Saturday, January 26, 2002

Afghan Radio

In the never-ending quest for data sources...visit Afghan Radio. Oodles of great links, too.

Thursday, January 24, 2002

More on Java

I'm enjoying studying this. I really am. Migrating to an object-oriented approach to problem solving doesn't seem that inherently difficult to me. I take a very modular approach to software development to begin with. Of course, I should probably qualify my statements with a big ol' "so far".


So far, so good.

More on Thinking In Pictures

Autism and Visual Thought, from Thinking in Pictures, by T. Gardin. This is terribly interesting stuff. I believe I have a better grasp on the concept, though it'd be great to find something similar on "thinking in words".

"Teachers who work with autistic children need to understand associative thought patterns.", Dr. Gardin says. Heck, I think everyone needs to understand different thought patterns, and first and foremost, that there are different thought patterns. Person A is not necessarily the same as you, literally, and that doesn't mean they're wrong, it just means they're different.

Tuesday, January 22, 2002

Latest Story Rejection!

Someday I'll cease to be excited, I know. But it's still just kind of gosh-the-whole-idea-is-cool, even when it's a "we don't want to publish your story" message. But this is only Number 4.

Hey, I sent it. Hey, it got read. Hey, I'll just have to send it somewhere else now...At least I'm putting my money where my mouth is.


Studying Java this week, using an online book on programming w/Java that I picked up by David Eck. So far, so good. I've already settled on a good first major project [a flat-file CD database management tool] to work on.

The nice thing about being unemployed is I have all this time.
The bad thing about being unemployed is I have all this time. I feel like I'm done lounging about, I'm ready for a new job.
Autism, Aspergers and Silicon Valley

CTM sent over a link to an utterly FASCINATING article in Wired on Asperger's Syndrome, autism in general, and increased diagnoses here in Silicon Valley. Asperger's is 'one of the disorders on the autistic spectrum'. To me, descriptions of autistic behaviour have frequently read like INTJ behaviours taken to an illogical extreme, and Asperger's is a perfect example.

"lack basic social and motor skills, seem unable to decode body language and sense the feelings of others, avoid eye contact, and frequently launch into monologues about narrowly defined - and often highly technical - interests. Even when very young, these children become obsessed with order, arranging their toys in a regimented fashion on the floor and flying into tantrums when their routines are disturbed. As teenagers, they're prone to getting into trouble with teachers and other figures of authority, partly because the subtle cues that define societal hierarchies are invisible to them."

And, lacking social graces is the hallmark of what, ladies and gentlemen? That's right, geeks. Obsessions with order sound familiar? Not neatness, order. I may have a messy room, but I know exactly where everything is.

It's not all bad, if we practice some of us can even be diplomatic [I do try, sometimes]. But it's a conscious choice, making interaction with others important. I personally work hard at understanding what other people are trying to communicate, and I like to think I'm good at it, comparatively speaking. Not grasping it naturally, but if you practice you really can fake it.

From one of the INTJ profiles floating out there on the net:

"Although as Ts they do not always have the kind of natural empathy that many Fs do,
the Intuitive function can often act as a good substitute by synthesizing the probable meanings behind such things as tone of voice, turn of phrase, and facial expression. This ability can then be honed and directed by consistent, repeated efforts to understand and support those they care about, and those relationships which ultimately do become established with an INTJ tend to be characterized by their robustness, stability, and good communications."

The thing is that you have to want to work at it. After all these years, interpersonal stuff -- empathy, for lack of a better word -- is still the first thing I chuck out the window when pressed for time. Because everything else [whatever 'else' is, like I'm solving some system problem by modifying software] gets assigned higher priority, I have to trim something so that all of my pattern-building/gestalt-sensing/whatever abilities can get focused on the One Important Thing. [*] So, speaking completely ignorantly, getting an autistic to care about communicating is probably one of the biggest hurdles. I understand that autistics in general can respond to "behavioural therapy". This and some of the breeding choices [and what might happen when mildly autistic geeks procreate?] brought up in the article were absolutely fascinating, and point up a joint nature/nurture relationship to causing, and dealing with, someone who is autistic.

[*] I do have to remark on 'therapy' here -- the more practice and experience I get, the less likely I am to need to throw out "everything else" in order to focus on the One Important Thing. The sheer scope of the problems I can effectively multitask through now at 30+ years, are orders of magnitude larger than the ones I could multitask between 5, 10, or 15 years ago. To the point that I've actually been mistaken for a nongeek, and even, once or twice, an extravert. [Of course, being female in a sexist society helps with that, I don't look like a geek, and my interests extend beyond the classic 'technical subjects'.]

There's mention also of "assistive technologies", like software on your PDA that gives you tips on interpreting body language. [Check out the The Archimedes Project at Stanford]. I would *love* to work in this area, I really would. That is TOO cool.

I took the AQ test, which of course is not a robust diagnostic tool, a couple of times, trying to channel myself in different life stages to observe different results, which made for an interesting little experiment.

I paid a visit to the Autism Research Centre's website, and read up on the various abstracts of papers by associated researchers. Riveting stuff. There was some interesting notes [over in the section on CLASS] on Asperger's and HFA [high functioning autism] that I wanted to share:

"Both can be thought of as a personality style in which the individual does not ‘tune in’ naturally to people and is more attracted by objects, systems, and how things work. Both involve strengths in attention to detail, and can be associated with talent in areas such as mathematics, science, fact-collecting or ruled-based subjects. Both are disabilities only in environments where the individual is expected to be both sociable and a good communicator" [emphasis added - S.]

Thinking in Pictures

In addition, there were several references in the Wired article to "thinking in pictures", which I found equally interesting, although not the point of the article. What does it mean? I sat and tried to think about how I think, but I think I'm missing a frame of reference. "Rule-based, image-driven thought processes". What are the different ways people think?

Monday, January 21, 2002

Being Fictional

If I were an AD&D character, my stats would be....

Str: 5
Int: 11
Wis: 17
Dex: 12
Con: 13
Chr: 14

*chuckle* I picked up the link from 'Bouillabaisse for the Soul', just browsing around bored while I downloaded some stuff, namely the Java SDK for linux. In the middle of all this browsing it occured to me to do a little ColdFusion/Flash research, though I'm not at all sure what the connection was. Could just be me. Of course I'd gotten online in the first place to do a little XML parser research.

Anyway, in the course of all that noodling around [god, I love the Internet] I noticed that transaction support is now available in MySQL. Yaaaaay, MySQL!

Sunday, January 20, 2002

Writer's Block

I've been inattentively picking at XML, which really means I've been doing some XHTML stuff on my site and that's about all. But, yesterday, just when I get an actual real idea for something to do in XML and start working on it [*], my more general case of writer's block frees up.

[*] nothing snazzy, just a little web based 'email' thing, like the world actually needs another one of those, but that's not the point, the POINT is for me to get practice at XML and stylesheets.

What all this boils down to is I had a cool idea Saturday night for a story, and rolled out of bed to jot down the high points. I'm totally thrilled today to be blocking out the framework for my little XML+Perl app, and then toggling over to my story "notes" and fleshing out the framework for that. Ah, unix/linux, my friends, where people driven to actually do more than one thing at once like to park.

I'm only online right now to download a couple more browsers for linux so I can see XML being rendered via CSS.

I love being a geek who writes, I really, really do. It's just so cool.