Autism and God

Occasionally I have posted on the topic of autism and religion. These have been very general thoughts about how the Church, the religious, and God (whichever may be yours) view autism and autistics.

Ginger Taylor, on the other hand, has written an in-depth discussion of autism from a Christian point of view in a series of posts she calls Autism in God’s Economy. Originally posted last spring during Autism Awareness Month, she has re-posted them for the Christmas season.

Here’s how Ginger describes the series:

Because so much is at stake, the autism discussion and debate grows louder and more fevered, often making it difficult for those involved to really take in various perspectives. Even when we do, they are all still flawed human perspectives. Even the best, brightest, wisest and most experienced of us do not have the whole story.

But God does.

So in “Autism in God’s Economy” over the next six days I will discuss a few things that the Bible tells us about God’s perspective on those with Autism and on the rest of us. This series is predicated on the deity of Christ and the inerrancy of Scripture, which may be controversial ideas to some of my regular visitors. If they are to you, I invite you to read on none the less, and take a look at what God of the Bible says. If you are a professing Christian, then this is an important series for you to read no matter how autism affects you.

The series includes, as Ginger mentions, six parts:

The Least of These – In God’s economy, the weak, the marginalized, the disenfranchised, the overlooked, the voiceless, the vulnerable, the sick, the oppressed, the grieving, the bullied, the exhausted, and those at the end of their rope are the ones who get into the VIP section. They are the ones who gain the attention and compassion of the God of the Universe.

Those with Autism – What Matthew 25 means to you whose autism has allowed you to be mistreated is profound. It means that not only does The God of the Universe see what happens to you, He stands behind you at all times taking careful note of all your interactions with others. He records who victimizes you, who ignores you and who works their butt off to get to know you give you what you need.

Parents of Autistic Children – Once you become the parent of a disabled child, you begin to see what that ‘blessing’ really means in concrete terms, because one of the first things that happens to you, in your early grief, is that you become grounded. All of the trivial distractions, the petty rivalries, the BS ego trips, the vain ambitions and the frivolities of life suddenly become very unimportant. The crap in your life starts to fall away and it is replaced by seriousness about things of true value.

Friends and Family – It is their innocence and vulnerability that God stands behinds and uses to judge those who come into their sphere of influence. It is precisely because they are so easy to dismiss and mistreat, that God watches closely to see which of us have extracted ourselves from our own self-centeredness and selfish ambitions to notice someone who is need and to bear their burden with them.

Those in Power over Those with Autism – If you have taken responsibility for any part of the life of someone with autism, or even if that responsibility has been thrust upon you, take this time to measure yourself. Have you lived up to the responsibilities that you have been given to the innocent and vulnerable lives that Jesus has chosen to represent Him for the purposes of His judgment in his absence?

For All of Us Who Have Failed in Our Duty – When those of us with autistic people in our lives take a hard, honest look at ourselves, we realize the question is not have we failed them, it is how often and how big have we failed them.

As fellow autism dad Wade Rankin says in his post about Ginger’s series, “For anyone who has an interest in the spiritual side of this autism thing, or who may have questions about reconciling the notion of a benevolent God with the autism epidemic, it makes for good reading.” Make sure you check out the comments discussion between Ginger and Jonathon for even more on the latter.

Autism book clubs on Shelfari.com

One of the various reasons I finally got around to posting my review of Portia Iverson’s Strange Son was my signing up for an account at Shelfari.com, a social networking site to connect those who still engage in the fading activity of reading. As I was adding books to my shelf I wanted to add a review of at least one book, so I dusted off that review and posted it to Shelfari, as well as here (where it would, admittedly, reach a bit larger audience).

One of the other things that Shelfari provides is the ability to create groups, what seem to me to essentially be a virtual book club. I created one, Books by Autism Parents and Autistics, to provide a forum to discuss, well, books by autism parents and autistics. So far, the group is just me. I’d love to have some company. (hint hint ;-)

On a side note, I understand that there are several different sites for managing a book shelf and that converting from one to another is a bit of a pain. I actually went through this when switching from iRead within Facebook to Shelfari. (I wrote a bit about the myriad options, and headaches they cause (for me, at least) in Time out, please? last summer.) If you don’t want to switch your entire shelf over to Shelfari, perhaps just come on over for the group discussion.

Hope to see you there.

The blogs of Leonardo da Vinci

da Vinci:  Studies of Embryos

Continuing on a bit of a theme this week, imagine if, instead of his famed notebooks, Leonardo da Vinci had used a blog to record his observations, inventions, sketches, science, mathematics…. Well, you get the idea.

Instead of nearly 6,000 pages of notes, many on what is essentially loose-leaf paper, in no particular order and with no way to correlate them, we might have 6,000 (or more, if you count the estimated 10,000 pages that haven’t survived to the present day) tagged, cross-linked, commented blog posts.

Not only would this have likely helped da Vinci himself organize his notes (a task he unfortunately did not complete before his death), it would have made his knowledge, his discoveries, and his observations available to the world at large.

I did a quick search on the Notebooks of Leonardo (a more exhaustive search will have to wait until I’m not exhausted), and came up with two interesting sites:

  • Interconnected.org: From this site you can browse the notebooks page by page, go to a random page, or get the notebooks via a daily RSS feed. At over 1500 pages, you will get a new page every day for over 4 years. Text from Project Gutenberg.
  • AskSam ebooks & databases: A searchable version of the notebooks. I haven’t done a detailed comparison, but the text appears to be the same as the version at Interconnected.

You can also download both versions for your reading pleasure when not connected.

Sadly, neither of these versions of the notebooks include the numerous (and incredible) sketches from the notebooks, such as the study of embryos shown above. Just as sadly, neither of these online versions of the notebooks are hyperlinked, so any connections between the 1500+ pages are left to the reader to sort out.

Who owns your data? Who should own it?

Two interesting posts on the question of data ownership, coming from two very different perspectives.

Harold Jarche comes at the question from a “physical” standpoint, as he contemplates the closure of Eduspaces, in his post Own Your Data:

The impending closure of the Eduspaces service has many people wondering what to do and several options are cropping up in the online discussions.

Anyone who asks me about blogging or setting up a community on the Web using wikis or some other application is given pretty well the same advice. If the site is important and the data are of some significance for the long term, then:

  1. Use an open source platform from a stable and functioning community.
  2. Own your own domain, and have a Service Level Agreement for your hosting.

Using open source gives you freedom from vendors and ensures that you are not handcuffed to your technology provider. Having your own domain name and paying for a service provider (or hosting on your own server) ensure that you have control over your data.

This is one of the reasons I moved this blog off of Blogger and onto my own domain . I’m eventually planning to import that old version onto the new, but I’ve not been able to get the function to work properly. (An excellent example of what Harold is talking about.)

On the other hand, Ton Zijlstra is thinking more about how to control how the data is used. In To (Web2.0) Developers: I Want Control of My Data, I Want to Write My Own Rules, he gives developers his two key reasons:

I sure am with Doc Searls and Dave Winer on this one. I want control of my own data. And I want to write my own rules on how others may and may not use my data.

First because if you tell me I have no friends simply because my data is not on your platform, you’re not getting it. I am the landscape, you are the map. And the map does not get to say what reality is, just what it thinks it looks like.

Second because I want my tools to become smarter, a lot smarter. And it is only me that can provide the context and data that allows tools to be smarter. I need to be in control of my data for you to let your tools be smarter. I need to be the owner of e.g. my favourites/wishlists and preferences for you to really give me good recommendations.

Something to think about.

I wonder why…

…you can’t drag and drop text into the “Location” field in a Microsoft Outlook appointment form? I know this is a small (some would say tiny) nit, but this is something that has bugged me for a while. I get most of my meeting invitations in e-mail, and most (these days) are a teleconference / web conference. To save a bit of time, I would like to be able to simply drag-and-drop the conference info. Seems reasonable, right? That’s what I thought.

I recently upgraded to Vista (there’s a story in itself) and to Office 2007. I hoped (against hope, it seems) that I would finally be able to drag and drop text into the location field in Outlook appointments. As you’ve undoubtedly figured out by now, I was denied this simple pleasure. The thing is, this little thing wouldn’t bother me except for one thing: you can cut-and-paste into the field. (And, yes, I do have drag-and-drop editing turned on.)

So why can’t I drag-and-drop?

What if Benjamin Franklin had a blog?

Portrait of Benjamin FranklinLast summer I had the opportunity to ask Dr. Blaine McCormick, author of Ben Franklin: America’s Original Entrepreneur, what he thought Franklin would think of the internet, social networking software, and blogs. McCormick’s response was along the lines of, “Franklin probably wouldn’t pay much attention to them, blogs are not up to the right standard.”

I have to admit, I don’t really agree with McCormick’s assessment. I think that his response to my question comes partially from an ignorance on his part of what blogs and the other tools are and what they are capable of, and partially from confusing the sometimes dismal quality of blogs, etc and the potential of the tools themselves. (Remember, having good tools do not the master make.)

In the hands of Benjamin Franklin, a master of getting his message out in the media of the day, I can only imagine how the media tools of today could be used. (I’m sure it would be much more than a simple collection of links.)

The web log is 10; tips for new bloggers from original blogger Jorn Barger

According to this story on Wired.com, Jorn Barger coined the term “web log” 10 years ago today to “describe the daily list of links that “logged” his travels across the web.” Barger provides some tips, dating back to what he calls the “Golden Age of Web Logs” (1998-1999), for new bloggers:

  1. A true weblog is a log of all the URLs you want to save or share. (So del.icio.us is actually better for blogging than blogger.com.)
  2. You can certainly include links to your original thoughts, posted elsewhere … but if you have more original posts than links, you probably need to learn some humility.
  3. If you spend a little time searching before you post, you can probably find your idea well articulated elsewhere already.
  4. Being truly yourself is always hipper than suppressing a link just because it’s not trendy enough. Your readers need to get to know you.
  5. You can always improve on the author’s own page title, when describing a link. (At least make sure your description is full enough that readers will recognize any pages they’ve already visited, without having to visit them again.)
  6. Always include some adjective describing your own reaction to the linked page (great, useful, imaginative, clever, etc.)
  7. Credit the source that led you to it, so your readers have the option of “moving upstream.”
  8. Warn about “gotchas” — weird formatting, multipage stories, extra-long files, etc. Don’t camouflage the main link among unneeded (or poorly labeled) auxiliary links.
  9. Pick some favorite authors or celebrities and create a Google News feed that tracks new mentions of them, so other fans can follow them via your weblog.
  10. Re-post your favorite links from time to time, for people who missed them the first time.

This is an interesting list, especially for new bloggers. Very few blogs today are simply lists of links to other sites; in fact, most blogs are explicitly setup for the authors to share their original thoughts, sometimes inspired by the writing of others but just as often based on events of daily life, their PhD research, etc. Sites like del.icio.us (mentioned in Barger’s list) provide the function that he seems to want to have blogs perform, and they are popular for just that reason.

That’s not to say that the list is not without merit. Tips 4-9 are good tips for all bloggers, new and old, independent of what they blog or how they blog it.

While the ways people use ‘blogs today may not really fit with what the word literally means, it’s not the first time a concept or a word has evolved beyond its literal meaning, or the use of a tool has evolved beyond its original use.

It certainly won’t be the last.