December 2008 Archives

December 29, 2008

Linux Instructor Needed, Again

Another semester is coming soon, and I find myself yet again in need of a Linux instructor.  For those of you who are familiar with the Guru Labs material, this instructor would teach the 275 and the 314 classes throughout the semester on Wednesday nights from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM.  The location of the class will be in the WEB building (built on the old Bunker), in the new Mac lab (208).  The class will be run from virtual machines.  If you are interested, please feel free to contact Inita Lyon with your resume.  Her email is ilyon at aoce dot utah dot edu.  A degree is not required, but would be nice, as long as you have significant teaching experience.  The job is not a full time instructor job, but rather an adjunct instructor position, so it will not be a replacement for those looking for full time employ.  But it may help take the edge off those still looking for a position, and the timing should not get in the way of an 8 to 5 work day.

December 23, 2008

Dyer's Woad: A New Experiment on an Old Industry

This summer I am going to plant woad.  What is woad?  It's a highly prolific plant used to produce indigo.  Utah, it seems, is an ideal place for woad to grow, as Cache County has it listed as a weed and removes around 22 tons of the stuff each year, just to bury in a landfill.  Indigo is a blue pigment that is produced naturally in a number of plants, from the indigo plant to woad.  For those of you who know your Celtic history, woad produced the blue pigment used by the Picts for painting their bodies.  It also has a very lasting color, one that is resistant to washing, bleach, and pollution.  Unlike synthetic dyes, it is produced using environmentally friendly methods and no toxic residue or wastes.So it would seem that in the prevailing eco-friendly political environment, processing woad on a large scale would be ideal.  Unfortunately, that's just the problem.  It's not that simple to process at a commercial level, though some farmers in England have had some success.  But what are the ratios of dye to plant matter processed?  That is what I intend to find out.  So this spring I am going to sow some woad seeds into the space between the road and the sidewalk, which is currently a barren wasteland of deteriorating red lava rock and a hotbed for weeds.  I hope to have enough plant material to produce a significant amount of indigo, to determine the feasibility of producing woad.  But from what I have read, you can only get about 2 grams per kilogram weight of fresh leaves, making it difficult to get a decent amount of indigo from woad.  We will see.But that is just one part, what about the market?  Is there a market for natural indigo?  I believe there will be, but finding it will be a little more difficult.  Most likely I could sell some on the Internet to those with special interests, and eventually perhaps I could move to the farmer's markets to cater to the local residents that are interested in their own pigments that are natural.  Then, finally, there is pricing.  How much should indigo made from woad cost?  A cursory cost of indigo pigment comes to $32.95 for 100 milliliters, or about 3.4 ounces of pigment. That is based on a search for indigo pigment, and not necessarily natural indigo pigment.  That price may not be an accurate reflection, and cannot be relied upon.  Ultimately I see a future for this industry in Utah, as woad grows well here in the dry conditions, and more "green" industries are growing in their significance.  Perhaps one day an effective woad processing plant can be built in the Cache Valley area, providing a place for the County government to dump all the unwanted woad, perhaps for a decent return on their bounty.

December 15, 2008

NAET And Autism: Allergy Autism

For those of you who have been following my autism posts, you probably know where I come from and what my biases are.  I believe that Autism, true Autism, is caused by a larger proportion of gray matter to that of white matter in the brain, causing a higher level of synapses firing within the brain.  Such a condition then causes the brain to become overwhelmed by various stimuli, hence the behavior associated with children with autism.This being said I can continue with my post.  I found a "cure" or collection of treatments listed for autism in the Natural Cures app for my iPod Touch.  One of which was the Nambudripad's Allergy Elimination Technique, or NAET.  According to the complier of this resource, they have had first-hand experience with the success of the technique, with a report coming soon on the clinical trials.  So, as one that professes to have an open mind, I thought I would check out the treatments and their history.  Apparently the treatment has to do with "allergies" to various vitamins, sugars, compounds, etc. that can be cured by using various acupressure and acupuncture treatments to be resolved, usually within a year by attending treatments once a week.  Delved into more deeply, it seems that the "allergy" is determined by holding pills in the hand and pulling on the hand to see if resistance is met.  This is inline with kinesiology, a technique that has been questioned by the medical field for it's scientific accuracy.  Here are links to the NAET website for a positive description, and a link to the Autism Diva's blog for a more critical view.I'm not going to comment on the accuracy or inaccuracy of the NAET claim, though I think from my biases presented earlier it may be clear what they may be, but rather on the idea behind Allergy Autism.  Allergy Autism is a theory based around the idea of external stimuli causing Autism, and the elimination of such stimuli curing Autism.  Now, I've mentioned my beliefs about this before, but let me clarify my position. Autism is caused by increased brain activity.  This brain activity manifests in the behavior patterns common in all Autism patients, with various stimuli causing the reaction.  Generally it is caused by hypersensitive senses (sight, touch, hearing, etc.) which feed too much information to the brain.  The logical jump from this to "Allergic Autism" is not as wild as one might think, though it is often misunderstood.  I fully believe that some foods can cause the brain a lot of additional stimuli based on the reactions the child has.  This does not mean that the food/allergy is causing autism, but rather acts as a catalyst for the behavior to occur.  Autism is still related to the brain function, while a food, bright light, flickering light, etc. can cause a meltdown when paired with the brain's wiring.  Perhaps I'm just trying to explain away the successes of those people who put their autistic children on special diets.  It could be, though I think the logic behind the connection is too strong.  If there are any neuropsychologists out there that disagree with me, I would be quite interested in your input.  Neuropsychology is something I have little practical education in, and rely on articles and news reports to get a better picture.  So, in coming full circle, I do believe that "allergies" or other stimuli can trigger the symptoms of autism, but I don't believe they are the cause of Autism itself.  So as to the accuracy of the NAET program, I'll let you read the two descriptions and judge for yourself.  As for me, I've removed the natural cures app from my iPod, and I intend to add a link to the Autism Diva's blog to my blog.  ^_^

December 13, 2008

The iPod Touch 2G: 48 Hours Review

Let me preface this review by stating that I have tried PDA's in the past, all of which have not kept my interest for very long.  I often quickly find a limitation that turns me off the platform, and generally it's something that is critical to the reason why I have purchased a PDA.  For this reason, I have primarily used sticky notes for my contacts and notes that I carry around.  But recently, with the growing number of books that I tend to carry around for teaching and the move to produce my own content, I found that I finally need a platform that can cater to my chosen platform and needs.  When the iPhone was first announced, I thought it would be perfect with several additions.  Those additions were slow in coming, but even with the arrival of the App Store, the cost of ownership was still too high for an iPhone.  Then the iPod Touch was released, and my heart began to race.  Yet again, the lack of VoIP on the first generation was a halting point. Then the iPod Touch 2G was released, with the capability of VoIP.  Recently, software was released that consolidated most chat platforms with VoIP, taking it a step further.  So I thought I would jump at the chance to try the platform and bought one.  My wife will be getting hers soon.  ^_^ 1.  The PlatformThe first reason why I have not liked most PDA's is the stylus.  I constantly misplace one, or my son tends to wander off with it, never to be seen again.  The first thing that attracted me to the platform is the fact that you use your finger, and don't have to worry about scratching the pressure film.  A big concern was the keyboard, as it is not physical and hard to touch-type.  But touch typing is all about knowing where to put your fingers when you type, not necessarily whether or not a key is actually pressed.  I find that I can actually type pretty fast with my thumbs on the thing. As such, I was sold on the touchscreen.  ^_^2.  The HardwareThe wireless works well with the 802.1x authentication setup at the University of Utah, so I have wireless at work and at home.  This makes VoIP very possible, with only the transit between them (and various other travels) taking me away from my VoIP phone.  More on that when I get to the apps.  I did want bluetooth in the platform, which is not available.  So much for my bluetooth headset that I have currently with my phone and iMac.  It also would be nice to have a tethered keyboard, essentially making the iPod Touch a Netbook.  3.  The AppsAll the great hardware in the world wouldn't make up for really bad applications.  Luckily, there are some really decent applications that are available for free in the App Store.  Here are the apps I have on my iPod Touch: Calendar:  I'm still not really happy with this.  You can tether your Calendar to a Microsoft Exchange calendar, but not to an iCal Server (or Google Calendar).  Google Apps resolve this as viewing, but it's still not the same.  I ended up having to sync the calendar with my iMac.  Unfortunately, the colors don't match, and it only works if you don't use Microsoft Exchange for a mail account.  So I had to set up my uMail account as an IMAP account.  Contacts:  Nice to have them, but the same problem as the Calendar.  It's either Microsoft Exchange, or you can use Google and sync from your desktop. Photos:  iPhoto for the iPod Touch, let's you use the photos as your "Wallpaper" on the device.  Go Figure Lite:  Quick figures for every day.  Nice because the formulas are created for you, you just plug in the numbers.TouchTerm:  SSH terminal for the iPod Touch.  Works very well, makes accessing my web server very simple. VNC Lite:  VNC Client for iPod Touch.  eBay:  Quick access to My eBay, search online, bid or buy it now.  You can't leave feedback, which is too bad. PayPal:  You can send money, but it's also a really quick and simple way to check your PayPal balance. Files Lite:  Transfer documents, presentations, and other files to your iPod Touch.  This one can display PowerPoint and Word docs without any additional plugins.  Very convenient.  The Lite version, while free, has a limit of 200 MB storage.  The transfer is done by turning your iPod into a WebDAV server.Bubbles;  A game primarily for my son.  You touch/drag your finger on the screen and create bubbles, then touch to pop them.  My son squealed each time, so it's a keeper.  ^_^Armado Lite:  Very well designed game, with a very simple and easy gameplay.  I highly recommend it, even though you can only go up to 3 levels in the free version.  Tap Tap Revenge:  Fun for a time-waster.  Pac-Man Lite:  Classic game.  ^_^S.Deadbeef:  I still am out on this one...  It's a side-scroll fly and fight game.  Seems pretty fun, but difficult to get used to the controls.  SQ Lite:  Same thing, but more like the Chopper game from the old 8088, just with better graphics.  ^_^The Scriptures:  Very convenient for reading, and better organized than the Microsoft Reader version I had with my previous Windows CE devices. Stanza:  This is the best eBook reader I have found in a long time.  Easily reads any non-DRM book in just about any eBook form, it's great!  I can read PDF versions of printed books and have them readily available without having to cart them around.  The only drawback is getting the books from your desktop to the iPod:  It has to be transferred across WiFi in order to get it on.  But you can also download directly from the Gutenberg project website.  That's convenient.  ^_^WordPress:  Manage my WordPress blog easily from the iPod.  I haven't posted anything yet from the iPod, if only because I don't feel comfortable enough with the keyboard yet to make a decent post.  Google Apps:  A quick access center to your Google apps online.  Very nice, except you can't write to a Google Doc.  Huge problem there, as it would be nice to have that functionality.  As there are other Notes apps available, I can live without for now. Last.FM:  Invaluable.  I have very targeted music tastes, so an internet radio is ideal.  Steampunk music is my stable for Last.FM.  ^_^LinkedIn:  Track my connections and their connections for LinkedIn.  PHD Comics:  I love this comic, as will anyone who is currently or has been in Graduate school.  Very liberal in it's political leanings, the stories are really funny, and frighteningly true.  If one is planning on becoming a Graduate student, sanity comes from this comic. I was so excited when I found they had created an app.  ^_^2Fat:  Track your BMI and body fat ratio with this application.  As I have started exercising in order to increase my health, this is something that has interested me greatly.  NaturalCures:  I love real cures that are simple, and this app gives you various options to have.  The only thing I would warn against is trusting this more than your doctor.  And don't ever take "natural" medicines without your doctor's knowledge, or at least your pharmacist's knowledge.  You don't want to have a severe reaction and end up faint, or worse. iStethoscope:  If you have the iPhone headphones for your iPod Touch 2G, you can use this app.  It uses the microphone in the headset, which is pressed against your pulse point in your neck, to let you hear your pulse and display your pulse rate.  I love this for checking my heart rate during exercise.  Fring:  This is the wonder app that clinched my purchase of the iPod Touch.  This app integrates Google Talk, Yahoo! Chat, AIM, MSN Messenger, Twitter, Skype, and an SIP phone together into one communications app.  And the VoIP works fine for the iPod Touch 2G!  Yes, I tested it, and I had no trouble talking and hearing what was going on.  All of a sudden the iPod Touch 2G becomes the ideal VoIP phone.  It's small, and the battery lasts all day and a good portion of the night. So, that's been my experience so far.  There were a number of apps that I ended up deleting because of duplicate performance or very poor performance.  While there are a number of other platforms out there other than the iPod Touch or iPhone that work well for many people, this one works for me.  ^_^

Book Review: The Time Machine by H. G. Wells

Being a fan of Steampunk, this is a classic read. I've loved each movie that was made, and now I hate them all. The book is far better, as the story is more believable. The prose is, as one would expect from Wells, phenomenal, drawing you into the moment as the Traveller tells of his adventure into the future. A clarification that needs to be made about this book is the clear preference to Socialism/Communism to which Wells leans. The "future" is supposed to be the apex of socialism, but instead is the anticlimax of capitalism. That was a little harder to believe, as nature is completely ignored in this exploration. I highly recommend this book, in any format.  In this case, I read the book in Stanza on my iPod Touch.  The book was from the Project Gutenberg library.  I'm now working on my next book.

December 10, 2008

Autism and the FKBP12 Protein: The Significance

Recently the AFP posted this article on the absence of the FKBP12 protein being the root of autism and various other obsessive-compulsive behaviors.  The article outlines the behavior of mice when the FKBP12 protein was removed, resembling those same symptoms associated with the above disorders. Essentially, this protein regulates the release of the enzyme mTOR that in turn regulates neuron connections and behaviors between neurons.  Removing the protein increased mTOR amounts, which in turn increases connections and changes of connections within the brain.  Logically, a similar protein within the human brain should have the same effect. But is this what autism really is?  Just a missing protein?  I've talked about this with other research that was done for those with Fragile X Syndrome exhibiting autism-like behaviors, as well as the commonly held belief that autism is nothing more than mercury poisoning.  All have the characteristics of children with autism, isn't it all the same?  Yes, if you look at the effected area: the brain.An increase of neuron communication produces the behavior changes, which in turn cause the Autism symptoms to come to light.  Increased brain activity is the cause of autism.  It's that increased brain activity that the medical community is trying to get a handle on.  What causes it?  How is it created?  Is there a way to avoid it?  Is there a way to treat it?My personally held belief is that true Autism is the result of enlarged brains and/or more dense gray matter vs. white matter.  This increases the number of neurons that make connections, as opposed to effecting the rate of communication for the individual neuron.  All other disorders that are environmentally manipulated or caused by external disorders (Fragile X Syndrome, mercury poisoning, cassein/gluten reaction, etc.) produce autism-like symptoms, but are not related to those with the autism brain.  Of course, the problem with this definition is that not many people agree on it because of what little is known about Autism.  Keep in mind that autism was defined originally as a behavioral disorder, focusing on the behavioral patterns of the patients in relation to the "norm".  It was not identified as anything more until recently when neuropsychologists began to delve into the patterns in the brain, synapses, and such.  So the long and the short of it is:  the field is still really new, so take everything released now in context before you start claiming you have a cure for autism.

December 4, 2008

Autism and Insurance

You have probably heard me post about this before, but my insurance does not cover the diagnosis of Autism, and as such all therapy for my son has to be paid out of pocket.  While I would do anything for my son, my pockets are not that deep, as the "best" places to take him cost around $28,000.00  year for tuition.  Even the cost of speech therapy is too much for my family to afford.  As such, we have tried to educate ourselves on how to best teach our son at home in these necessary skills.  The frustration is the inability to get my son the qualified help that he needs.  Why is it that autism is not covered by insurance?  Probably because the support is so high.  It can be much like the cost of having  a live-in nurse, or at least a part time nurse that devotes all their face time with one child.  Couple that with the fact that one in 150 children are diagnosed with Autism, it becomes a very costly aspect.  And health insurance companies are all about reducing costs to increase revenues.  Hence, autism is not covered.But recently, the State of Illinois passed a bill requiring insurance companies to cover Autism up to $36,000.00.  I don't know if that is yearly, or total, but it's a breakthrough for families who have children with autism.  But is it really a benefit?  Do payments go up in order to cover the insurance requirement?  Is it considered a previous condition, thereby making the move to another insurance company devastating to a family, as they immediately lose their autism coverage?  If there are any readers out there in Illinois that know more about the law, could you reply with comments?  I would like to know what the ramifications of the bill would mean.
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