Friday, April 30, 2010

Reflection: As April Draws to a Close...

Just a few general updates here as April is slip sliding away. Getting ready, during this next week, to go to a geneticist and a job interview -- in no particular order. Times are the tightest they've ever been, but... now think about it. What was the biggest reason I needed thousands of dollars in reserve? The kitty, of course. There's no one in my care right now, and money is... well, money is just money.

Now it's a silver-gray Seattle morning and I'm busy with my online life: a get-together for online tutors, updates to my pages on Squidoo. One of those webpages has seen 69 visitors this week -- I think that's the most any has seen in a single week thusfar. I do add links to some of my webpages writings there on the sidebar from time to time.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

In-Between Reflection: Honk If...

It's nice to have a bank where they know you, especially when you're without an ID and such. Oh, at Wells Fargo, I'd say they they know me.

Anyhow... I was at the bus stop in the University District when a bus went by wearing a "Honk if your bank is terrific." Hmmm, but I don't drive, and I would look pretty silly on my own there honking like a goose.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Reflection: Dream Spaces

Before I talk more about dreams, I want to backtrack a bit. I haven't hung out much on the forums on the eduFire much for months, though I've logged in regularly for business (and I've been on the Squidoo forums). Now here's the reason for the disappearance off the one forum: Some people do know about my fears of things happening to people. When I started to expand my social contacts so much online... well, I was a little anxious about it. So many people to keep track of... and things happen to people, and people die.

I'd been hanging out on that platform a couple months when a fellow tutor who was really active on the forums sort of disappeared. There was a thread going on about the disappearance for some time -- weeks at least. People who communicated with him through other platforms (email? Twitter?) said he wasn't answering. I heard he'd been quite ill... Well, it was then that I started getting squeamish about hanging out on the forums there. I was on one day and a post someone wrote about what she'd learned from the guy, by gummit, it sounded like a eulogy.

Flashforward to today. I logged in to the system for a class that actually I did't think anyone was coming for and perhaps with my touchpad, I glazed over some link I didn't know I touched. I found myself on the class page of the person I did orientation with. He had new strategizing class for tutors. I thought oh, I'll sign up for that, need to get back to socializing over there -- ah, and for some very pragmatic reasons. So I looked at the attendee list, and I saw... the disappeared tutor.

Now here's where I return to the theme of dreams. It wasn't the night before, but the one before that that... well, here's a bit of the dialogue:

"You haven't been on the platform for so long."
"No, you haven't."

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Reflection: Where All of the Walls All Continually Change

Picture this: I go into a school to substitute teach. Someone in the office makes a gesture to show me which way the class is. I walk out of the office. A moment later, the person calls to me that I'm going in the wrong direction. Seems like I'm not paying attention, huh? Ah, no. A slight change in direction can disorient me. I can't look back and see the person who was doing the pointing -- there's now a wall separating us -- and so the gesture the person was making no longer has any meaning whatsoever to me. I can't place the gesture in in its proper orientation in space, I can't place the person in her proper orientation in space, and very likely I can't tell you which way which way the desk in the office was facing. I can still tell you where the office is -- I can still see the door if I turn around. But give me another minute, and a couple more turns, and I won't be able to where the office was. (I mean, where it is -- I know that things do have fixed locations in space, even though the world seems, spatially, "Just like a maze, where all of the walls all continually change".)

Yes, there are moments when that contributes to making a bit of a bad impression, or having some management troubles. Kindergartners, unlike, say, fourth graders, may be so meek that they won't tell me which way to walk down the hall even when I ask them to. But if we have to turn around ("Why are we going this way?") to correct a mistake, there may be some little issues. ("He got in front of me!" "I was there!")

Most of us aren't homing pigeons, but there are neurons that fire in our brain to help us record locations and find our way back. A normal human (like a normal mouse) will also show an ability to form cognitive maps or neural representations of place. They don't have to walk a path in a particular direction to understand it from that direction. And yet that ability can be missing -- even when cognitive/ reasoning skills are intact.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Reflection: The Experience of Reward

An understanding of the brain can help us understand some basic funky little things, like why we might bite into a hard candy when ostensibly we want the taste to last. The candy releases neurochemicals into our brain, and so the biting may give a bigger rush. So what is it about really -- the taste or the brain chemicals?

If we accept that a lot of things may ultimately not be about our senses but rather about the chemicals released in our brains in response to our senses... well, then we can begin to understand so much, like what happens when the process goes awry. People realize, because they've witnessed the effect on peers (on TV if not in real life!) that drugs have a detrimental effect on the reward/ motivation system. Most of us, though, have less experience with people whose brains that work like that naturally -- people whose reward systems aren't triggered normally by their senses, but instead respond to only a limited set of stimuli. (It doesn't occur to a lot of people that that way of being even exists at all.)

I told a friend once that what looked like excessive fear on my part was actually monotropic vulnerability. I'm not sure the distinction was clear. I meant that if a person's reward system is triggered in unnaturally strong ways by just one or two stimuli -- and if they fail to respond to other supposed rewards -- then an unnatural amount of their attention is going to be focused on those one or two things.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Memory: Mauicat Tribute 2

Create your own video slideshow at

Here's a second little Mauicat Tribute video, which includes a couple photos that were brought back to Seattle from my brother's house just recently. I'll add this video to Maui's Squidoo page later. The Animoto music library includes two songs by the artist, Angie Arnesault -- I used one for the first Maui video, and planned all along to use the other for the second. (I've used other artists from their library for my Seattle videos.) Sometimes the job Animoto does with what I upload and select is... just stunning. The Animoto shorts are free, but if one has enough themed photos for a full length song, it is surely worth the $3. (Of course there are also more expensive memberships for artists and others who want to use Animoto to promote their business.) One almost has to make some things free to compete on the internet -- but I would like to give Animoto a bit of support. They've done beautifully with my kitty pictures here.

Now I want to say something about that lovely kitty cat who died last June. You know, when he was six or seven, vets first started finding abnormalities in his X-rays and in his lab work; the results were conflicting, and they waffled what system was implicated, and whether anything was seriously wrong or it was more of an anomaly. He seemed very healthy then, and I know there were people who thought I was overanxious and/or that the vets were just after my money. Ah, but, I didn't think that kitty was going to die immediately -- I just feared he wasn't going to get as far as the average cat. He didn't. The life expectancy for an indoor-only cat is about 16; he made it to just 13. There surely are times I've felt guilty, but I know he reached double the age that he was when they first discovered things that were 'out of range' his heart size, his creatine and calcium levels.
Now I hope I didn't detract from this lovely little video by including those comments in the same post.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Reflection: My Dreaming Mind(s)

Having read quite a bit of brain science -- and quite a bit about those different parts of the brain that have to work together -- I can understand how a person could have a 'divided mind'.

My mind is less divided than most, more singleminded -- except for sometimes when I'm asleep. See, I have generally a very responsible mind when asleep. My sleeping mind isn't obsessive like my waking mind, and it tends to avoid topics that might upset me. And my sleeping mind occasionally seems to know far more than my waking mind -- it knows things I honestly don't know how it knows -- and I have a habit of listening to it and taking its messages quite seriously.

Occasionally, though, when I've had the wrong thing to eat before bed, or when something is physically wrong, my mind can get a little hyper... and then it wants to explore/ try out negative possibilities. What if... it asks. Ah, but then another part of my sleep brain is like... Uh oh, oh boy, we can't have this! And that second part goes around trying to clean up the mess. (Think of Sleeping Beauty, where the banished fairy says the princess will prick her finger and die, but then another fairy says oh no, she won't die, she'll just sleep for a hundred years.)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Reflection: A Global Netbook

The picture is of my six-year-old niece with my netbook, taken when I was in Arizona. I was tutoring ESL via petite netbook this morning (a Cambridge student of Chinese background).

Just occasionally someone sends a session request via eduFire for a subject I don't necessarily promote a lot, like conversational ESL. I thought I might encounter difficulties this morning -- or issues regarding mechanics being in and out of the apartment (loudly) replacing the pipes -- but no, it went quite smoothly. (Hey, one needs to earn a bit of money to survive -- and it's been tough.)

Now about the talented little netbook that does tutoring... it has a Squidoo page: My Acer Netbook (Snookums). One of the first I put up after getting my giant squid status.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Reflection: A Face in This World

Here I am at about two, sporting no nose, or at least no nasal bridge. (I told my first lie about the time I turned four, and sure enough, in pictures taken around that age, you can see that my nose was growing...)

Seriously, though, I had commented in an earlier post that I wanted to bring back some infant/ childhood pictures to possibly take to a geneticist. I'd said I was interested in seeing, among other things, just how underdeveloped that nasal bridge had been. Photo details don't show as well scanned/reduced, but I located some things that grew the little spot of conviction in me.

Anyway, some stuff I look up online is kind of scary. Why then is it so important to me to pursue? I don't quite fancy the task of explaining. Ah, but what keeps playing in my head is a line from "A Place in This World": "Now I'm looking for a reason, roaming through the night to find..."

It's funny, I always thought the lyric sounded like "a face in this world". Well -- I sure have looked closely at a lot of little faces lately: studying online images as well as photo box archives (and niece's noses).

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Reflection: Synchronicity (Once in a Lullabye)

Back in Seattle. I did see my mother when I was in Phoenix. A month ago, my brother would have been quite surprised to know that that she would have lived anywhere near this amount of time, still waking enough from a late Altzeimer's slumber to take in a little water and nourishment. I had read that people may respond to music when they respond to little, so I sang something we used to sing in the car when was little, "Somewhere Over the Rainbow". (Of course my mother has not known who any of us are for quite a long time.)

On the way back to Seattle, I was thinking about it, and "Over the Rainbow" was going through my head. But then it was being sung out loud, too -- quite near me there in the Greyhound bus. A bored little girl, just four or five, was singing to amuse her mother and herself.

There's a land I heard of, once in a lullabye...

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Reflection: Quality of Life

My brother and I had an interesting conversation. See, I still haven't gotten my ID replaced, and it's caused some minor inconveniences. So Kevin asked me if I would save time if I was more organized. I suppose I would save some time, yet I see no impact whatsoever on my quality of life. The real impasse, understanding-wise, is this: My brother -- and I suppose most people -- have an assumption that it somehow impacts my quality of life whether I'm convenienced or inconvenienced, whether I'm comfortable or uncomfortable, or clean or dirty, or whether my purse is stolen or not stolen. Why would my quality of life be different either way?

I think some people who are labeled as high-functioning autistic-- including some who are very highly accomplished in their particular field or area of obsession-- share this trait. They almost can't be motivated by their senses. And... they almost can't be motivated by anything but their own particular cause or obsession. I think the difference is taking place at a neurological level.

I think that relates to... Well, I think people mostly just assume that everyone sees it as more pleasurable for a loved one to give them flowers than to run around and squawk like a chicken. I am perfectly capable of understanding that it's supposed to matter to me. The fact remains -- it doesn't. (More about that in a previous post: The Kitty Carryall Metahor).

Friday, April 2, 2010

Reflection: Home Visit

And here I am in Phoenix. I haven't developed my latest pictures, so today's picture is a Greyhound bus station. Soon there will be pictures of the little nieces, Chelsea, 6 and Callee, 2.

I have been cruising the internet with a kindergartner today. Chelsea selected the paper dolls that she wanted printed out and read some online storybooks: "Monkey sees a red balloon. Monkey sees a green balloon..." She also explored some of the pictures I have saved on my USB stick. My brother says tomorrow he'll find me those long-ago pictures I need.