September 2009 Archives

September 25, 2009

Weekend Roundup: Politics, Autism, and Mac OS X 10.6 Training and Certifications

Today I thought I would throw up a quick roundup of the week that has been keeping me really busy. 

Politics
First, a quick word on politics.  Not really a position, but I want to mention that I finally got a response from my Congressman, Representative Jason Chaffetz.  But not an email, or even a letter, I was called.  That's right, he had an aide call me.  The call basically said they read on my blog that I hadn't gotten a response, and so they wanted to be sure I got one.  They left a message because I was teaching at the time, but still, it's cool.  How many congress members contact their constituents by phone?  I was impressed. 

Autism
Lately there have been a lot of articles on the news again about the MMR vaccine and Autism.  It seems that the National Autistic Society of Britain as finally admitted that the MMR vaccine is not the cause of autism.  This is because of a survey that was conducted amongst adults and children.  It seems that the rates of autism amongst adults and those of children are the same (in Great Britain).  Why is this significant?  Because if autism were caused by the MMR shot, the autism rate would be much higher in children.  The MMR shot has only been in existence since the 1990's. 

Yes, yet another great pillar in the false rumors and fear spread about vaccinations has gone down.  Now, let's focus on the education of those with Autism.  Science has triumphed again, though those who are "convinced" of a "world-wide government conspiracy" to support the MMR shot will probably still claim the same old arguments that have no basis in fact.  Wouldn't it be nice if we just all focused on the problem at hand?  Autistic children need education, and they need it now.

In other news, the question of Autism as a real disorder seems to be spreading.  While looking for specific details on an autism related website, I found this post by someone questioning the existence of Autism, as though it's an excuse for parents to let their children run wild.  I've heard this argument a lot, always from people who have never interacted with an autistic child.  My response was long, not quite as long as their response, and a lot easier to follow because I believe in paragraphs, but it was pretty comprehensive.  Perhaps, one day, I won't have to defend the diagnosis of doctors...  some day, perhaps.  *sigh*

Mac OS X 10.6
With the release of Mac OS X 10.6 and 10.6 Server, Apple Training is preparing to launch their 10.6 training materials.  To date, only the 10.6 Support Essentials and 10.6 Server Essentials tests are available.  Hopefully the exams for Deployment and Directory Services will be made available in October, and I can get those classes ready for Spring semester.  The final class, Mac OS X 10.6 Security and Mobility, which is new, I'm hoping will be made available during the Spring, along with the T3 that I will need to attend.  The T3, I'm hoping, will be less expensive than those in the past, and will allow me to offer the class as the Capstone course in the Summer. 

10.6 Support Essentials training materials will not be made available until late October, and 10.6 Server Essentials training materials not until late November.  So what does that mean for my classes now? 

Well, luckily, not much has changed in Support Essentials, so preparing my students for the Support Essentials 10.6 test will not be that difficult.  Server Essentials is different on a lot of levels, like the setup and a couple of other methods, so that one will be different, though I can still cover a lot of the same material in the 10.5 class to prepare the students for the 10.6 test. 

To date, the podcasts and Trainer exams for those ACT's certified for 10.5 classes are yet to be made available, so I don't have a timeline for the 10.6 classes.  I'm hoping the next Server bootcamp we have coming up in December will be 10.6.  Well, hopefully I'll find out something by next week.

September 22, 2009

The Autumn Autism Carnival

This last Saturday the Autumn Autism Carnival was held at Wheeler Farm.  My son's preschool teacher informed us of it, and recommended that we pre-register for the event.  We had thought about going before, but was unsure of how our son would handle it.  In the end, we decided to go.  I'm very glad we did.

First off, the parking was VERY WELL MANAGED!  I couldn't believe it!  It took a while to get parked because each car was individually lead to a parking spot.  Unlike other parking experiences for events in the past, this one made sure everyone was well placed, and anyone could leave when the time came. 

Registration was not long, and my son got a t-shirt for the occasion.  We then went directly to the information booths.  Here, I was surprised.  There were so many different charter schools out there that offer Autism classes...  and I was only aware of one up here at the University.  I don't have their information with me now, or I would post each one with links (that will be another post), but needless to say our son has a lot of options if needed once he leaves pre-school.  There were also organizations there that provide assistance for families with an autistic child. 

The games were neat, though our son was not too excited to play with many (other than those with water for him to play in).  Later we found out it was because he had a cold, which wiped him out for the weekend and yesterday.  Still, he enjoyed himself, and didn't have a melt down.  There were plenty of games, a couple of them were even duplicated to allow for shorter lines. 

Lunch was provided, though I don't think there was enough seating space for all.  We had hot dogs, chips, water, gummi fruit for our son, and cupcakes for dessert.  The food was complimentary for those who registered early. 

The staff were excellent, particularly since at least one time they were sent out to find a child that had run off.  I assume the child was found (I didn't hear anything on the news that night), and they were quick and willing to respond.  They were also representing several organizations, each sponsoring an activity.  I was amazed, and even touched by the number of organizations that were present at the Carnival.  It's nice to know so many other people feel compassion for those who are inherently different by birth. 

The day was a great day, until we went to the doctor's office with our sons, both of which had a cold.  Jonathan was winding down that night from all the fun and excitement, and as such would run around the lobby.  The only other people there gave cold, withering looks, and the older woman turned to her granddaughter and said we needed to "control our son".  I had even explained that he had autism, but it didn't seem to phase her.  So the day progressed from the best experience for my son, to one that left me fuming.  Oh well, perhaps one day I'll learn to let those comments go. 

At any rate, for those who live in the area of Salt Lake City, I would highly recommend attending the Autumn Autism Carnival.  The information provided is very helpful, and the experience is definitely positive.  It's great to meet other families with similar experiences, and similar concerns in a non-threatening environment. 

September 17, 2009

Healthcare Debate: Trying To Get Answers, And Getting Some Without Partisan Garbage

In the United States, the Healthcare debate is bordering saturation, as everyone seems to have an opinion on any one of the 2,000 plus Healthcare bills currently submitted to both Houses by both political parties.  As such, it's very difficult to get a non-partisan view of what Congress is currently trying to get passed, and what the Law will say.  Everyone has their opinions, with wild accusations from both sides being fired at will.

Because of this, it's difficult for anyone to have a balanced view of the debate, as the facts seem to be difficult to come by.  So I thought I would take what I deem the responsible approach:  read the healthcare bills myself.  Unfortunately, there are literally over 2,000 submitted, and I don't have the free time available to read them all.  Instead, I thought I would read the legislation the President has been touting as "The Bill" or "The Bills" on Congress, or the legislation he is supporting.  Unfortunately, I couldn't find a single reference to a bill by the President or member's of Congress.  Perhaps I was looking in the wrong places (I found I was in the end), but I just couldn't find them. 

So, I thought I would get the information directly from the source:  The President.  Three weeks ago, I emailed the President's office, addressing an Aide, because I don't have any misconceptions that the President would have the time to read my email personally, and asked three questions:

  • Which bill does the President support, so I could read it myself?
  • If the bill is not crafted, can I get a draft version?
  • Why has the President not kept his campaign promise made on Aug. 21, 2008, at a town hall in Chester, VA, to hold televised negotiations for Healthcare?

I had figured, as the President seemed intent on clarifying the wording of his Healthcare Reform initiative as represented by Congress and clearing up any misunderstandings, he and his office would be willing to at least point Americans to read the legislation.  It made sense to me, at least. 

I didn't get a response right away, but that is to be expected, as I'm sure his aides and interns have a lot of email to go through.  So a week later I emailed Senator Orrin Hatch and Representative Jason Chaffetz, my representatives, and asked them the same questions. 

It has now been three weeks from the date of emailing the President, and two from emailing my representatives.  To this date, I received two responses:  one from the Office of the President, and one from Senator Orrin Hatch.  I have yet to receive a response from my congressman. 

The Office of the President, instead of sending my any answers, replied with a mass email asking me to post videos for Vice President Biden supporting healthcare reform.  As my questions were related to getting information to decide on whether or not I supported the healthcare reform as currently proposed, I was a little shocked and concerned, but not surprised.  The exact same thing happened to me when I emailed then Candidate Obama with a question:  I instead received invitations to join rallies to support the candidate, when I was as yet undecided. 

As some of you out there know, I am very particular in how my representatives listen to their constituents.  I have voted against local and State officials that have refused to answer emails and letters, while heartily supporting those that do.  Candidate and now President Obama's organization has failed twice now to answer what I consider critical questions.  Others may disagree, but they have yet to earn the support they so erroneously assume I give when asking a question because they fail to answer those questions. 

The next response I received was from Senator Orrin Hatch.  In the past, I have sent emails and always gotten a response, which is why I support Orrin Hatch.  His staff treats me like a valued person, taking the time to respond to my questions.  This time was not different, as he provided an answer to the first question, the only one I would have expected he could give:  the legislation.  I knew he couldn't answer for the President on the third, and as there was drafted legislation, the second didn't need to to be addressed.

But what surprised me was the way it was answered.  I didn't get any partisan statements, mentioning his willingness to fight for what is right, defying the Democrats and their evil ways, Parting the Red Sea, and other such political mumbo-jumbo that seems to be too prevalent in this debate.  Instead, he told me where I could find the legislation, explained about the THOMAS Congressional Record posted by the Library of Congress, which has links on it's main website to HR 3200 (the house bill), and now to the Senate Finance Committee's bill.  It was amazing, it was astounding, a politician that was more concerned with my question than with partisan rhetoric. 

Mr. Chaffetz, I am still waiting for a reply from your office. 

So, for those who are interested in reading the legislation yourself, it is available freely to all.  Perhaps, if we as Americans stop listening to the Partisan bickering and get involved constructively in the process, civility can return to politics.  But then I suppose it wouldn't be politics anymore, would it? 

September 16, 2009

An Argument For Large Homes: Hiding Our Children from the Masses

As many of my friends may know, I'm not a very social person.  Oh, sure, I joke around with friends and family quite a bit, but I'm not very outgoing outside of the classroom or my circle of friends.  I even get claustrophobic in large crowds.  But that doesn't mean I don't like to go out to a restaurant or go see a movie:  until now. 

One of the realities of today's society is lack of tolerance.  Perhaps I was naive when I was little, but I never noticed the rancor that can be spewed forth from other people as they judge parents, particularly parents of children with autism.  There seems to be a backlash of sentiment against parents for the behavior of their children. 

Now, I can understand that there are some children that do not have any structure because their parents are either not bothered or do not know how to provide that structure.  As such, children try to push against boundaries that are not there, causing issues with their behavior.  Hence I highly recommend watching ABC's Supernanny, because great tips are given in each episode in handling children and helping parents become parents.

But lately people have become downright intolerant of the needs of children.  The Daily Mail ran a story on a family who's 2 year old daughter was insulted by staff members of a local restaurant, and it was written on the check.  The family, horrified, encountered no satisfaction from the staff that night, and subsequently refused even the owner's apology and invitation to dine free the next week.  The restaurant has subsequently fired the staff member responsible, but still sentiment ran free and clear in the comments to the story:  children (those little monsters) should be seen and not heard, and preferably not seen. 

So, this leads to an impossible situation:  children are not welcome in society.  As such, parents need to have a place where a controlled, positive social interaction can occur.  They can't go out to the restaurant, so they bring the restaurant home.  Entertaining at home with friends and their children is becoming the safe, accepted normal practice, for the benefit of the children.

Should it be this way?  That's a matter of opinion.  As a father of an autistic child, I've heard my fair share of criticisms from unknowing, ignorant strangers, unaware of my child's condition.  My wife and I rarely go out together with the children, and this is part of the reason.  There are even some restaurants I avoid specifically because of bad experiences with staff and patrons, and others we frequent because of good experiences with staff and patrons.  But often, we find it more convenient to remain at home. 

So while I like the idea of a small home, it's a difficult to justify in the current social climate.  We are so worried about including other nationalities, sexual preferences, and racial groups into our society, we forget that the most under-represented portion of the population (or children) are people too.  Perhaps it's time society chewed on that.

September 8, 2009

Childhood Milestones and Autism: Potty Training

For a while now my wife and I have been potty training our son.  He's 4 now, and will be turning 5 in February.  You may think this is a bit late for a child, but potty training an autistic child is a bit different than potty training a neurotypical child. 

For instance, autistic children do not respond to "big boy pants" incentive as they do not recognize the social status big boy underwear can have, nor do they see the social advantage of performance for the pleasure of the parents.  They also don't see the point in changing the current routine that has been firmly engrained within their day.  Why learn something new when the status quo works fine for them?  Also there is the issue of sensory overload within a bathroom setting, with all the noises, echos, and new sensations that come with the bathroom. 

So potty training an autistic child can be very challenging.  That being said, it is not impossible, as my wife and I have found.  There are a few recommendations that we have experienced that I would pass on:

  1. Make It Fun:  Potty training should not be a time for anger, but for fun.  Currently my son loves to go to the potty, because we try to make it as fun as possible.  I sing the "potty song" for him using simple words and a simple melody.  Occasionally I'll change the melody to be different to keep his attention.  This helps him both recognize how long to stay on the potty, and make the experience fun. 

    This can also mean using incentives to use the toilet, such as a specific toy, a video game, or a puzzle they get to put together only while on the potty.  Find something that works for you. 
  2. Be Consistent:  Don't miss a beat when training.  Set up a schedule for your child, and keep to it.  If you take them to the potty every hour, then take them every hour.  Don't miss an hour because you are tired, or because your child seems too involved in their play.  Keep the schedule. 

    Not sure what the schedule should be?  Start with every hour and keep a record of when the child does go to the potty, which type (number 1 or number 2), and when it happens.  Does it show a particular pattern?  Is this pattern something you can follow?  You now have your schedule.
  3. Be Organized:  Outline the process for your child.  Make sure they know what the process is, and when each step is complete.  Task completion is very important to autistic children, and can reinforce the benefits of the task itself.  Break the task down into very specific portions: 
    -Stopping play
    -entering the bathroom
    -pulling down pants
    -pulling down underpants
    -sitting on toilet
    -urinating or defecating (as applicable)
    -wiping when complete (as applicable)
    -standing up
    -throwing away wipe
    -pulling up underpants
    -pulling up pants
    -washing hands
    -drying hands
    -returning to play

    Feel free to use images or picture communication to outline this process for your child.  
  4. Be Patient:  Some parents do not see success until their children are 8 years old or older, others may see success early on.  Don't judge your child or your parenting skills based on how soon they succeed.  Remember that success is measured by completion of a task.  The longer it takes, the more exciting it is when it has been completed! 
  5. DON'T GET MAD!  I can't stress this enough.  Never get angry with your child for not going to the potty, not recognizing when they need to go, or for going into the bathroom.  Sure, they may be playing in the sink or something when you don't want them to, but if you punish them for entering the room, they will recognize that.  The more angry you get, the longer potty training will take. 

Anyway, those are the suggestions that I would pass on.  They have helped us considerably, and I hope they will help anyone else out there. 

September 4, 2009

Chicken Tikka Masala: Complicated, but Tasty

For a few years now I have been hearing about chicken tikka masala, and I've wondered what it was.  It sounded Indian, and I've had precious little experience with Indian food and seasonings.  But recently I saw an episode of America's Test Kitchen featuring the dish, and saw an episode of In Search Of Perfection on the same dish.  I had some ginger, fresh tomatoes from the garden, and a large onion hanging around that needed some work, so I thought I would try it and see how it would turn out.  It was a very complicated recipe, and I'm not sure I would make it again very soon, in spite of it's magnificent flavor. 

Now, both recipes were similar in ingredients, but the processes were very different.  The Test kitchen used the yogurt marinade as a dip and then baked the chicken, while Heston Blumenthal instead marinated the chicken for a very long time, and then baked the chicken in a make-shift tandori oven.  I didn't have the makings for the tandori oven, so I kind of meshed the two recipes together. 

First, I started the day before and created a salt rub with cumin, coriander, cayenne pepper, and salt.  I rubbed this onto my chicken (thighs because of the high fat content and they are cheap), and then let them rest in the fridge for an hour.  I then mixed some minced garlic, ginger, oil, and yogurt together to make the marinade, took the rubbed chicken and let it marinade for 18 hours. 

The next day, I started with the sauce.  I heated some oil and threw in the raw garlic and onion to brown.  Once lightly toasted (not carmelized, not quite), I threw in some ginger, tomato paste, garam masala spice mix, and a couple fresh Santa Fe chilies from the garden.  I let this cook for a couple of minutes, and then added one Green German tomato, one Yellow Brandywine tomato, a couple of Black Plums, and three Sophie's Choice tomatoes, all chopped and I removed as much of the skin as I could.  This was the substitute for the canned crushed tomatoes for which the recipe called.  I then added some salt and sugar, and let it simmer for a while as I pulled out the chicken.

Now, for the chicken, I started with trying to broil them for 9 minutes on each side, but it didn't cook them through nearly enough, so I ended up broiling them for 18 minutes on both side, and popping them into the microwave for a couple of minutes to be sure the internal temperature was high enough.  Next time, I think I would grill them on the barbeque, if I haven't built my tandori oven by then.  ^_^

While the chicken was cooking, I added some heavy cream to the sauce to make it creamy, and then set it aside, covered, so it would stay warm.  I was supposed to add fresh cilantro leaves to the sauce, but decided against it at the last minute.  At this time I also started cooking the rice, which was some left over Calarose rice I had around for a while.  It cooked up beautifully, and was ready by the time the dinner was done.

Once the chicken was finished, I chopped it up and stirred it into the sauce.  By now all the flavors had mixed well, and I ended up with a sweet-flavored sauce that had quite the kick to it after a couple of minutes.  It was delicious, and all that tried it liked it. 

There are a lot of recipes for chicken tikka masala out there, but I found the America's Test Kitchen recipe to be very tasty without being very oily.  You can get it here.  You do need to register for the site, but it's free and you get occasional emails with recipes and book offers.  The only change I would recommend is the marinade time.  It's a long time, but it's worth it!  The flavors have plenty of time to work through the chicken if marinated for a while.

September 1, 2009

Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard: The First Impressions and iCal Delegation

Yesterday I installed Mac OS X 10.6 on my work computer to become familiar with the new operating system.  Unlike other Mac OS X IT instructors, I haven't had access to the seeds for 10.6, so I couldn't beta-test the OS.  But, the wait has definitely been worth it. 

  1. The first thing I noticed is the install:  No longer do you have to select the Printer drivers you want to include because it will detect the printers you are using and install only those drivers!  This saves a ton of space on the computer, and part of the reason why the install is so small.  You also have optional installs for Rosetta. 
  2. The next thing I noticed is automatic software installs on demand.  For instance, I needed to install Adobe Photoshop CS2, which runs in Rosetta, because it's a PowerPC app.  While running the Installer, Mac OS X 10.6 realized that Rosetta was necessary for the app to run, and as such installed Rosetta for me then and there.  Brilliant! 
  3. In Stacks, you can now navigate through folders within your Stacks folder, so you don't need to open into Finder if you don't want to.  This is far more useful than using Finder all the time, keeping the search all within one flow. 
  4. Exchange Support:  The first and best thing is exchange support!  Finally!  I don't have to feel like an outcast at the University of Utah because everyone else is using Outlook and the best I could come up with is Entourage (which is embarrassing, to say the least).  Now iCal and Address Book both support Exchange.  When you set up your Exchange email (you don't even need to set up any of the server information if there is automatic configuration available), it will give you the option to configure your iCal and Address Book as well.  And that's it, that's all you need to do.

    If you want to add your delegations, you do so through the Preferences.  Click on iCal, then Preferences, and then Accounts.  Select your Exchange calendar account, and click on the Delegations pane.  To add an account you are delegated to, click on the + and start typing in the name of the person you are a delegate of.  It will add the user info, as well as the permissions you have been given. 

    To add delegates to your calendar, click on the Edit button, and then the + sign to add a new delegate.  You can set their access (from read only, read and create, read and write, or no access) for both your Calendar and your Tasks.  Click OK, and you are all set!  They can now manage or view your calendar. 

There are a couple of other minor things I like, but that will be it for now.  So far, it's definitely worth the $29.00 price for an upgrade, as long as you have an Intel Mac on which to install the OS. 

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