Friday, August 31, 2012

Sol 24 (a poem)

I'm a lazy poet.  I just sort of journal short lines as an emotional release.  I don't put the kind of effort into it that I put into my novels.  So here's one about the photo that NASA just released of the rover tracks in the crater up there on Mars:

Tracks in the sand

Across a trackless waste

Gravel and rock

Drier than the driest desert

Colder than the coldest winter

A busy robot

Preoccupied with tasks

Programmed by busy people

Unaware of the silence

Unaware of the quintessential emptiness

Driving from nowhere to nowhere

In a crater

Surrounded by mountains

Looking for?

Life? Can you really think it's there?

Water? As if any water

Could mitigate that emptiness

That silence, that lack

Of what makes a planet

Into a home

Do we really think

There can be any other home?

Do we really think

There can be another terra?

Do we really think

That is a picture

Of anything other than


Driving from nowhere

To nowhere

Busy with tasks

That seem so futile

A robotic vehicle


Friday, August 24, 2012

How Asperger's Sydrome was explained to me

My son was one of the first people diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome when it was first added to DSM IV in 1995.  At the time, this is how the psychiatrist, who was affiliated with a teaching hospital, explained it to me.

We are supposed to be born with an invisible antenna should allow us to interpret facial expressions, gestures and tones of voice instinctively and give them meaning.  The person with Aspeger's Syndrome is missing this antenna or it is damaged.

90% of communication between people is nonverbal.  People with Asperger's Syndrome miss most of that 90%.

Infants, before they are speaking verbally, are learning this non-verbal communication.  They learn, for instance, that, if they smile, mom smiles back.  If they cry, mom looks concerned.  If they poop, maybe mom looks disgusted. 

As a result of theses observations, infants begin to shape a mental model of what other people are like.  They come to understand that other people have an internal process that is responsive to the infant.

The child with Asperger's Syndrome never gets this early development. 

By that time, my son was 5.  The psychiatrist told us that his understanding of other people was still that of an infant, i.e. other people are here to serve me, e.g. Mom brings me food.  I certainly noticed that even a few years later that my son said that he felt that people were nice or were his friend if they did what he told them to do.

He could not notice the little signals that would lead up to someone getting very angry.  He would notice if someone was mad enough to turn red and scream, but not the subtleties leading up to that.  He still, at age 21, has a hard time visualizing how he contributes to someone else becoming furious at him; and especially has a hard time conforming his behavior to someone else's desires.

One of my greatest fears is that he might end up in a conversation with a police officer where he might be told, for instance, to put his hands up -- and he would refuse or delay -- resulting in getting shot.  He just is not able to conform his behavior to the desires of others, or understand when conforming might be important or urgent.

He did have a very good therapist as a child who did mitigate this somewhat.  She played role playing games with him where his little doll would do something nasty to her little doll and her little doll would say "I don't like this.  This makes me feel bad."  She would do that over and over, ad nauseum.  I'm not sure how much sank in.

What seemed to help him more was when he got into special ed and a wonderful school psychologist taught him interpersonal relationships as a course with a curriculum of points he could learn intellectually. 

Another thing that comes from not being able to engage in the constant, instinctive, nonverbal banter that links neurotypical people is an extreme attachment to objects and routines.  For instance, when we rearranged furniture in the dining room when my son was 3 because we were having guests, he became hysterical and had to be shut in his room for most of the evening, screaming.  Even now, when he travels, he has to have 5 suitcases with him, even for a 5 day trip -- and he dislikes travel a great deal, because of the disruption to his routine  Fortunately, he is a strong young man who can carry a lot

He does have sensory integration issues, for instance extreme sensitivities to tastes and textures, which give him problems in the presence of various foods.  Fortunately some of that seems to be fading now that he is 21.  My understanding, though, is that these sensory integration issues are not considered central to Asperger's, but are in fact a comorbid disorder.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Ban 1200 calorie diets

This article really makes me mad:

No one should ever be put on a 1200 calorie diet. Low calorie diets are extremely dangerous.

People are overweight, because they overeat. Putting them on a restrictive food plan is stupid. The remedy for overeating is eating normally, not going anorexic.

People lose weight better on a maintenance level food plan, because the metabolism keeps working. A 1200 calorie diet, particularly if done repeatedly, will shut down the metabolistm and make it virtually impossible to lose weight.

Medical professionals who recommend 1200 calorie diets should lose their licenses to practice. This type of diet is one cause of the obesity epidemic.

Restricting also leads to starve/binge eating patterns. After a period of feeling deprived, people will almost inevitably binge. If you binge with your body in a low metabolism, storage mode induced by a 1200 calorie diet, the result of the binge will be converted to fat much more readily.  This leads to the well-known effect of yo-yo dieting, which is weight gain.

Moreover, for super morbidly obese people, it takes a long time for the body to burn off the fat. If they are on a 1200 calorie diet for an extended period of time, they can die of an anorexia induced heart attack long before they get to normal weight.

It is time for all right thinking people to roundly denounce the 1200 calorie diet.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Michelle Obama promulgates myths about weight loss

Say the serenity prayer, Annalisse!  There it is again: a public figure giving out dangerous misinformation about weight loss.

It is a myth that a high protein, high fat breakfast is unhealthy, just a myth. 

Fat is a necessary nutrient.  Fat is critical in the digestion of other foods.  Fat is critical to the myelin sheaths around your nerves.  30% of your calories should be fat -- at least. 

Low fat diets were never supported by any scientific research at all.  Whenever you skimp on a necessary nutrient, you are going to end up overeating other foods to make up for it.  Low fat diets lead to obesity.

Same is true for low sodium diets.

So here is Michelle Obama, a prominent figure associated with reducing obesity, promulgating this myth by telling teen, Gabby Douglas, not to eat a McDonald's breakfast. 

Gabby is an athlete.  There is not a bit of fat on her toned body.  As an attractive public figure, she is at risk of anorexia.  She is the last person in the world who should be told not to eat a hearty breakfast -- even in jest.  Even jokes can lead to dysfunctional eating patterns.

What causes obesity?  Bingeing on junk food.  What causes bingeing?  Some of it is emotional; however, starve/binge eating behaviors also cause it. 

Many young people have been left with the impression that they should only eat whole grains and vegetables, no fat or protein, insufficient calories.  This is a very unhealthy idea.  Eventually, when this unhealthy idea leads them to malnutrition, they will binge on junk and get fat.

Eat your McDonald's breakfast, Gabby.  It IS healthy.  Really.