Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Southern Hairy Nosed Wombat Club

Wow! According to the Yahoo News, today is a great day to be a wombat.  A Southern Hairy-Nosed Wombat, to be specific.  Apparently, there is about 1 million dollars a year coming down the marsupial way:

Australian news outlets have gone wild about the story of an American man who left $8 million to the "non profit organisation specialising in large scale rescue and rehabilitation of the Southern Hairy Nosed Wombat." The donation will come in $1-million-per-year increments, starting next year. His family has asked, perhaps not too surprisingly, for anonymity.....

The organization's mission (which is about to get a lot easier) is, in their words, to promote "conservation and protection of fragmented (wombat) populations, developing new co-existence plans for landowners, lobbying for tougher regulations on culling and undertaking research into public opinion."

We celebrate this Wombastic victory while we are waiting for our 1M/year check! Thanks for the tip, Mikey. :)

Fly like a Falcon


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Autism's First Child and False Prophets

The Atlantic has a great article up on the first child ever diagnosed with autism.  He is now 77 years old, and has lived a long, happy life - mostly due to his parents efforts to not only manage his disease but to channel his autistic tendencies in a direction they would be fruitful.  Oh, and also due to their trust fund and money set up basically just to care for him.

Initially, the child was diagnosed with schitzophrenia and institutionalized.  After his parents pursued different doctors, they eventually landed in the New York office of Dr Kanner.
Kanner did not coin the term autistic. It was already in use in psychiatry, not as the name of a syndrome but as an observational term describing the way some patients with schizophrenia withdrew from contact with those around them. Like the word feverish, it described a symptom, not an illness. But now Kanner was using it to pinpoint and label a complex set of behaviors that together constituted a single, never-before-recognized diagnosis: autism.
The article does a very good job of examining how autism affects individuals once they are grown, and what happens to them when their parents are no longer there to care for them.  To no surprise, it turns out that a supportive large social network around them is what helps keep them afloat.  Autistic individuals have to parse our emotional states one wrinkle of our faces at a time, and that is extraordinarily hard.  People around them have to be aware of these difficulties in order for the autistic person to be successful.

He later explained to Gerhardt: “The rules keep changing on me. Every time I think I learn a new rule, you change it on me.”
The answer to this problem, Gerhardt argues, is the right kind of education for the many Tonys out there. At present, he contends, schooling for children with high-functioning levels of autism overemphasizes traditional academic achievement—trying to learn French or the state capitals—at the expense of what someone like Tony really needs, a set of social skills that keep him from making mistakes such as hugging his neighbor the wrong way. These skills—like knowing how to swipe a Visa card—are not generally taught to kids with autism. And once they become adults, the teaching, in all too many cases, stops completely. In general, state-funded education ends the day a person with autism turns 21. Beyond that, there are no legal mandates, and there is very little funding. “It’s like giving someone a wheelchair on a one-month rental,” Gerhardt says, “and at the end of the month, they have to give it back, and walk.”
And, in other news on this disorder, there is a study out to disprove, once-and-for-all, any connection between thimerosal (mercury) and autism.  Don't go eating mercury now, it's still pretty bad for you, but the small amount you are exposed to in daily life (including vaccinations) will not make you autistic, it seems.

...when adding up total thimerosal exposure, the investigators also included any thimerosal exposure that might have come prenatally from maternal receipt of flu vaccines during pregnancy, as well as immunoglobulins, tetanus toxoids, and diphtheria-tetanus. In other words, investigators tried to factor in all the various ideas for how TCVs might contribute to autism when designing this study.
The authors also accounted for regressive symptoms, cumulative thimerosal exposure, and so on and so on.  It is probably the most comprehensive study done up to this point, and just like the Japan autism studies, it looks pretty bad for the anti-vaccination movement.  We just can't find a connection, at all, between these two events, using any sort of statistical analysis.  Unfortunately, that does not abate the flames on the anti-vaccination movement, and now we have a whooping cough outbreak in California..... which boggles my mind.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Glen Echo Carousel

Frilly Friday

This tiny Victorian cottage is in the Catskills in New York; designer Sandra Foster turned an old hunting cabin into this Every Girl's Dream.  And the only way to get there is by hopping across stones over a little brook.  Yes, she's thought of everything.  I assume a prince on a white horse comes with it as well.  See the entire thing at the New York Times.

On another pretty note, Twig Terrariums makes lovelies like this one.  You can buy one pre-made, or order a special one with the figurines you want doing the things you want inside their little bubble world.  They also ship kits that you can make yourself; to pick up a ready-made terrarium you have to travel to Brooklyn.

And, finally, I'm now lusting after these bikes.  They are the most gorgeous things with spokey wheels I've seen, and with the flat-foot positioning, they would really help my "falling-when-stopped" biking issues.

Have a great and frilly weekend!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Jim Henson on making puppets

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Ted Olson defending gay marriage on Fox News

I know, it made my head spin too.  Go Ted! What a lucid, well-presented and well-paced argument.  As an added bonus, it's fun to watch Chris Wallace stumble over himself and try to win an argument by being loud.  Thank goodness for reason over passion, at least as far as law goes.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Commencement by Dave Barry

For all of you who are seeing their kids to kindergarten or preschool for the first time.  Stay strong.  Those of us who have our kids in daycare since they were less than 1 year old wish we were you.


(This classic Dave Barry column was originally published Sunday, September 28, 1986)
We're taking our son, Robby, to his first day of kindergarten. He is being Very Brave. So are we.
We're saying: "This is great!" And: "You're going to have a wonderful time!"
Robby's thinking: This is it. The fun part of life is over now.
We're thinking: Please, please, PLEASE let him not hate this and let the other kids be nice to him and let his teachers see, among all those little bobbing heads and skinny arms and Band-Aided legs, what a wonderful little boy this is.
I know this is just as rough for everybody else. I know all the kids are special. I know that the teachers are very, very nice, and that, over the years, they've had hundreds of kids like Robby.
But not Robby.
I think: If only they could put him to bed just one time, hear him talk to his stuffed dolphin, hear the dolphin answer back in a squeaky version of Robby's little voice. If only they could have seen him burst into tears in the part of the Saturday TV movie when it looked liked Godzilla had been killed by the Japanese army. He slept with his Godzilla doll that night, comforting it.
We're getting near the school, and Robby is trying so hard to be brave that I am about ready to turn around and drive back home and sit down on the living-room floor and play with him and hug him forever and the hell with developing Motor Skills and Language Skills and Math Skills and Socialization and growing up in general.
"This is going to be great, " I say.
I give him his lunch money. I wish I could give him my muscles, to keep in the pocket of his little blue shorts in case a big kid tries to bully him. I wish I could give him my mind, so he'd understand why he has to go to school. I wish I understood it.
"I remember when I started kindergarten!, " I say, sounding to myself like Mister Rogers. "It was scary at first, but I made a lot of friends!"
What I'm really remembering is the way kids got teased in kindergarten. Because they were fat. Because they were short. For no reason at all. We teased them and teased them and teased them, and it must have been hell for them. I still remember the kids we teased. I'm sure they still remember.
Please forgive me, Craig and Susan. Please God, don't let the kids tease Robby.
We're at his classroom. We're supposed to leave right away. They told us that in Parents' Orientation. They said hanging around only makes it worse. It couldn't be any worse. Robby is fighting panic, asking questions, stalling to keep us there, tears running quietly down his cheeks.
"How many hours will it be?" he asks.
Thousands, I think. Thousands and thousands, in classrooms, away from us, until you've learned to accept it, and you don't cry when we leave you, and your dolphin never talks any more.
© 2010, Dave Barry
This content of course belongs to Miami Herald and Dave.

Mom and Child

See more pictures of celebrity Moms of old and their kids at Blue Bird Vintage blog.  This, of course, is Audrey. Aaaaaah.


Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.
Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and
purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you every where
like a shadow or a friend.

Palestinian-American Naomi Shihab Nye.( Words Under Words)

DFW on Worship

This excerpt is from a commencement speech given by David Foster Wallace to the 2005 graduating class at Kenyon College.

And an outstanding reason for choosing some sort of God or spiritual-type thing to worship -- be it J.C. or Allah, be it Yahweh or the Wiccan mother-goddess or the Four Noble Truths or some infrangible set of ethical principles -- is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things -- if they are where you tap real meaning in life -- then you will never have enough. Never feel you have enough. It's the truth. Worship your own body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly, and when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally plant you. On one level, we all know this stuff already -- it's been codified as myths, proverbs, clich├ęs, bromides, epigrams, parables: the skeleton of every great story. The trick is keeping the truth up-front in daily consciousness. Worship power -- you will feel weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to keep the fear at bay. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart -- you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. And so on.

Mr. Wallace, 46, died in 2008, after apparently committing suicide.  Interestingly, the commencement address talks about being able to get to 50 without killing yourself in the process.  Something went wrong with following his own advice, but the words he said are no less true.  Read the entire address.

Make your own pop-up book

HearthSong carries this very very cute kit of blank pop-up book parts.  You get to put them together and write the story yourself.... and color your book!  As a pop-up book addict, I'm all over this.  Get yours here.

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