January 2009 Archives

January 26, 2009

Advanced Mac OS X IT Classes at the University of Utah

Starting this next month, the University of Utah's Technology Education department will be offering advanced Mac OS X IT classes.  Currently we offer the the Support and Server Essentials classes which cover an introduction to the Apple Certified Support Professional and the Apple Certified Technical Coordinator certifications.  On February 9th to the 11th we will be offering Mac OS X Deployment v10.5, which covers deploying your Macintosh systems initially, deploying the OS systems for various uses, and providing updates and maintenance for the Macintosh system.  For any of you who manage large Mac labs or businesses that are migrating to or integrating Macs, this would be a great class for you attend.  It is one of 4 tests required for the Apple Certified System Administrator certification.  More information can be found the the following URLS: http://training.apple.com/itpro/leopard302https://continue.utah.edu/edtech/detail.php?subject=edtec&catalog=631 April 13th to the 16th will bring the Mac OS X Directory Services class, which covers the Directory system built into the OS X platform.  This covers the local directory and it's management, Open Directory (Apple's implementation of OpenLDAP), and integrating with third party Directory systems (like Active Directory and eDirectory).  Because there is so much information, this class will be a 4 day class.  More information can be found the the following URLS: http://training.apple.com/itpro/leopard301https://continue.utah.edu/edtech/detail.php?subject=edtec&catalog=632This summer we will also offer the Mac OS X Advanced System Administration v10.5 course, which is a comprehensive course on managing the UNIX aspect of the Mac OS X system.  Focusing primarily on the Command Line tools for installation, deployment, directory management, and automation, this course is a must have for every system administrator working with Macintosh machines, either at the user or server level.  This class is not yet scheduled, but is planned for the Summer semester.  It is the capstone course for the ACSA certification.  More information can be found the the following URL: http://training.apple.com/itpro/leopard401If you have any questions, feel free to contact the Technology Education department at (801) 581-6061.

Autism and Thimerosal: A New Study That Disproves the Link

For those of you following my Autism posts, you know that I have been rather critical of the theory supporting thimerosal as a cause of autism (since I found the brain development theory to be more accurate and supported by actual research).  A recent study completed from Italy now puts what I think should be the final nail in the coffin of Thimerosal as the autism smoking gun.  The study ran through over 1,000 randomly selected infants that received two different doses of thimerosal-preserved shots for whooping cough, and then evaluated the children 10 years later.  The study saw no real changes in childhood development.  In fact there was just one child that developed autism, and that one child was in the low dose group.  For those who are still clinging to the theory that thimerosal and the ethyl mercury that it metabolizes into is a cause of autism, keep in mind that more mercury is present naturally in a mother's breast milk than in the many shots a child may get at once.  There are other potential causes, both genetic and environmental, that provide a better avenue of effort.  As a parent, I would think this would be significant enough to dispel any qualms of getting your children vaccinated.  Please don't threaten your children's lives with preventable diseases just because of a myth.  Get your children vaccinated for their safety.  Small pox, polio, and all the others are killers, as well as being ultimately debilitating for the child that contracts them.

January 22, 2009

The Roundup: Stories and Events of Note

Because I haven't posted a lot lately (getting ready for some new classes starting soon), I'll quickly mention some news articles and events of note that I found interesting.  
  1. The Inauguration of President Barack Obama:  Like other inaugurations, I didn't watch this one.  Why?  Because it's a show full of pomp and circumstance, with no real action at all.  For me it's the actions of the administration, and not the actions at the inauguration that makes the difference.  I'm interested in the success of President Obama because it means success to the nation.  Now that he's at work I'm ready for the events. 
  2. GovTrack.us:  I've finally signed up to GovTrack.us to track the happenings of the US Legislature.  It's amazing what goes on in the House, as I get updates every day on the new bills that are presented, and who presented them.  I also track the Senate, which so far has accomplished little other than forming leadership and committees.  The House, on the other hand, has been quite busy with various bills that seem rather trivial.  I didn't realize the detail House Bills got into, nor the amount of time dedicated to minor matters.  It will be even more interesting to see how the Legislature moves forward in the coming months.  
  3. Autism on Top of Healthcare List:  President Obama has listed Autism as his top concern for Healthcare research in his administration.  Cancer and AIDS didn't even get a mention, but Autism was mentioned specifically.  I am surprised (pleasantly, of course) that such a course was taken.  I'm currently following the Administration's official blog at Whitehouse.gov (not .com).  The bullet points are well chosen, particularly when it comes to screening.  The cost of screening will be covered, and it will be mandatory for all children to go through the screening process.  Hopefully this will make the screening process part of the covered screenings provided by health insurance.  
  4. Salt Lake has been named as the area with the most polluted air in the United States.  The cause is actually the inversion process that happens to all nestled cities in the Mountains.  The warm air above creates a cap on the cold air below, which has no place to move.  This causes health risks with the trapped air, until a nice storm moves in to blow the gunk out of the air (yes, gunk is a technical term ^_^).  Today a storm is moving in, and should have the majority of the air cleared out by tomorrow.  Thank goodness!  
  5. Utah Legislature to Cut Autism Preschool Funding:  Yes, the Legislature in their infinite wisdom has felt the need to slash education yet again, and this time for children that desperately need it.  While this should not effect public preschools managed by the individual school districts, it will effect specialist schools that provide the best care for those children who cannot be mainstreamed well.  It's a slap in the face of every parent who needs to find more affordable schooling for their autistic child.  My sincere hope is that the Utah Legislature rethinks this policy, even if it means cutting a little more into another budget.  I can tell you that if my State House Representative or Senator were to vote to kill this funding, they would not get my vote again.
So that's about it.  I know there is a lot more going on in the world, but that is what has effected my little corner of the planet.  Hopefully I will have more information about the points regarding Autism that the new Administration would like to accomplish, such as more concrete timelines (as they are developed), and any evidence on the House floor that such moves are being made.

January 14, 2009

Autism Council of Utah Event: Personal Planning for Children with Disabilities

The Autism Council of Utah is presenting a seminar on January 28th, 2009 at 12:00 PM to 1:15 PM:  Personal Planning for Children with Disabilities.  It will be held at One Utah Center on the 13th Floor, 201 South Main Street in Salt Lake City, Utah.The seminar will explore the legal aspects for planning the future of your special needs child when you have passed away.  It will be presented by Matthew S. Wiese, J.D., LL.M..  The first session will be on Special Needs Trusts, and the second session will be on How to Appoint a Guardian for your Adult Child.  That will follow with a question and answer session.  Lunch will be provided at this seminar, so space will be limited.  If you are interested in attending, you can RSVP to email smithfam29 at msn dot com.  The Autism Council of Utah is an independent council working to foster collaboration, communication, and learning among families and agencies.  Their aim is to promote access to recourses and responsible information for individuals of all ages who have, or are affected by, autism, or related conditions (taken from their announcement).I wasn't aware that there was an Autism Council of Utah until recently when my son was sent home with this announcement in his backpack.  Their website (http://autismcouncilofutah.org) is currently down (looks like the server may be down), so I don't have a lot of information about them, and their blog hasn't been updated in a long time.  So it sounds like they could use as much support as possible.  After Wednesday the 28th, I should have more information regarding the council, and will post any relevant information that may be coming up.

Restraining Children with Disabilities: 21st Century or 12th Century?

While reading my news feeds this morning, I came across this report on the dangers children have in school due to "disciplinary action".  Many of the children were injured or died while under disciplinary action, and many of those children had disabilities.  One child (and the reason it showed up in my feeds) was a 15 yr old autistic child that was killed while being restrained by 4 school employees.  Personally, I find this report to be shocking.  I thought we as a human race left solitary confinement as a casual disciplinary measure in the 1800's when it was proven to be detrimental to a person's mental health.  I also thought the restraining of children with disabilities (like autism) was abandoned by the 1900's.  Apparently I was wrong. Now, there may be people out there that would argue along these lines:  Children who are unruly need to be brought under control!  If that means restraining them, then that's what you do!  If that means threatening them with solitary confinement, that's what you do!  A few hours (not minutes, not seconds, but hours!) mean nothing if you can finally get control of the situation!  Let me counter with this:  Children are not beasts.  They are learning, they are growing, and they test their boundaries.  Most importantly, they crave attention.  If they don't get positive attention, they will try to get negative attention.  One way or another they will get validation for their existence.  First with restraining children, particularly children with autism.  Most autistic children do not want to be touched.  The simple action of touching an autistic child can overload their sensory experience and send them into a meltdown.  Often this is called a "temper tantrum", but instead of kicking and screaming, they will run around the room, scream, fall on the floor and try to block out everything around them.  Sometimes they will even try to override their sensory overload with pain, and hurt themselves.  The more you try to restrain an autistic child, the more likely they are to increase the behavior.  Solitary confinement was used in the 1700's and 1800's as a means of "humane punishment", where a person would sit quietly and think about the wrongs they had done.  They would be shut in, with no hope of escape, almost completely locked out from any sensory experience.  Unfortunately, with the idea that you have no hope of freedom or contact from another person, it can cause a mental breakdown precluded by panic attacks.  This can heighten the effects of the "punishment", and cause serious mental anguish and suffering, often leading to desperate means of escape.  In the case of a 13 yr old, that escape was suicide.  This is not healthy on a developing young mind for obvious reasons.  I'm appalled that any educational institution would resort to such drastic measures in order to "gain control" of a situation.  I would hope that, particularly where disabilities are concerned, educators would be well informed enough to manage a situation in a manner that diffuses the situation instead of escalating it.  That means understanding the child's condition, learning about it, and making judgement calls with their needs in mind.

January 12, 2009

My Favorite iPod Touch Apps

Now that I have been using my iPod Touch for over a month, I can't imagine being without it.  I've found it more useful than any of the PocketPC's that I have owned, and far more useful than any of the cell phones I have had in the past.  But what makes it so useful?  Simple:  the apps.  It's all about the apps, and mostly about the free apps.  So here is my list of favorite apps that I use on a regular basis: Stanza:  I would be lost without Stanza!  I have a long commute to work using the Bus and Traxx system, and as such a good read is necessary.  But most books that I want to read are very bulky and difficult to haul around between stops (particularly when the bus is late and I have to run to catch the train).  Having (currently) 107 books in my pocket is wonderful.  And all the books are free, as they have long been in the public domain.  Stanza is a good app, and even if they should require a purchase, it would be well worth it. Scriptures:  Because Stanza can't support eBooks with DRM, I needed an app to carry my scriptures with me.  Scriptures is a free app, and allows me to do my daily readings while on commute.Free RSS:  As I no longer have a radio to listen to NPR in the morning and evening, I get my news through the free RSS reader. What's nice about this reader is that I can completely customize it, catching the feeds from specific segments of the news world, those that I feel are least biased one way or another.  Last.fm:  While in WiFi country, if I don't want to listen to the music I currently have, I can listen to a radio of sorts.  Last.fm has all my favorite genres, and it's all on my iPod.  Facebook:  Yes, I finally caved in and joined Facebook.  This way I can keep up with friends I haven't seen in years, and know what they are up to.  It's fun, and helps me feel somewhat more social than I ever have been.  Evernote:  I was going to give this a miss entirely, because my uses for Evernote would be the same as my uses for Google Docs....  Except you can't use Google Docs from your iPod Touch.  Argh!  But Evernote allows me to throw together a quick list of notes that I want to keep for a long period of time.  The good news:  I have another writing project in the works once I finish my first one.  Now if there would only be an app that would help for a writer on the go...Fring:  This was the clincher app for me, because it allows for VoIP with SIP or Skype.  That's huge, as it gives me a phone in my iPod Touch.  Since I rarely stay outside of a WiFi connection, it gives me an alternative to a cell phone, which I rarely use anyway.  And it's a heck of a lot cheaper.  ^_^  It also ties in Twitter and my various IM clients, so I don't have to have more apps than one.  I love consolidation.Files Lite:  I can transfer documents to my iPod, and view them all within Files.  I can read any Office doc, which makes reviewing a presentation very handy.   It also supports iWork documents, which is better than other alternatives.To-Do:  A great to-do list that let's me check off items as they come due.  I can also use it as a shopping list, to the great relief of my wife who sends me to shop and finds I forget at least one thing. iStethescope:  Now that I'm trying to lose some weight and get to a more healthy me, I find monitoring my pulse to be important.  This is a handy app to do just that, as long as I have an iPhone headset.  Good thing I bought one for fring.  ^_^Tally Counter:  As my new calling in church is ward clerk, it's my responsibility to count the number of people attending each meeting.  Tally counter has been invaluable in that, since it's noiseless and accurate.  Games:  Yes, I do play games from time to time to relieve stress, when I'm not reading or jotting down ideas.  My favorite games are Rolando, Armado, Spore Origins, Topple, Toy Bot Diaries, Solitare, and Bubbles for my son.  So that's about it for now.  I'm looking into another applications, and there are new ones coming up all the time.  I do have several that I don't use a lot, but I have on hand as a "just in case" scenario.  Do any of you have favorite apps for your iPhone or iPod Touch that you use?

January 7, 2009

Autism and Monosodium Glutamate: The Theory and The QuestionsIncr

In the 1950's and 1960's, the food industry found that if they added a special additive to their processed food, the favor was enhanced.  This additive was monosodium glutamate.  Also about that time, other additives, pesticides, chemical compounds, and vaccinations have been introduced to the populace, with the goal of making our lives better.  Recently, I read an article online regarding a "new" theory that places the blame of Autism on monosodium glutamate.  This little additive has been pegged as the smoking gun, now that the argument against vaccinations is losing steam.  Keep in mind that I have a specific bias toward genetic brain cell development, and I want to be sure I state that right at the beginning of this analysis.  The research into monosodium glutamate and the brain actually started back in the 1950's, with a resurgence of that research in the 1970's.  It seems that glutamate is a chemical compound that surrounds the neuron before it fires its synapsis through the neurotransmitter.  The presence of too much glutamate in the brain can cause neuron death, which leads to a number of neurological disorders.  In all the articles in Google Scholar that I have read, there is no mention of metabolizing glutamate within the body, the levels of glutamate that would be necessary to cause such damage, or anything like that.  Just that it is possible, and has been proven in post-natal lab rats.  Okay, so glutamate is in fact an important compound for brain function.  From the research that has been done, there is ample evidence that it would effect pruning, and cause damage to the neurons through overloading those neurons.  But I'm not convinced that there is a definite link between consuming monosodium glutamate in the real world and the development of an autistic brain. As you all know (those that have followed my blog, at any rate), I assert that autism is caused by increased gray matter and decreased white matter in the brain, and by the lack of or delayed pruning in the brain by age 6.  This means that autistic children have increased communication within their brain because of an increase of neurons, which causes sensitivity to any incoming stimuli.  This has been proven through MRI scans of the brains of autistic children and comparing them to their control, or "normal" children (see previous blog entries for the resources). In order for monosodium glutamate to be somehow responsible for this overgrowth of neurons at such a young age for some children and not for others would require the following: 
  1. The increased presence of monosodium glutamate within some children's diet rather than others.  As most families have a mixture of autistic and "normal" children, this would mean somehow an unequal portion of glutamate would have gone to the autistic child. 
  2. Levels of monosodium glutamate high enough at such a young age to cause such a transformation.  As of yet, I have been unable to find the actual research data outlining the proportion and dosage of glutamate used in laboratory rats for the oft-cited study.  
  3. The source of the monosodium glutamate.  Children are typically diagnosed at age 2, or have regression around age 6.  For the 2-yr old, it would suggest that the monosodium glutamate would be in either the formula being consumed, or the baby food being consumed.  Most children are not on "people" food by this time, or at least not in a significant quantity.  For 6-yr olds, this is possible, though it still brings up the problem of some children showing autism tendencies, and some not, though both may have a very identical meal. 
  4. Cultures that do not use monosodium glutamate as a food additive also have children that are autistic, which brings the whole theory into question.  
Now, I don't want to sound closed minded about this theory, because there is a kernel of truth regarding glutamate and its effect on the brain.  I would love to see actual clinical research that outlines the dosages of monosodium glutamate used, the duration, and the results compared to the "placebo" effect.  Unfortunately, as with most theories about autism, such information is never available, only anecdotal evidence.  So, if there are any neurobiologists that are familiar with the proposed theory and have research either fore or against it, I would be happy to read!  Remember, I want to know the details of the research, and not just the conclusions.  Much of the research I have been able to find so far is from the 1950's and 1970's, about the same time when it was determined that cancer was caused by cranberries, eggs, water, and various other compounds when taken in humanly impossible doses.

January 5, 2009

Journey to the Centre of the Earth: A Review

This is another one of those books that I thought I had read, but never got around to it.  Finally, after my older brother gave me a copy for Christmas, I sat down to read "Journey to the Centre of the Earth".  Jules Verne has a very unique style.  He's not fettered down by absolute facts, and loves to sport myriad theories of his time.  But first and foremost his books are travel logs.  While fantastic voyages, travels, and even technologies are introduced, the basic premise is the journey itself.  You are transported to other countries, cultures, and places so easily with his books.  Another enduring and fascinating piece of his writing is his hero, the narrator, who is fundamentally flawed.  He either lacks fortitude, courage, resilience, or some other ideal that is instead reflected in another character.  I love it, because he can then explore the faults in humans in a way that brings sympathy instead of condemnation.  Finally, there is the science!  Much of the "facts" he presents in his books are theories of the time, many of which have either been proved right or wrong.  Also, there is the way problems are surmounted, usually by the application of some technology that is either real, experimental from the time, or completely non-existent.  At any rate, it gets the juices flowing in the mind, if only to puzzle a way to make it work.  The Journey was fabulous, as I have seen just about every version made for film, whether big or small screen.  The book, as always, outshines each presentation, and makes for interesting comparisons.  I just can't help comparing versions with the original story, trying to find reason in their changes. If you have never read Journey to the Centre of the Earth, I would highly recommend it.  The story is fascinating, making for a great story even before they enter the cave marked by Sarcaris.  The prose is reasonable for a translation, though it does make me wish I had a better grasp of the French language, so I could read the original.

January 2, 2009

Sugar Bowl

31-17...  What a good game.

New Year, New Hopes: Autism at the Cusp of Discovery, Acceptance, and Advancement

This past year has been one of anxiety and frustration for me.  No, I'm not talking about the Economy, Politics, or Elections, but rather the life my family has been leading since my son was diagnosed with Autism.  Since then I have looked for "cures" that don't exist, treatments that are within my price range, and general ideas on how to best serve my son.  Every which way I had turned was met with frustration and distrust as I learned more about Autism and its cause.  So this year I have high hopes for my son, and this is why: 1.  Autism Covered by Insurance:  This year the Utah Legislature is considering a bill that will mandate autism coverage by health insurance until the child is 5 years old.  While this would only mean one year of assistance, it is at least something to be excited about. Whether or not it will pass is another question all together, but it is at least a step in the right direction.  It also makes sense, as the University of Utah is one of the leaders in Autism research.  2.  The Cause is all but Confirmed:  In spite of the drivel spouted by celebrities with little to no schooling, neuropsychologists have determined that Autism is in fact caused by increased neuro-pathways in the brain.  Does this mean it can or should be cured?  That's a philosophical question I will leave to others.  But it does mean that Autism should no longer be considered an environmental circumstance, or the fault of getting much needed vaccinations.  Instead it is a condition that can be identified medically, and therefore treated as such.  No longer will children with Autism be considered poorly-behaved children that were neglected by their parents.3.  Public Awareness is Increased:  Though there are still a lot of myths about autism out there, general awareness is on the increase.  Most people have at least heard about autism, candidates have promised to make it a priority, and major news outlets (such as NPR) have dedicated whole news spots to the condition.  The bad news is that most of the attention has been in the wrong place (i.e., vaccinations as the cause), but the good news is that more research time is being spent on the condition!  That means more time spent in developing better learning models, better instructions for parents and teachers, and over all more understanding behind the condition brings more peace of mind to parents.  For those of us who are living with the condition, whether we have it or have a family member who does, these are exciting times to be alive.  Gone are the days of cages and restrains in chairs.  Gone are the jeers and persecutions that come from peers that ridicule out of ignorance.  Though there still are judgmental people who criticize parents for their child's behavior, once they find out the child is autistic I have found that they are more understanding.  I am no longer afraid to go to certain restaurants out of fear for my son and the stares he would receive.  Instead I have a growing list of restaurants where good experiences have been had with my son.  It also gives me a chance to clarify the cause of autism in order to dispel the many myths and outright frauds that have been claimed as the cause of Autism.  So I look to 2009 as the year of acceptance of Autism and those with the condition.  What do I hope to see come out of the new year?  1.  Resources for Parents and Teachers:  It's impossible for the existing treatment infrastructure to handle the growing diagnoses for Autism.  Instead, the resources need to be given to those care-givers that have the most interaction with their children.  I expect that this year will be the year in which Psychologists, both Educational and Neuro-psychologists release materials for parents to use, and the existing infrastructure will no longer provide treatment to the patient, but educate the care-givers on how to administer treatment with regular appointments to assess progress.  Think of it as homeschooling, but well regulated and monitored by professionals.  Ultimately it will save the family money, while also helping that family feel in control.  2.  Myths, falsehoods, and criminally negligent information will be squashed.  Too many parents are lost in the world of uncertainty concerning their child, and that has lead to a rash of quackery and hocus-pocus that drains parents of their income while doing untold damage to the autistic child.  This year I have high hopes that these types of "treatments" are taken completely out of the equation, and exposed for the frauds they are.  It's a huge burden on medical and scientific research, as they need to take each claim with a grain of salt as they disprove them in order to finally free the autistic child from the grips of quacks and soothsayers.  3.  Medical Insurance will be provided as assistance for parents of autistic children, which expands the existing infrastructure.  But instead of seeing a world where autistic children are taken from their parents and placed in special schools, I see parents and children in special schools, learning the necessary skills, and then set loose to continue to be a functional and loving family.  Regular checkups would keep track of the progress both the parents and their autistic child(ren) are making, while also providing additional support and encouragement.  I'm a firm believer in teaching a man to fish, instead of giving him the fish and placing the burden of fishing on someone else.  4.  Finally, I would like to see 2009 be the age of acceptance for children with autism, and those parents that have a child that may occasionally have a melt down in public.  Instead of stares, criticisms, and outright chastisements for the child's behavior, I see people offering assistance if necessary, even if it is to the point of helping the parent to take their child out of the over-stimulating environment.  Gone will be the days of autistic children being banned from flights, and people praising the move as a way of safe-guarding themselves.  It's a huge hope, but one to which I constantly cling.
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