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In The Land of Dwell

September 11, 2011

…for Kathleen

Conscience is that still, small voice that is sometimes too loud for comfort.  ~Bert Murray

If you get through entire days in which you do not find yourself struggling to find the right way through the brush, to do the moral thing over the expedient thing, the hard thing over the easy, then the chances are that you’re not doing it right. Each day we are confronted with moral and ethical dilemmas, choices we must make: take the high road or the low, or some middle ground that leaves us feeling more than a little soiled. It’s that middle road that gets me, every time, and leaves me stuck.

I live, like many, I am sure, in the land of dwell. Bush Jr. once bragged that he made a decision and never looked back. If we don’t look back, we can’t learn from the mistakes. You see how well he learned. I don’t tend to admire people who don’t spend a wee bit of time in the land of dwell.

However, the price of living in the land of dwell permanently can be great. And it can be crippling. It’s definitely exhausting. I’m not sure I always find my way out, either. Maybe that’s obstinacy on my part, or that there’s no clear route. And oh, how that drives me crazy. There should be clear rights and clear wrongs, lines in the sand that aren’t to be crossed, not lines that zig, zag, curve, and weave.

And so I dwell on the little things that matter not and on the big that seem as if they absorb all the space. At least all my focus.

It’s a bit like Alice in Wonderland, maybe, this autism world, where monsters lurk, cats grin, and we’re all late, late, for a very important date.

Imagine…

September 8, 2011

Learning will be cast into the mire and trodden down under the hoofs of a swinish multitude.

–Edmund Burke, brilliant bloke

Imagine a belief so tightly held that any one who spoke against it was instantly vilified. The autism community wastes so much time, so many bytes, vilifying others because of differences in beliefs about  causations, differences in beliefs about treatments, differences in beliefs about whether autism is a personality to be cloaked in pride or a crippling disability to be cure of at all costs.

Stephanie wrote a follow up piece to one I wrote on facilitated communication and the central proponents of neurodiversity being staunch advocates and promoters of FC. In the comments she wrote that she doesn’t commit “to the hard-line scientific stance” I do.  Ah, and there’s the rub. In the autism community itself, I’m not sure very many do. Fair enough, in the wider world, most don’t.

Most people are not skeptical. That doesn’t make me superior, better, or infallible. It doesn’t even make me insusceptible to well-packaged woo. Hurt enough and you’ll try a lot of stuff to make the pain go away. Suffer enough and you’ll do anything, skepticism gone in the midst of desperation.

I get it: most people like a little bit of woo in their lives, dwell in grays so much better, appreciate the idea of things that can’t be reduced to scientific facts.  My first thought after reading that comment was that if more people adhered to hard-line scientific stances, there’d be a whole lot less people getting hurt by woo.

And there’s so much pseudoscience masquerading as science that one wonders that anyone can wade through the muck of it and come out clean. And this is endemic. Perhaps even epidemic. Nay, I say it is a veritable frakking tsunami.

So while I wish more people took a more skeptical approach to the treatments they choose to use, endorse, sell, etc, I understand how compelling testimonials are, how persuasive the pitch men are, how bad it can be when one is suffering and simply wants relief, whatever the cost: my beef isn’t with them. It’s with the charlatans who take advantage of others. And, yes, it’s against those individuals who, despite the exposure to the science, choose to push it, promote it, and skewer anyone who dares to speak out against their own sacred cow.

Rachel asked in a comment to my post on Autism Speaks and Wakefield if I would back off my denouncement of the neurodiversity movement given Autism Speaks’ unfortunate,  misguided decision to sponsor the National Autism Association’s convention. I’m not backing off my denouncement of a group that’s supported FC since at least 2008. That’s not evolving; that’s maintaining the status quo.

I’ll acknowledge political expediency and the need for groups to appeal to the largest number of people when raising money. Sometimes inclusion isn’t about a belief in inclusion. Sometimes it’s about the money, and there can be no doubt that the more inclusive a group is of its core constituency, the more money it will raise, the more supporters it will have.  This is true of all the autism organizations that raise money or accept donations. Most of those organizations are run so that there are 990s each year for them so that some level of transparency of what funds are raised and how they are dispersed is there for the public to make a decision. At least we can look and make our decisions based on that level of transparency.

When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.  –Edmund Burke

We stand, this community, in so many divides now, that it’s a wonder any two of us can get together on anything. And yet we do.  I know we do, as I see it in bloggers who support each other on a daily basis, wishing the others well, praying, caring, giving.

“I am convinced that we have a degree of delight, and that no small one, in the real misfortunes and pains of others.” –Edmund Burke

Yes, some seem to travel the interwebz looking to get their rage on. It happens far too often and has nothing to do with the people they attack or what the people are saying. Reasoned argument far too often gives way to nasty mudslinging to see who can inflict the most harm. And this is certainly not restricted to our community. Oops. How dare I call it a community, right? Divisions…

A community doesn’t mean everyone is homogeneous and shares the same features. It doesn’t even mean it will share all the same goals and core beliefs. And we constantly shift our communities, from the micro level to the macro to suit our needs at the time.

Money, well, that’s a great leveler. Everyone can belong. And so is hate. Hate the same group as us? You’re in, buddy!

Here’s the thing. I get that the people in the autism community are just that: people. They have agendas, ideologies, axes to grind, all the grist and mill that accompany social groups of people. Add to that, we have the fact that almost everyone in this community has some issues communicating clearly, and that’s even if they’re “neurotypical.”

And I reject neurotypicality. It doesn’t exist. And for those who would tell parents that we not only don’t belong to the neurodiversity community, we don’t belong to the disability community, I’m going to borrow Colbert’s wag of the finger (you decide which finger that is), and point out that the disability community is a large segment of our population and the older one is, the more likely one belongs to it. Don’t assume that a parent doesn’t have an issue, a disability you don’t know about because he or she hasn’t disclosed. I won’t presume your functional level based on what you can do on a keyboard if you won’t assume my lack of disability.

Dyspeptic: or One Hell of a Rough Night (Again)

September 5, 2011

from 8/24/2011

I have GERD, and had spent a couple years on medications like prilosec and nexium until the side-effects of those meds became worse than the problem. Last spring it was suggested I would probably need to have Nissen fundoplication before I ran screaming from the gastro’s office. Okay, I didn’t run screaming, but I did walk out going “No way in hell.” I haven’t been back to him since. After stopping the nexium, I actually saw improvement in many of my issues and had less acid reflux. Look,  a little bit of heartburn I can deal with. Waking up with the dratted stuff in my mouth, not so much. It’s extremely unpleasant. Last night I woke up with the feel of it all the way in my nasal passages. It felt like it was burning my nose hairs, and (forgive the TMI) I spent an hour vomiting until there was nothing left to, and then another hour heaving. It was NOT a good night.
So what the hell do I do? I was sleeping in my recliner sitting up when this happened, and this happens three times or more a week.

Go back to the gastro? The surgery is off the table. Seriously, as you will not get me on the table. Sigh. Okay, so let’s look at the things that could make this issue improve and see if I’m doing any of them.

Treatment

To prevent heartburn, avoid foods and beverages that may trigger your symptoms. For many people, these include:
Alcohol
Caffeine
Carbonated beverages
Chocolate
Citrus fruits and juices
Tomatoes
Tomato sauces
Spicy or fatty foods
Full-fat dairy products
Peppermint
Spearmint
If other foods regularly give you heartburn, avoid those foods, too.

Hahahahaha. Oh crap. Well, there goes being a lush.
Hee, yeah, you’re getting caffeine, carbonated beverages and chocolate away from me!

No, seriously. Apparently my life style is a problem. I live on caffeine, drink diet sodas, treat myself to chocolate, love Italian dishes, suck on peppermints. I do it all. Last night’s awful episode undoubtedly resulted from the rocky road ice cream an hour before I went to bed last night coupled with the diet coke, hamburger and fries for supper.

I’ve got to make some very real changes. Moving on, let’s look at other changes and see just how bad I am.

Also, try the following changes to your eating habits and lifestyle:
Avoid bending over or exercising just after eating
Avoid garments or belts that fit tightly around your waist
Do not lie down with a full stomach. For example, avoid eating within 2 – 3 hours of bedtime.
Do not smoke.
Eat smaller meals.
Lose weight if you are overweight.
Reduce stress.
Sleep with your head raised about 6 inches. Do this by tilting your entire bed, or by using a wedge under your body, not just with normal pillows.

Well, I can absolutely guarantee I’m not exercising right after eating or wearing tight clothes around my waist. I don’t smoke, and I often sleep in the recliner, sitting up, which makes no impact.

But, I need to work harder to not lie down with a full stomach, I need to lose weight, and I need to reduce stress.

Here is where I laugh maniacally. Reduce stress? How?

Don’t they realize all this just ratcheted the stress up? Give up a diet I eat because I’m exhausted and stressed in the first place and replace it with one of bland foods?

Sometimes the things we are asked to do seem insurmountable, too much to ask, and we gnash our teeth and bemoan our fate. Here’s my bottom line, though: I don’t want another night like last night. I don’t. So, first thing I’m gonna give up is spearmint. Hee, that’s a serious sacrifice, but you know, it’s the right thing to do. I’m also gonna make sure I’m not doing those exercises right after I eat. I can do these two things, no problem. Ought to fix everything, like immediately. 🙂

Nah, I kid. I will find the fortitude to take control and make the lifestyle changes that could improve this. Pills can’t fix everything, and neither can surgeries We have to do our part, too. So, if I nod off while you’re talking to me, it’s because I’ve reached the top of the list and am giving up caffeine. Or because I really imbibed (the very top of the list, alcohol)! No, that one I can cross off the list first, easy breezy along with spearmint.

Now, what to do for stress reduction? Hmmmm.

Wish me luck!

 9/5/11 Update:  Yeah, spearmint reduction has not been enough (joke), and I’ve had a couple similar nights since then, and several others where I just woke up gasping and swallowing that nasty stuff back. I am actively working to remove the things from the list, trying to figure out what are the triggers for this for me. After eating chocolate two hours before bedtime and waking up an hour after falling asleep and vomiting, I’ve decided to move chocolate to breakfast time, per Kathleen’s suggestion. 🙂

What a Little Rain Will Do

September 4, 2011

Frak Me Mondays: A Look Back to First Day of School

September 2, 2011

8/22/2011

Frak Me Mondays

Dude. Seriously.

First day of the girls going back to school.

Morning goes pretty good.

They get up easy.

They actually choose and eat breakfast with no muss.

No sign of Rosie’s meltdown the night before that she didn’t want to go to school.

I get ready. I put on black capris, black top and kick it up a notch with unmatchable lime green shoes.

Don’t ask me why I bought unmatchable shoes. I did. I forgot there was no way you were actually going to get me to wear any other clothing in lime green.

They were on sale.

My girls insisted I wear a green top. So I switched to a sage green top. I kept asking them if they matched.

They promised it looked good. Of course, Rosie was in an outfit that had at least three different shades of green and she was wearing purple loafers with it. Lil was in a SpongeBob tee. These are perhaps not the children you want making your clothing decisions.

I fretted over it the whole way dropping them off, at one point taking a shoe off and holding it against my top and asking them, “Seriously?”

Um, no!
Okay, maybe it’s not as horrible as I think, but still no.

Lil responded with the fact that she didn’t care if she matched when she went out, so why should I? Rosie piped in with what was wrong with her greens? If her greens matched, then so did mine. Umm, hello, all her greens were on the same shirt.

I resolved to return home and put my black top back on after I dropped them off and not let them get voting power on my outfits again. Geez. I’m wearing the shoes cuz they don’t match anything else. We’ll say it adds a splash of pizazz to the black, mkay?

So I pull up to Rosie’s school (and mind you we are early before the crowd). I pull up as far as I can because the parent in front of me has decided the thirty feet of space in front of her are not to be used. Another parent has pulled into a parking space instead of following the rules. He can’t easily back out because of where I am. Oh, he could have, if he’d have turned his fricking steering wheel all the way. The dude gets out, throws his arms in the air and proceeds to chew me out for FOLLOWING THE RULES of how to drop our children off in the morning. And he does this in front of my kids. What a douche. Seriously. What a douche. I somehow don’t call him that and pull ahead when the parent ahead of me pulls off. It takes a minute, but we get Rosie out of the car, where she proceeds to walk as S-L-O-W-L-Y as she possibly can all the way in. I can’t drive off because I don’t trust her to get in. Fortunately, I’ve pulled all the way forward so I’m not stopping parents from dropping their kids off and going on.

I then drive on to Lil’s school, listening to her go on and on about me worrying too much about my clothes matching. Yeah. Right. She gets out safely, walks speedily in as another parent going the opposite direction to me decides to pull right up alongside me and see if her kid can’t slam her truck door right into my driver’s side door. You know I got a name for that, too.

Holy frak. And it’s just Monday!

Stephen Law’s Intellectual Black Holes, or How Not to Win Friends

September 1, 2011

Warning: Snark Attack Ahead

So you’ve been in the skeptic movement for a bit, dipped your toes in the waters, so to speak, and gone looking for the woonuts so as to have a blast pointing out their every fallacy and poorly thought out idea. Now what? You wanna upgrade your game some, show off your intellectual superiority and really go to town. Why limit yourself to just garden variety woo like homeopathy? If you read Stephen Law’s new book Believing Bullshit, you’ll be armed with a ton of great information which you can use to alienate 70% of Americans: those who believe in God.

Hey, why not? It’s not like we’re not feeling enough love from those who buy into the woo like homeopathy, integrative medicine, chiropractic, quantum deepak fluff, and UFOs ; let’s really piss off people and see if we can reach them by making a point of ridiculing everything they believe. Sure, we can lessen the sting some if we occasionally write that it’s not that we have a problem with the belief itself per se but the arguments themselves. We should follow Law’s example, as page after page readers have to see the book’s title at the top before they dive into examples of  fallacious argument after fallacious argument showing conclusively that their most tightly held beliefs and explanations for those beliefs are bullshit. Just pure-dee bullshit.

Seriously. It’s time to go scorched earth. We’re not building bridges anymore, people. We are making our last stand here. Drawing our line in the sand and letting absolutely everyone we disagree with know they believe bullshit and we’re not standing for it. Stephen Law’s book gives us the absolute how-to guide on how to alienate everyone in our lives. Except Spock. Too bad he’s not real. It’s a must-read if we want to take no victims, tear down all relationships, make clear we aren’t interested in tolerance, acceptance and diversity. Screw all you who are sucked into “intellectual black holes” that you call belief in a creator.

Really. Why bother any more? Why put up with nonsense? If people can’t be bothered to muster cogent arguments devoid of fallacies, they believe bullshit and we shouldn’t have to listen to it any more. Instead let’s just ridicule them. All of them, no matter what the belief itself is.

Is it that bad, though? That extreme? Does Law really advocate that? Honestly, having eagerly picked up his book after Michael Shermer’s The Believing Brain, I was ready to hear what he had to say, see what I could use to help my students become better at critical thinking. I mean, the title’s a beauty, right? Believing Bullshit: How Not to Get Sucked into an Intellectual Black Hole. It doesn’t get better. And it is a well-written, well-structured text. His examples of fallacies are really good examples. Page after page of really good examples. So what’s my problem? After all, if you’ve read me or know me well, you know that I think it highly unlikely there is a god. But you also know I would never in a million years mess with people over their spiritual beliefs, unless of course they are Robert Lanza and Deepak Chopra.
There is absolutely nothing in the title to suggest that the bulk of this book is going to focus on bashing believers and pointing out in a carefully laid out, damning way, how all the arguments used to argue there is a god are fallacies. If one is trying to reach out to the masses and not an audience that already accepts your premises, this is not the way to do it. It’s not. Those people are gone before you’ve gotten to the third example of your first intellectual black hole, and you’ve probably made an enemy.
If you’re simply trying to arm your allies with well-honed tools to devastate those who hold religious beliefs, then job well done. Let the scorching of earth commence.
I really wanted to use parts of this text with my students this semester, but I’m in West Texas and it won’t work here. I’d lose them all day one. Fortunately, Law provides a conclusion where he provides a list of the black holes and some examples that don’t solely deal with a belief in the creator. There’s material here that I can use with students to help them think more critically and I’m appreciative of that condensing of what really are excellent tools.
Our goal as educators should not be to give our students flame throwers and tell them to go forth and lay waste to those who have faith. Unless of course, it’s Deepak Chopra and Robert Lanza. Then, they  should have at it. So, charlatans and con artists who prey on the unsuspecting we ought to be actively fighting. Those who live out a life of faith in a higher being, which works to inform their lives with meaning, coping mechanisms, and a little peace? No. That’s my line in the sand. We don’t ridicule and attack them. We don’t tell them they believe bullshit. We don’t target them. And I guess it’s that potential take-away that we do and should from a well-written, thoroughly convincing text that has me concerned. I’m not saying Law’s advocating that, of course. He may just really want to point out that the arguments concerning belief in a creator are in his mind complete and utter bullshit. He should have probably included that in the title, then. And it may be that I’m over-sensitive given the rifts right now in the skeptic and atheist movements as people argue over whether they should be permanently entwined, but I don’t think so, at least not entirely. Law doesn’t focus most of his examples on the extremes of religious belief, but instead chooses to look at the most generic of arguments for belief in a creator, any creator. He targets all believers equally.
Ridicule does, indeed, have its place. But it doesn’t work to win over the very people you’re ridiculing, and if you are interested in equipping all people with tools for how to evaluate claims and evidence and make up their own minds, you don’t do it by pissing the majority of them off.
That means, for me, personally, that I could recommend this book to individuals who are atheists and agnostics, tell them it has good tools in it, and is worth their time, but that I would steer my friends who live lives of faith to Shermer’s book. Yes, he deals with belief, but he is gentler, kinder, and more interested in providing tools without a scorched earth policy.

August 31, 2011