogue is delivered as though it's a cry for help from the bottom of the well." -- Robert Winsonsky, DALLAS OBSERVER

Waiting: "Geared to 16-year-olds who can't name the governor of their state. " -- Mike Clark, USA TODAY

October 27, 2005

Research Day: Red Lights, Brown Crayons, And The Disputed Heavyweight Champion Of The World

If I'm stuck behind a stale red light, is there anything I can do to change it? I used to live in Seattle's U-district, and, for a period of about six months, I had to drive downtown at 4:45 in the morning every weekday. My commute was between seven and fifteen minutes long, and the five minute discrepancy was completely dependant on the state of the traffic light at the junction of Montlake and 25th. If it was green when I arrived, I would sail through and arrive at the office in no time; if it was red, I could get stuck sitting there for freakin' ever, despite the complete lack of competing traffic.

I've heard two hypothesis about actions drivers can take to actually force (or at least hasten) a stale red light's change to green. The first says that you can simulating the strobe effect of ambulance and police car sirens by quickly flash your headlights, and trick traffic light sensors that are programmed to automatically turn green when such a vehicle approaches. The second says that, if you are alone at a light, you can roll your car forwards and backwards, repeatedly triggering a pressure plate in the road and tricking the light into thinking that more and more cars are waiting for it to turn green.

To see if either of these were true, I called up the superintendent at Seattle's Traffic Maintenance Office. She sounded as if she had never heard the headlight-flashing one (which is odd, because pretty much everyone I know if familiar with the ol' "flash your lights" trick, and, to the best of my knowledge, nary a one of them works for the Traffic Maintenance Office). "That would never work," she told me. "They would need the code." She later clarified that "the code" was a signal sent by transmitters in ambulances, which traffic lights are programmed to recognize and turn green when an emergency vehicle approaches. "They don't respond to flashing lights at all," she said.

So is there any way to change a stale red light, I asked. The short answer: no. "If you're the only one at the light it's possible that you didn't trigger the coil in the road, so you can try rolling back and forth," she said. "But in most cases, you're just going to have to wait it out."

The coil, by the way, is part of the inductive loop that traffic lights use to detect when cars are present. The "pressure plates in the road" hypothesis is completely wrong, at least in Seattle.

What is brown? When The Squirrelly is coloring, I take the opportunity to teach him basic color theory. "This is purple," I'll tell him. "Purple is red and blue. This is green. Green is blue and yellow. This is brown. Brown is ... orange and, uh, black? Except black isn't a color. What the hell is brown?"

Holy smokes, did this ever turn out to be a not-easy question (see this contentious Google Answers thread, for instance). The first place I looked was in the "Ask a Scientist" archives, where I found this answer: "brown color is a color combination of red, orange and green -- those colors are not adjacent in the visible colors of a rainbow so they do not combine to form a visible brown. The colors which normally make up the BROWN color, however, ARE ALL PRESENT in a rainbow, but are not present in the color combination we call brown." Um, okay: I get the "red, orange and green" part, but the rest doesn't make a goddamned bit of sense to me, dude.

After further research, I think I figured out what he was trying to say: colors only appear on the rainbow if they are a primary color (red, blue, yellow) or if they are a color made up of two colors that are adjacent (i.e., a secondary color). So orange appears between red and yellow, for instance -- though I'm still unclear on how "violet" winds after blue, when its other primary color, red, is all the way on the other end of the spectrum. Brown, however, is made up of colors that are not adjacent, which is why it's not on the rainbow.

In fact, it appears that brown is the result when you mix a color with its compliment, which is the color found across from it on the color wheel. So you could make brown by mixing purple with yellow, blue with orange, or red with green. This is short of a shorthand way of saying that brown is made up of all three primary colors, but in different proportions. All his I learn from a page on how to mix hair dye.

Are there Disputed Heavyweight Champions Of The World? I know nothing about boxing, except that the best thing to be is the Undisputed Heavyweight Champion Of The World. But does the word "undisputed" really mean anything, or is it just a rhetorical flourish on an already overlong title?

According to the Wikipedia entry on boxing, there are no less than three international boxing associations: the World Boxing Association, the World Boxing Council, and the International Boxing Federation. If all three agreed that a certain boxer was the "world champion" then he was "undisputed;" but if any of the organizations object, a boxer "world champion" title is considered disputed.

October 26, 2005

From Boasting To Blubbering In 60 Seconds Flat

From an IRC channel I frequent:

matthew: The cute and at-least-ten-years-my-junior barrista at my coffee shop just comped my afternoon decaf. This may be the first fringe benefit of flirting I have ever received.

matthew: Aside from the wife and child, that is.

torrez: HAHA. Oh yes, them.

tenuki: You go out for decaf...?

dreamattack: i've never understood the drinking of the decaf

potentato: she feels bad charging money for decaf

valmunin: Decaf coffee is just hot water...

matthew: It's was a decaf latte, okay? A latte. But the latte is beside the point. Cute girls are comping my drinks, people. Can we please stay on topic?

torrez: Arenít you a fancy boy? A latte!

tenuki: latte-da

matthew: YES A LATTE THAT'S WHAT 20 YEAR-OLDS LOOK FOR IN A MAN YOU KNOW: SOPHISTICATION

gribblet: You drink decaf lattes? I'm suprised your sperm had enough energy to impregnate wife with child.

hypoartist: Did you get the senior citizen discount?

winterdrm: Don't fucking post again unless you get a free scone.

brax: Did you get a shot of hazelnut too, hot stuff?

photek: Wow, you guys brought the heat. I'd be surprised if Matthew wasn't crying and spitting up latte all over his embroidered lace doilies right now.

October 25, 2005

Fairyland Headline News

BUNNY FOO-FOO ARRAIGNED ON CHARGES OF ASSAULT
Bodies of field mice found in forest
D.A. may seek goon penalty


KING COLE VETOS FREEDOM OF MATRIMONY ACT
"Marriage is between a dish and a spoon," says monarch


CRYPTOLOGISTS CLOSE TO CRACKING 'FARMER'S DOG CIPHER'
Baffling code, in which letters are replaced by claps,
has confounded linguists for centuries
"We're pretty sure it's 'Bongo'," says expert

[ link | News]


October 24, 2005

WriAShorStorWe!

I was poking around on my hard drive last night, and I came across 1000 words of a mystery that I started a few years ago and never finished. It was actually pretty good. Good enough that the thought "hey, I should finish this thing and send it somewhere" crossed my mind. Followed immediately by the thought "aw, who are you kidding -- you don't even have the work ethic to finish a bowl of raisin bran, much less a short story."

Curiously, this followed just hours after another bout of literary defeatism. Earlier that day I had been at the National Novel Writing Month website, thinking, as I always do this time of year, that I should sign up and finally write my long-planned fantasy novel about obese wizards*. But then I did the math ("let's see, 50,000 words divided by 31 days -- no, wait, November only has 30 days -- carry the one, comes out to ... 1,700 words a day?! Fuuuuck no!") and that was the end of that.

So, yeah: writing a novel in a month ain't gonna happen. Not this year, not for me. But, hmm ... you know what I could probably do ...?

defective yeti is proud to announce

WriAShorStorWe

"The NaNoWriMo For Lazy People&trade!"

(Now with 100% more website)

Yes kids, October 31-November 4 is the blogosphere's first annual Write A Short Story Week!

Here's how it works: ummm, you write a short story. In a week. The End.

FAQ

Wherein I answer questions that have been neither frequent nor, to be honest, asked, given that I just made this whole thing up 15 minutes ago

Q: No for real: how does this work?

A: Your goal will to be to write a short story approximately 5000 words in length over the course of five days. That's equals 1000 words a day! Even a someone too listless to divide 5000 by five themselves can write 1000 words a day for five days!

Q: What if I want to write a longer story? Or a shorter one?

A: A thousand words, ten thousand words, whatever. Hell, I don't care if you write it in Aramaic, so long as you have a rough draft by November 4th (unless you are Mel Gibson, in which case I am going to object to you writing it in Aramaic).

Q: Isn't "WriAShorStorWe" a pretty stupid name?

A: Yes. That's why it's funny.

Q: As a blogger I have conditioned myself to only write material that I can then post to teh IntarwWeb and have fawned over by millions of anonymous surfers. I must therefore regretfully decline your offer to participate in WriAShorStorWe.

A: Not so fast, Thomas Nast. On November 4th I will put up an official WriAShorStorWe post here on dy, in the comments of which you can link to your masterpiece. Actually, I think I'll have a WriAShorStorWe post each day of next week, so that those who want to post their story incremenatally (e.g., "Here's the 1000 words I wrote today") can do so.

Q: Is this like NaNoWriMo where I'm not allowed to start writing until the official start date?

A: Nah -- start now, if you'd like. Given that I already have 1000 words of my story written, it would be a little unfair for me to disallow other folks from headstarting (<--- just made that word up, you can use it). In fact, my plan is to get my rough draft done by November 2nd and then spend each day of WriAShorStorWe polishing 1000 words or so and posting the thing in installments.

Q: What if I plan to actually submit my story to a magazine or something? Wouldn't posting it on the Internet be kinda dumb.

A: Probably. But your story ain't gonna get published unless you write it, and if WriAShorStorWe is the only way to ensure that happens (as is the case with me), it's kinda of a moot point. Just do what I plan to do: save the story as an html file and then specify that webpage in your robots.txt file. This will ensure that search engines do not index it. Keep the story up for a week or so, remove it from your site, polish it up and fire it off to "CO-BALLED: The Magazine Of Contemporary Erotic Fiction By And About COBOL Programmers" or whatever-- Google should have no record of it.

Q: If I have questions about WriAShorStorWe, who should I contact?

A: Send 'em my way, and I'll add them to the AAQ (Actually Asked Questions). Since I'm just making shit up, here, you can expedite the process by including, with your question, an answer, which will then become part of Ye Olde Stardard Rules if consider it consistant with my overall concept of the event and/or I am too lazy to think up a better reply.

P.s. Do not write me if you don't know how to write a short story and are looking for tips, because I'm just gonna fake my way through this like everyone else. Go here and read until you have an epiphany, that'd be my advice.


Okay, I think we're done here. So, in conclusion: WriAShorStorWe October 31-November 4, you're gonna participate, I like pudding, excelsior!

* Totally not kidding about this. Someday I will write it and then you'll see.
 
October 21, 2005

The Doings Of Fops

I have a piece in The Morning News today called Lone Star Statements. I only wrote about 30 words of it, but nonetheless got full credit as author. That's my kind of writing project.

October 20, 2005

Katamari Democracy

If I could draw today's post would have been a polticial cartoon featuring Special Procecutor Patrick Fitzgerald dressed as the Prince of All Cosmos, and pushing a katamari which had stuck to it, along with assorted detritus, Karl Rove, Scotter Libby, Judith Miller, and Dick Cheney. And directly in the path of the katamari would be a small and panicky-looking Bush, with the White House right behind him.

Yes sir. If I could draw, that would have been great.

October 19, 2005

The Root Of Evil

On the phone with The Queen.

The Queen: Did you guys have fun at music class this morning.

Me: Oh yeah, we had a blast. And afterwards, when I was driving The Squirrelly to daycare, he ate raw carrots for the first time. I think he really liked them.

Q: Where did he get raw carrots?

M: I forgot to bring him an after-music-class snack, so I just gave him the baby carrots from my lunch.

Q: You gave him whole baby carrots while you were driving?! And he didn't choke to death?!

M: Ah, no. And for future reference: if I ever tell you a story that involves our son choking to death on baby carrots, I promise that, A, I'll mention that fact in the lead paragraph, and, B, I will not refer to the experience as 'a blast'.

October 18, 2005

House Party

Last Saturday I was a participant in a panel discussion, as part of the Richard Hugo House's Annual Inquiry. Oh shit -- you know, I totally meant to announce this last week, so my local readers could come see me. Well, the nice thing about having both a blog that allows backdated entires and a complete lack of scruples is that I can just go ahead and create that post now, and then pretend like it was always there. Done!

I was originally scheduled to be the token blogger on a panel called "Persona in Media." I was looking forward to it for two main reasons. First, the question to be explored by this panel was "Does writing about yourself automatically put you in a world of inauthentic, fabrication and fiction?," and, insofar as I make up like 80% if the stuff on this site, I thought that I could provide a fairly definitive answer ("Yes"). Second, another panelist was to be John Richards, morning DJ at KEXP, and I pretty much revere that guy.

But, for whatever reason, it was eventually decided that I was going to be on another panel instead, this one called "Persona in Culture." In retrospect, it's probably best that I did not wind up on the panel with John Richards, as I probably would have spent the whole time trying to impress him.

Q: Matthew, while I agree that all journalism is inherently subjective, wouldn't you agree that honest reporters can and should work to identify and isolate their biases so as to at least strive toward the goal of objectivity?

Me: I think Alvino Rey addressed that issue best in his song "My Buddy," found on the B-side of The Arcade Fire's limited-release 7-inch single "Neighborhood #1," which I own on vinyl. Wouldn't you agree, John?

John: Uh, I'm pretty sure that's song is an instrumental.

Me: Yes. Exactly.

Unfortunately, there was also a problem with my being on the culture panel: namely, the average cup of yoghurt is more cultured than I am. Yes, there was a time when I saw arthouse films and read books by Milan Kundera and spent Friday evenings watching experimental theater that didn't make a goddamned bit of sense to anyone, but these days the closest thing to the arts that I experience on a regular basis is Ernie singing "The Honker Ducky Dinger Jamboree" on the Sesame Street "Silly Songs" CD. Still, I figured that I could bluff my way through the event.

I took my seat on the six person panel, next to moderator Brian Goedde, who was sitting on the end. As we began, Brian asked the panelists to introduce themselves, starting with the person farthest from him. The first was a professor at a local college; the next had two master's degrees and founded a Writers Institute; another was the 2005 Grand Slam Poetry Champion and author of several chapbooks. When they got to me I was all, like, "Hi, I write a blog where I tell fart jokes and mock people for giving money to charity!"

It was kind of liberating -- by this point I realized that I was so far out of my league that I just kind of settled into the role resident philistine.

As it turned out, having a boorish rube on the panel was a great boon to the moderator. He would ask some thought-provoking question and, while the rest of the people would furrow their brows and gaze into the middle distance while actual thoughts were provoked, I would rush to fill up the dead air by gamely offering up some profoundly uninformed opinion, thereby allowing someone else to follow up with "well, I think I would take exception to Matthew contention that contemporary fiction is quote-unquote 'totally gay' ..." or whatever boneheaded thing I said.

At one point Brian Goedde hesitated before answering a question and then justified his delay with, "I just don't want to blurt out something without thinking it through ahead of time" and then I said "As a blogger, blurting out things without thinking them through ahead of time is pretty much my medium" and then everyone laughed. Laughed with me, I'm sure.

Also adding to the fun was that fact that there was a whole side discussion going on about James Baldwin, so people from the audience would occasionally chime in with "I couldn't agree more with Baldwin when he talks about how themes of personal importance include the significance of community identification" and I'd be sitting there thinking, "whoa, I totally don't even remember saying that."

Anyway, a great time was had by all, and it's too bad that they'll never invite me back again.

Scorecard!

The Fancy Words Matthew Used While On The Hugo House Panel To Sound Smart And Their Actual Meanings

Word: Laconic
Context: "... a great writer, but fairly laconic."
What Matthew thought it meant: Terse
What it actually means: Using or marked by the use of a minimum of words; brief and pithy; brusque.
Verdict: He shoots, he scores!

Word: Polemic
Context: "... I think Americans respond better to political humor than to straight polemic."
What Matthew thought it meant: Overly didactic speech or writing.
What it actually means: A controversial argument, especially one refuting or attacking a specific opinion or doctrine.
Verdict: Close enough!

Word: Artifice
Context: "... people want authenticity. They are tired of artifice."
What Matthew thought it meant: Fakery.
What it actually means: An artful or crafty expedient; a stratagem.
Verdict: Doesn't mean what I thought it meant, but it still kinda worked. Kinda.

Word: Obstification
Context: "... don't want your writing to get bogged down in obstification."
What Matthew thought it meant: Using so many big words in an effort to sound smart that no one knows what the hell you are talking about.
What it actually means: Nothing! I was searching for "obfuscation," which means "to make so confused or opaque as to be difficult to perceive or understand"
Verdict: I would refer to this as "ironic," but why compound one misuse of a word with another?

October 17, 2005

The Slump

You'd think that with all the calamities that have recently befallen the White House -- the fallout from the Katrina response, the Plame investigation, the Miers nomination, the Delay indictment, the disastrous Tikrit teleconference, etc. -- we progressives would be gloating every chance we got. Actually, I've noticed that most of my friends daren't even mention the current state of the executive branch, as if they were afraid of jinxing things. It's like we're seven innings into a no-hitter, but no one wants to mention this fact aloud.

Or it could just be that we here in Seattle are so familiar with this particular brand of meltdown that it hardly bears mentioning any more. Because the trajectory of the Bush Administration almost perfectly parallel any given season of our beloved (and occationally behated) hometome baseball team, the Seattle Mariners.

Things start out promising and soon they are flying high, packing the stadium every night and well over five hundred. But then, just after the mid-season All-Star game (which, in thins case, would coincide with the 2004 election), things start to go south. Soon they go into a full-on tailspin: they can't do anything right, they routinely snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, the fair-weather fans desert them, and even the season-ticket holders start grousing about the lousy management.

On the bright side, the Bush administration will probably trade John Bolton to Paraguay for a young but promising diplomat and a yes-man to be named later, and begin scheduling events like a "Press Secretary Night" where the first 10,000 visitors to the White House receive a commemorative "Scotty's A Hotty" jersey and get to attend a special ceremony where they retire Ari Fleischer's number.

October 13, 2005

Super Way-In-Advance Notice

Hey, I'll be part of a panel discussion last I mean next Saturday at the Hugo House's Annual Inquiry. If you weren't there it was totally your fault, with me giving you lots and lots of advance notice and all.

October 12, 2005

Souled Out

Hey, have you heard that new Death Cab For Cutie song, "Soul Meets Body?" Oh boy, I have. I'm listening to it right now! And I don't just mean "I'm listening to it as I type these words," I mean "I'm probably listening to it at the exact moment you read these words, regardless of when that might be."

Every radio station in Seattle has that thing on, like, 24-hour rotation. In fact, I'm pretty sure that most Seattle DJ's are just putting track two of the "Plans" CD on repeat at the start of their shift and then kicking back for four hours. The only time it's not playing is when the DJs come on the air to boast that they are the only station in America with the balls to play such an obscure, indie, local band.

Seriously, that song is becoming 2005's "Hey Ya," at least here in the Northwest. Every station is playing it, regardless of format: top 40, alternative, "alternative," adult contemporary, NPR/olde tymey guys-shouting-songs-through-megaphones, Spanish language (Cuando Alma Encuentra Cuerpo), conservative talk radio ("... the question we should be asking Harriet Miers is 'Do you believe that soul meets body at conception?'"), etc. I wouldn't be surprised if, starting tomorrow, we started hearing this:

This station is conducting a test of the Emergency Broadcast System. This is only a test.

"When soul meets bah-deeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee..."

October 11, 2005

The Fine Art Of Writing

Sorry about the paucity of posts in the last two weeks, but it took a while for me to get that ASD entry out, and everything else got stoppered up.

It's like I have this pipe of things I want to write about, but if the one at the end of the chute is really big or hard it will block all the stuff that entered the pipe later. So I sit down and struggle and strain to push it out, because the backup makes me uncomfortable. And when it finally does emerge, it's like everything behind it explosively uh, it, uhhh ...

In retrospect I kind of wish I'd picked a different analogy for my blogging style.

[ link | dy]


October 10, 2005

ASD

This is The Squirrelly, looking you in the eye.

If you met The Squirrelly in person, this is not something you'd likely see. As you entered the room he might glance briefly in your direction, but would then return to whatever he was doing before and probably ignore you thereafter. Any effort you made to catch his eye would almost certainly be in vain.

The technical name for this behavior is "gaze avoidance," and it is one of the symptoms of autistic spectrum disorder (ASD). The Squirrelly was diagnosed with ASD two weeks ago.

The possibility of ASD was first suggested by his daycare provider in August. The Queen was worried; I was skeptical to the point of dismissiveness. This was the same woman who, just three days after he took his first steps, urged us to take him to a foot doctor because he "walked funny." I assumed that this was just another overreaction on her part, and one (like the "walking funny" comment) that she would never mention again. Instead, she brought it up several more times over the course of the week. It was clear that she was sincerely concerned.

Of course we'd noticed that The Squirrelly was idiosyncratic -- his phenomenal ability to tune us out, his reluctance to adopt gestures such as hand clapping, the (slight) delay in his speech -- but we'd just chalked it up to his personality. Our only real worry was over his intermittent response to his name, which had us wondering if he might have a hearing impairment.

But we'd never seriously considered the possibility of autism. Still, The Squirrelly had an appointment with his doctor scheduled for the following week, and we figured it couldn't hurt to ask.

The pediatrician noticed the same things the daycare provider did, foremost among them his lack of eye contact and seeming indifference to her presence in the room. She suggested that we enroll him in the Toddler Assessment Project, a University of Washington study to identify ASD in children as young as eighteen months. We did so immediately.

The clinicians at the UW Autism Center conducted interviews with The Queen and I regarding The Squirrelly's behavior, and we brought him in for observation on a number of occasions. After the fourth such visit they had seen enough to officially classify his symptoms as those of autistic spectrum disorder.

* * *

"Autistic spectrum disorder" is an umbrella classification for a group of closely related pervasive developmental disorders, including autism, Asperger's Syndrome, and (arguably) attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. The word "spectrum" is in recognition of the fact that people with ASD vary widely in their impairments.

Of the five major areas that characterize ASD -- social impairment, language impairment, imaginative impairment, repetitive adherence, and sensory integration dysfunction -- it appears that The Squirrelly's symptoms lie mostly (and perhaps exclusively) in the first three. He doesn't engage in rocking or arm flapping, doesn't have affinities or aversions to specific textures or sounds, and doesn't insist upon sameness and routine. That's good news, as these things go. His physical development is, if anything, a little ahead of the curve. And while it's really too early to start making predictions about his cognitive skills, he appears to be right on track.

But his "gaze avoidance" tendencies are unmistakable, and he makes very little effort to communicate with others. He knows dozens of words but only uses them for labelling. Show him a banana and he'll say "banana," but if he wants a banana it apparently doesn't occur to him that saying the corresponding word to us might provoke a response. When he is in the company of other toddlers he plays around them rather than with them. And he rarely engages in imitative play.

It seems likely that he is high-functioning. One possibility is that he has Asperger's Syndrome (AS), which is a relatively common form of ASD. People with AS have normal to high intelligence but great difficulty with social behavior. There's probably someone in your company's IT department with a touch of Asperger's. Albert Einstein and Bill Gates are both suspected of having AS, so, who knows: we might wind up with a genius or a bajillionaire in the family. Even Dan Ackroyd has AS, which, for some reason, comforts me to no end.

But, at this point, all we know is that The Squirrelly falls somewhere on the autistic spectrum.

It's worth noting that he will make eye contact with me and The Queen for long periods of time, though he does so infrequently. I wouldn't characterize him as overly affectionate, but he loves roughhousing with his father, sitting in his mother's lap, and getting hugs from either. He cries when one of us walks out the door, even if its just to get the mail. Most importantly, to my mind, he has a great personality, he laughs a lot, and, in general, is an exceptionally easy-going and happy kid. Honestly, what else matters?

It goes without saying that we are anxious about his future, and have lost sleep since receiving the news. But that's when we tend to fret: when he's asleep in his room and we're awake in ours. Or when we are at work and he is at daycare. Or whenever he's not around. When he is around, though, it's almost impossible to worry about him too much. You can't spend any time in the company of this kid and not think that, regardless of the diagnosis, he's going to turn out awesome.

* * *

Of the aforementioned ASD symptoms that The Squirrelly is exhibiting, "rarely engages in imitative play" probably seems like the least of them. Actually, this one turns out to be a sticky wicket (as they say, um, somewhere, I think). Imitation is, after all, how toddlers learn a lot of things -- they see their mother use a spoon, so they decide to try using a spoon themselves. Most parents take it for granted that they can teach their child by demonstration; when that option isn't available, things get a bit thornier.

So the first thing we need to do is teach The Squirrelly how to learn. The mostly widely accepted method for doing this is called Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA). The Queen and I have spent the last few weeks trying to arrange ABA therapy for The Squirrelly, but it's proving to be something of a chore. Autism is on the rise in the US (even when you account for improved diagnostic techniques), but the increasing number of ASD cases is not being matched by a the growth in autism services. Consequentially, many organizations that offer ABA now have outrageous waiting lists and fees. Demand is running roughshod over supply.

So curious as it may sound, The Squirrelly's diagnosis came as something of a relief to us. The Queen and I have been devouring books on autism ever since the pediatrician seconded the daycare lady's suspicions, and by the time we brought him to the UW we were already convinced that he had some form of ASD. But hunches aren't enough to seek treatment. To gain access to the ABA clinics, you need an official diagnosis; once we had one we could start arranging for intervention.

The Squirrelly continues to go to the UW Autism Clinic of assessment visits. He will receive an MRI on the 28th. In the meantime we have begun incorporating ABA principles into our daily interaction with him and scheduling therapy sessions. Research has shown that intensive therapy can work wonders on children with ASD, assuming its caught early. As The Squirrelly was diagnosed at eighteen months -- about as early as ASD can reliably be identified -- we have every reason to believe that he will be very responsive to it.

* * *

And now, a story.

For about a decade I didn't eat horseradish. My mother served it to my sister and I when we were kids, but I never touched the stuff after I left the nest. It wasn't that I disliked it, but I'm not much of a condiment man and never felt the need to slather it onto to anything.

Fast-forward to my late twenties, when The Queen and I were visiting some friends. I had just finished telling a story and The Queen had launched into one, so I grabbed something to snack on from a nearby plate of appetizers. All of the food that I liked had already been eaten (undoubtedly by me), so I took one of the salmon fillets. And because I wasn't wild about fish, I decided to mask the taste by loading it up with the accompanying horseradish.

I realized it was horseradish that I was putting on my salmon, and I remembered that horseradish was hot. But there were two other factors in play. First, when you get older you often find that the foods you thought were unbearably spicy as a kid are actually rather bland, so I was compensating accordingly. Second, my friends had served us straight horseradish, My mother always given us prepared horseradish, and I was unaware that it came in any other form. Consequentially, I shoved a horrific amount of the stuff into my mouth and started chewing.

At first it wasn't so bad: just the mildly hot flavor that I remembered from my childhood. But then, at some point, I realized that it was getting hotter, and hotter, and hotter. I stopped chewing. I let my mouth hang open. Suddenly the heat doubled, and doubled again. By this point I wasn't even able do the comical "HA-HA-HAAAA!" hand-waving-in-front-of-the-mouth routine -- the horseradish was so hot that I was paralyzed, sitting there ossified while my friends laughed at the conclusion to The Queen's story.

As the feeling continued to grow I began to seriously wonder: can I die from this? Can this become so overwhelming that my body goes into shock, and I'll just slump sidewise and perish from the sheer enormity of the sensation?

I've been thinking about this story a lot lately, because I have begun to wonder the same thing about my love for The Squirrelly.

 
October 05, 2005

when you ask

when you ask
          ask
when you   ask
the love
of your
life
(of your
breath
of your
soul)

you want to give
          to give
(custom design
one of a kind) 
you want   to give
an engagement ring
not to be found
upon
the          finger
of            anyone
               anyone
else

we have the largest
selection
of engagement rings
b
 e
  c
   a
    u
     s
      e
engagement rings
are what we do
             (i do)  
              and all we do
are engagement rings

unlike that fucker
        that fucker
tom shane
                    - e. e. robbins

October 04, 2005

Check One
[ link | Humor]