Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Some more Indians



Yesterday I promised more Indians . . . well, here they are. The first shot (above) shows the 1950's models, after American production ceased. These were rebadged Britich bikes.




Here's a nice Scout motor.



This bike happens to be the last civilian Indian built in 1942. After this bike rolled off the line Indian switched to military work for the duration of the war.




Here are two of the earliest twins.



These are the famous inline Fours.




This 80-inch Chief was the top of the line for 1950.




Here's one of the bikes Indian developed for desert use.




This is another creation from the war years - a watercooled V8 aero engine.





A side view of the aero engine.




Here's a cutaway 1927 Chief motor.

The Indian exhibit will be open for public preview during the Christmas holiday, and again during spring school break. It opens full-time Columbus Day, 2009.




















Monday, December 22, 2008

Indians for Christmas

Those of you who follow my blog know that I have another life, with motor vehicles. Every now and then, I am asked to appraise collectible cars, boats and motorcycles. A few weeks ago, I was asked to appraise the Indian Motorcycle collection that was recently donated to the Springfield Museums, on Edwards Street in our city.


The Indian collection was amassed over a 40-year period by Charles and Estha Manthos. They kept the Indians in a building that was part of the former factory complex on Hendee Street, less than 1,000 feet from my company, Robison Service.



The collection is the largest of its kind in the world. Here are some of the bikes you'll see if you visit us when it's open, in January 2009 . . .



There are a number of famous motorbikes, inclubing this oval tack racer from Freddie Marsh







Here's one of the famous Indian V-twin engines

Few people have ever seen the Indian cars. Here's one of the only extant prototypes



The Scount was one of Indian's most successful models


You can still see Indian style in today's retro designs.



Prior to the late fifties, gears were shifted by a lever on the right side of the tank





Here's a closeup of one of the carburetors



Stay tuned for more images, and check the museum calendar at http://www.springfieldmuseums.org/












Wednesday, December 10, 2008

What I said to them







Here are Miss Illinois and me at the 2008 Raising Student Achievement conference in St Charles, Illinois this Monday. Imagine . . . she and I were talking to the teachers, while across town . . . the FBI was arresting the governor. Miss Illinois was a big hit with the superintendents, especially the males. I even got in on the game, getting her to sign a picture for Cubby.

I'm bigger, but she got all the attention. And for those of you who want specifications . . . she is 24, not married, not engaged, and continuing with college. 17 to 24 is the age range for this competition. She's friendly and personable, and the crown is detachable. She did not offer to let me try it, though.

Luckily there were no arrests at the Pheasant Run resort. The teachers were all well-behaved. I arrived the night before my talk, as everyone was rolling into town. Once I'd gotten settled in my room, I ventured downstairs to get a feel for the audience I'd have in the morning. I found some teachers in the bar.





After first ascertaining that they were friendly, I set out to answer some questions. What do you do? I asked. Are you teachers, superintendents, or something else? Most were teachers. I asked if they were dedicated, and they all said yes. I asked if they planned to attend in the morning, and they said yes to that, too.

Knowing I had a dedicated audience, I retreated to my room to re-read your comments and ponder what to say at the opening bell. Thank you all for the suggestions in my last thread, What Would You Say to Them? I did my best to pass on your ideas during my three sessions. I spoke to the entire assembly at the conference opening. After that, I had a session with regional superintendents, and a session with teachers.



The whole thing went very well, thanks in large part to your suggestions.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

What would you say to them??

On Monday morning, I am speaking to a large group of educators at a conference on raising student achievement levels. It's in St. Charles, Illinois, just outside Chicago. If any of you are nearby, I'd love to meet you in person . . . there is a link on the right sidebar if you want to stop in. Otherwise, I hope you'll send me some of your ideas, so that I can share them with this esteemed group.

Those of you on the spectrum . . . what would you say to a group of educators?

How about you parents? I know so many of you struggle daily with school systems. What would you say?

This is my last speaking engagement until after the holidays. As we move toward spring I will be appearing at some autism conferences. I'll keep you informed as I go.

Woof!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Asperger's and aloneness

For those of you who saw this post on my Psychology Today blog . . . there is a new story there today. For those who did not see it, I'll repost it here:

For much of my life, I've carried a burden of sadness. It started when I was three or four, with my failures to make friends with the kids around me. At that age, I was a monkey face and a retard. As I got older, the name calling faded away, to be replaced by something else. I became the kid no one chose, when choices were made. Other kids were picked for the baseball time, the debate team, the glee club, or even the journalism club. I watched it all from the sidelines, a member of nothing; an observer of it all.

All kids suffer social setbacks, but for those of us with neurological differences like Asperger's, social failure often proves to be the norm. Through it all, I paid close attention in an effort to unravel the cause of my social failure. I learned to look aloof, and set myself apart, and I made myself popular for brief moments with my practical jokes. I learned enough social skills to get along, though I never really understood other people. In that way, I made it through childhood.

School was an ugly place for me. It was an environment where my failures and disabilities were obvious, and my talents were rendered invisible or worthless. I couldn't wait to leave, and I did so at the first possible opportunity. Some of us are lucky enough to find gifts among our various traits, and as we get older, those gifts can lead to some degree of academic or commercial success. That's what happened to me, as I achieved success in the music industry and later in the business world.

Social acceptance often follows success at work. It did for me, and I found myself possessed of friends as an adult. I've observed the same thing in other Aspergians. To some extent, success breeds success. My first friends gave me confidence and allowed me to improve my social skills. That led to more friends and indeed I'm actually fairly popular today and until recently, I'd have said I was fairly successful too.

When times are good, I can derive security from my work, and enjoyment from my friends. There have been moments when life seemed pretty good. But for someone like me it's all an illusion, as the economic events of recent months brought home in a most disagreeable way.
I realize that what positive self-image I possess is founded on the things I've done. I am, to a large degree, my work and my accomplishments. My self-image certainly is not founded on who or what I am, because the worthlessness of that was made abundantly clear to me from the very beginning. Intellectually, I suspect that worthlessness is false, but I've never been able to shake the feelings. I can't really be sure. I read about positive self image, and how such a thing is desirable, but it's always eluded me.

People are full of well-meaning but useless advice. They say, You must learn to love yourself, and Happiness comes from within. How does that happen? I wonder. How does a retard who's destined for prison or a career pumping gas learn to love himself? I've heard that advice thousands of times, and the answer still remains a mystery.

Here's another bit of trite advice I've heard: You are a human being, not a human doing. You are more than what you do at work. I have a very hard time with advice like that. It's the doing where I've been successful in life. The being part places me back on the playground, by myself, at three years of age. I don't want to be there.

I've thought quite a lot about the reasons for this, and I think in my case they are probably founded in neurology. Thanks to my Asperger's, I have a remarkable insight into machines. I can see what I do with machines, and I know it's real and it works and it has value. The machines may not thank me, but I know I've made them last longer and run smoother. I've made them, in a sense, happier and healthier, and it's something I can feel good about. I feel a sense of accomplishment from my work with machines.

But I also know I am part of the community of humans, and therein lies the problem. I cannot see into people like I see into machines; like a neurotypical person. I cannot sense another person's joy or acceptance. Instead, I must deduce those feelings from careful observation. Most of my opportunities to deduce such feelings with respect to me are in the context of my work. Unfortunately, other people's responses to what I do are driven by more than just me. They are driven by a person's own emotional state, their ability to afford my work, and their own self image. All those things are unknowable to me.

Yet I want to know them. I want to be part of human society.

All I see is this: as the economy collapses, machines are neglected and many humans fade away or turn ugly. I'm fairly blind to individual expressions of emotion, but I now sense new feelings of unease, fear, and worry in the world around me. Today's humans make choices that are bad for machines against my best advice. They become critical. The acceptance that was observable six months ago vanishes. At the same time, my own economic security evaporates, and I find myself terrified and anxious in response.

What do I do about it? I cannot derive comfort from other people in the way neurotypicals can, because I can't read their emotions or share my own. That's not totally true - I can share them in writing, here, but I can't exchange them in the ebb and flow of actual personal interaction. Some people say, take antidepressants, but medication does not change the issues for me. Rendering me senseless won't bring me acceptance and it surely won't bring financial security.

It's times like this that I realize how truly alone some of us really are. I see my friends support each other, and as best I can tell, it works. But it doesn't work for me, because Asperger's prevents me from receiving or exchanging the messages of support that keep the others going. It seems unfair at times, because people tell me that my calm and logical demeanor is comforting to them, yet there's no comfort for me. Suspecting that people like and support me is not the same as feeling it, when times are bad. I wish it were, and I hope it all works out ok.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The search for a compatible mate

I wrote about Asperger’s and rudeness last week on my Psychology Today blog. At the end of that story, I advanced an idea about compatible mates. I said,

Sometimes people ask me, "What kind of person should a guy with Asperger's look for?"

I can't speak for you, but this is an answer that's worked for me:

People with Asperger's have very weak sensitivity to other people's thoughts and feelings. But we often offset that with exceptionally strong logical brains. Therefore, we are wise to seek a mate with exceptional emotional sensitivity and less logical brainpower. Then, our mental abilities compliment each other's. One of us has great emotional intelligence, and the other has great logical intelligence. Individually, we're each weak. Together, though, we are very strong.

The whole post is here: http://blogs.psychologytoday.com/blog/my-life-with-asperger039s/200811/are-aspergians-really-rude-and-inconsiderate

That leads to a big question . . . how do you find one of these mates with exceptional emotional sensitivity?

If you’re looking for someone aged 25-35, you could look for an obviously caring and empathetic mom. Empathy abilities are very observable when moms deal with small children. In fact, human empathy probably evolved – in large part - to help mothers take care of helpless nonverbal babies.

When I think of compatible females with exceptional emotional intelligence, all the examples that come to mind are moms. If I were in that age range, searching for a mate, that’s where I’d look.

The only problem with that suggestion, is that a majority of the moms with small children also have pre-existing mates. What if a fellow wants to start his own family? What if you’re younger and looking at prospective mates who don’t have any kids? What if you’re older, and the kids have grown up?

And the biggest problem of all . . . what if you’re not even looking for a female? What if you’re looking for a guy? How do you pick out exceptional emotional intelligence then?

What are some clues one could pick up on at a casual meeting or even on a date?

I have pondered that at length, and it’s tough to answer. At least, it is for me. Perhaps some of you with greater emotional insight can help point me toward a solution.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

A night to remember

Book engagements are all different. I’ve been to events with five people, and then had five hundred a day later in another city. You just never know what you’ll find. The people are the same way . . . sometimes they just make an impression on you, like they did last night.

At the big events, you can’t really connect with the audience like you can at small ones. There are just too many people. When you sign books, you are always aware that there are a hundred more people in line, so it’s rushed. And when the line ends, you’re tired because it was so long.

At a big event, you never get to find out about the audience. You tell your story, answer questions, but there are so many people that you just can’t have individual conversations. Last night’s event was different. It was at the Enfield B&N as part of WGBY Public Television’s weekend campaign.

The crowd was small. We had a mom and daughter, a mom, son and husband, three moms, a teacher, and a mom and her mother. A total of eleven people. There was no stage or podium, just us sitting in chairs toward the back of the store.

I didn’t actually read from the book at all. We just sat there and talked about their kids, my kid, my childhood, and their hopes for the future. It was more like an Asperger support group meeting, really. Before I knew it, two and a half hours had passed.

I invited everyone to my December program at Elms College where they could meet teachers in the graduate autism program, and learn more. I also suggested some local resources like the Asperger Association of New England. One of the moms said, “I’m not from this area.”

I was stunned to find she and her daughter had driven three hours from Bergen County, New Jersey, and they planned to turn around and drive home right after this event. The dedication of some of the parents I meet is amazing, as is their determination to make their kids lives better.

I sure hope whatever thoughts I had to offer were worth the ride. Families like those last night are really why I wrote Look Me in the Eye. I wanted to show people that Aspergian life does get better after childhood, and one can build a decent life as a grownup.
“Always remember you’re special,” I said.

I suggested some books last night. I’ll list them again here. First, I recommended Shyness, by Dr. Phil Zimbardo. Second, for recent insights into mirror neurons, which may be a key component of Asperger’s, I recommended Mirroring People, by Dr Marco Iacoboni. Finally, for insight into why male and female brains are different, I recommended The Female Brain by Dr Louann Brizendine

And of course I always recommend parents read Tony Attwood’s Asperger Syndrome and Temple Grandin’s stories. Her stories have a special relevance if you have or are a girl with Asperger’s or autism.

This evening I will be at the Barnes & Noble at Holyoke Crossing, also for Public Television. We’ll see what happens tonight.

I'm also guest blogger on http://www.thedebutanteball.com/ today, so stop by there if you have a chance.

Tomorrow I'll be at B&N's Hadley and Pittsfield stores as we conclude the WGBY Public Television weekend.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Join me at the Debutante Ball

It's my first time as a guest blogger.

I'll be at the Debutante Ball later tonight, with a contest and prizes . . . stop on by and leave a comment!

http://www.thedebutanteball.com/

I'll be doing that Public Television gig this weekend, so I'll be popping in from time to time to check the comments . . . see you there . . . !

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Your chance to support Public Television has arrived

Once again I have volunteered to appear at local B&N stores in an effort to draw unwary shoppers into stores, where they will be parted from their dollars by skilled merchandisers in smart uniforms. All for a good cause.

On these days, a percentage of the money you are relieved of will go to public television. The rest of it goes to the merchant. None of it goes to me; I am strictly a volunteer.

These are your opportunities:

Tomorrow, Friday, at 6PM at the B&N in Enfield, CT

Saturday, 6PM, at the B&N in Holyoke, MA

Sunday, lunchtime, at the B&N in Hadley followed by 3PM in Pittsfield.

Some of you - the dedicated ones - will come to several events. But what's most important is not the number of events you attend, but the total dollars you spend. Three hundred dollars spent in one store will count for more that ten dollars each, in all four stores. Sad but true.

If you prefer, you can simply call or log in and give money. www.wgby.org

I hope to see you all this weekend.

Monday, November 10, 2008

A change in my corner of the blogosphere

I have been invited to share my Asperger essays on Psychology Today's site. The first one can be seen here:

Are Aspergians really rude and inconsiderate?

Meanwhile, I remain here at work, rude and inconsiderate as ever.

Friday, November 7, 2008

A summary of my TMS posts

Every day, I get questions about the TMS project I’ve gotten involved in at Harvard’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. TMS stands for Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation. What’s that? It’s the use of high power magnetic fields to induce tiny electrical currents in the brain that can change the way we think.

TMS has been in the news recently because it just got FDA approval as a drug alternative for depression. Dr. Alvaro Pascual-Leone, the director of the TMS lab in Boston, was one of the pioneers in the research that led to that approval, fifteen years ago.

Today, Alvaro remains on the cutting edge of neuroscience research with his work in autism. His scientists are using TMS on different areas of the brain to unravel some of the secrets of autism and how we think. It’s a remarkable journey.

I am often asked if I the stories I’ve written about TMS are in one place somewhere. Well, as of today, they are. Here you go:

This is my first blog post on TMS, from March of this year:
http://jerobison.blogspot.com/2008/04/standing-on-brink.html

Here’s the story of my first actual TMS experience:
http://jerobison.blogspot.com/2008/04/visit-to-beth-israel-deaconess-medical.html

Here's the second:
http://jerobison.blogspot.com/2008/05/visit-to-tms-lab-and-some-questions.html

And the third:
http://jerobison.blogspot.com/2008/05/brain-plasticity-in-action.html

Here you can see some changes in me:
http://jerobison.blogspot.com/2008/06/challenge-and-opportunity-of-autism.html

And finally, here’s a sort of summary of where we are this October:
http://jerobison.blogspot.com/2008/10/appearance-next-week-and-latest-from.html

There is a story, "seeing with a different eye," that one of the program participants wrote and allowed me to post.
http://jerobison.blogspot.com/2008/05/another-participants-view-of-tms.html

Here are two more stories from the blog of Michael Wilcox, one of the other participants in the study.

http://www.mfw.us/rTMS-experience

http://www.mfw.us/a-second-tms-experiment

The official site of the TMS lab is www.tmslab.org

Friday, October 31, 2008

Billy the Kid is available on DVD

Last winter I worked with Jennifer Venditti and Chiemi Karasawa to produce the film Billy The Kid, about a teenager with Asperger's in a small town in Maine. The film has received wide critical acclaim, with one reviewer describing it as, "The antidote to Juno."

It's definitely a real life story.

When the film came out I traveled to theaters, where the director and I did Q&A sessions after the film was screened. The best of those Q&As are now at the end of the film, and we will also upload them to youtube now that it's on sale.

Here is the official announcement:

A FILM BY JENNIFER VENDITTI - ON SALE OCTOBER 28EXCLUSIVE SPECIAL OFFER - SAVE 25%Pre-order now with promo code BTK25
BUY THE DVD
VIEW THE TRAILER
Add to your NETFLIX queue
Visit the WEBSITE
Available on Amazon.com

FOR EDUCATIONAL USE AND PURCHASE CONTACT ben@zeitgeistfilms.com

“Many memorable dramatic films about adolescence have been made over the decades, but few of them can match the impact of BILLY THE KID, a striking, heartfelt documentary that deserves to have a long shelf life.”—Stephen Farber, The Hollywood Reporter

“The first twenty minutes alone is worth the price of admission for the contribution to furthering the language of documentary.”—Michael Lerman, indieWIRE

“As quietly inspiring as it is genuinely heartbreaking, BILLY THE KID is an act of passionate empathy.”—Geoff Pevere, The Toronto Star

“Venditti's enormously affecting documentary about a thoughtful Maine boy's coming of age has won awards at all four of the festivals it's competed in. Believe the hype.”—Time Out New York

www.billythekiddocumentary.com

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Creep back

Those of you who read military history may recognize the term creepback. To my surprise, it’s actually available online, in Wikipedia.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creepback

Creepback was what happened when a stream of bombers attacked a target during World War II. The first bomber dropped a colored marker, usually red or green, that was meant to be the target for each successive bomber. But the later bombers would be flying in, looking at the destruction, and anxious to turn for home. So they’d tend to let their bombs go just a little before the plane before. The result: A line of destruction that “crept back” along the track of the incoming bombers.

Creepback was a particular problem for the Royal Air Force, who primarily attacked at night with long streams of bombers – over 1,000 planes at times - that took thirty minutes to an hour to pass over the target area. Creepback caused the bombs to scatter over a track several miles long during the run-in to a target.

What made me think of that, you ask?

I will tell you.

I was at an event today, when I decided to visit the men’s room. It was a large, crowded event, and the men’s room was crowded too. There was a long line between me and the facility’s two urinals. Being good citizens in a respectable place, the other would-be-urinators just stood there, waiting their turns. I did too, and being as I am, I paid close attention to what was happening.

I began to sense the creep back while I was still five people away from taking my turn. Finally, it was time. I approached the urinal from where I’d been waiting, a polite ten feet back. As I approached, I looked to my feet as it’s always wise to see where you are stepping in an environment like that. I was brought to a stop two feet from the urinal by the spreading puddle on the floor.

Unfazed by the prevailing floor conditions, I proceeded to use the facilities from the safe distance of twenty six inches, and I was able to step back a moment later with clean shoes. It's times like that when I am thankful for the advantage of height. As the next fellow stepped up to take my place, he did the same thing, but he stopped a little further back. Intrigued, I waited for two more people under the guise of washing my hands, and in a moment, they were commencing discharge a full three feet from the urinal.

I realized I was witnessing the same phenomena that caused the early bombers to hit the center of Berlin and later bombers to hit distant suburb like Grunewald or Spandau. It was obvious that today’s late urinators would not even have a hope of hitting the target urinals due to creepback.

That’s despite the fact that the urinals were all properly marked and plainly visible on the walls. They were not obscured by smoke or cloud cover, nor were they defended by antiaircraft guns. When that happened in the Second World War, bomber pilots chose alternate targets. And that’s what happened in the men’s room today, as I circled back through the sinks.

The closer creepback took the stream to the floor drain, the more inviting the drain looked. The scene around the toilet was already one of total destruction. I exited the washroom as a new group of urinators orbited the drain, trying to keep their feet dry.

Today’s air forces have better technology, and they’ve all but eliminated creepback. Bombs are actually guided all the way to the ground in many cases. Creepback lives on, though, in any crowded mens room. Visit any professional sporting event or overcrowded night club, and you’ll see it in action.

I've observed this same situation many times before, but it was only today that I was struck with the proper term for it. And now you know, too.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

An appearance next week and the latest from the TMS lab

It seems like I’m driving to Boston every week nowadays! If you’re in town next Wednesday, come say hi! I'll be appearing at the Barnes & Noble, Northeastern University, 360 Huntington Ave, from noon to 1PM. This is part of the Snell Library Lunch Times Series. Call 617 373 2821 for more info.

Monday night I attended a review of this summer’s work at the TMS lab. I know quite a few blog readers have followed this study since its inception last spring, and you’ve been asking me for the latest news. For those of you who are new to this, the lab is run by Dr. Alvaro Pascual-Leone. It’s located at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, which is itself a teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School.

TMS stands for Transcranial magnetic stimulation, the use of high power magnetic fields to induce tiny electrical currents in the brain. Read the Wikipedia entry on TMS here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transcranial_magnetic_stimulation

The official lab site is www.tmslab.org

We were able to gather most of the volunteers plus three of the scientists and a few guests. It was actually our first time all together in one place. We reviewed our experiences, listened to the scientist’s presentations, and talked about where we go next.

I promised not to give away any secrets before the scientific papers are published, but I can tell you a few things.

We did two studies this past summer. One study measured brain plasticity in people with high functioning autism or Asperger’s and a neurotypical control group. That study was very interesting, because it showed some dramatic differences between the groups, as well as yielding some remarkable new insights.

I was amazed at how different the results were between us and the nypicals. But what does it mean? That is a subject for further testing and study. As the scientists point out, there are both benefits and drawbacks to any of these brain differences.

Here’s what I think: The more I know about how my brain works, and how it differs from other people, the better off I am. Most of my struggles on the interpersonal front stemmed from a lack of that understanding. For an adult like me, knowledge is truly empowering. And this work is providing insight I’ve never seen before.

The plasticity study was led by Lindsay Oberman, PhD. She’s planning a follow-on study that will begin this winter. Any of you who’d like to participate or know more can write her at loberman@bidmc.harvard.edu

Next we heard from Shirley Fecteau, PhD. Shirley ran a study using TMS to measure and influence mirror neuron function. Mirror neurons are specialized brain cells that are believed to play a key role in empathy and human communication. And those are two areas where most of us on the spectrum have trouble.

If I were to sum up Shirley’s work in two words, they’d be: Powerful Stuff!

Shirley is working on cutting edge therapies to help strengthen that mirror neuron function in people like me. If you’ve heard me speak, you have seen the promise of this work firsthand. Take a look at the blog archives, for May, and watch the Challenge and Promise of Autism videos to see for yourself.

If you’d like to know more about Shirley’s work, or if you’d like to join the upcoming studies, write her at sfecteau@bidmc.harvard.edu

Shirley will be starting a new study this winter, and we have a new neuroscientist joining the team, Ilaria Minio Paluello from Italy. She will be continuing the work she began in Europe.

It’s an exciting time.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The occasional political and financial rant

I can’t help but feel anger at the news that our tax bailout dollars are going to pay bonuses at these brokerage firms our government is bailing out:

http://www.time.com/time/business/article/0,8599,1853846,00.html?xid=site-cnn-partner

I understand and agree with the argument that people who were not involved in questionable activities should not be penalized. But I think employees fortunes should rise and fall with those of the employer. If the employer is too broke to pay bonuses, that’s unfortunate but it happens every day. The government doesn’t give me bonus money to hand out when my company fails to make it.

I think it’s wrong for taxpayer’s bailout money to be used to fund bonus pools and the general operation of these firms. I firmly believe that these companies should be showing substantial sacrifice if they are to receive our dollars. Where’s the evidence of that? It’s certainly nowhere in the news.

What is this going to do to the image of the brokerage industry? It’s time for these people to wake up! We are going to have a whole generation of potential investors walk away from Wall Street and never look back. Those people may get bonuses this year, but I’d wager a large percentage of those jobs are going to evaporate next year. Why pay for financial advice if this is where it leads?

For years I trusted advisers to manage my investments for a 1% fee, or a 2% fee. Where did it get me? It got me to exactly the same place I’d have been if I’d just bought a stock market index fund and paid no fees. Except I have less money, because I paid thousands in management fees for what turned out to be no advantage.

My cynical friend Eddie says, “These stockbrokers are like race track touts. They don’t know anything. They get up and say sell to one guy, and buy to another, and they have to be right half the time!” While I’m sure many stockbrokers would disagree with that statement, it does reflect reality as far as I can see.

The fact is, no one really knows what the market will do, short term. History says it rises long term, but the degree of rise in the future is unknowable. So what should a person wanting to invest in the market do? People will answer that question in many different ways, but I am sure of one thing . . . the value people will place on the advice of brokers is going to be seriously diminished. This is too big a mistake for this generation to forget. The move to online trading – where anyone can make a stock trade for twenty bucks – will increase, and broker jobs will evaporate.

What kind of jobs will that leave at the heart of the brokerage business? I suspect there will be growth in computer network jobs, and huge cuts in sales jobs as that function is replaced with automation or simply shrinks from lack of demand. This market crash will precipitate the biggest change ever in the brokerage employment picture. Where will those displaced people end up? Will Greenwich, CT become like the suburbs of Detroit when the car plants went to automation?

It’s actually hard to imagine what all those displaced white collar workers are going to do. The general banking industry can’t absorb them – they have their own crises. What other fields do those skills translate into? Certainly the sales people can get into other sales jobs, but how quickly, and with how much disruption? With issues like that the effects of this economic crisis will ripple for years.

But with all that, there are still some bright sides.

I can now park on Northampton’s Main Street on the weekend. Traffic is thinned to a more manageable level.

The same thing has happened in restaurants . . . I can get seated for lunch without the previous 30 minute wait.

All I need now is some money to spend. Luckily for me, the demand for car repair rises in a falling economy. So my savings may have evaporated, but there’s work for Robison Service. And I hope people continue to buy my books. With any luck, we will all pull through this.

This afternoon I am off to Boston to attend a review of this summer’s TMS studies. Check back later this week for more news on our ongoing research.

Woof!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Me on Boston television, and some thoughts on prosperity, place and happiness

I drove to Boston today to do a short segment on Boston television. You can watch it here:

Me on Boston Fox 25

Here I am with the news anchors:



FOX25 has a striking new studio facility, with state of the art equipment, plenty of space, a big staff and anything a news person could want. Why not? They can afford it . . . They're a leading station in the #7 market in the United States.

My home town, Springfield, is market #111 according to Neilsen. We're more of a backwater. You can find your own city here:
http://www.nielsen.com/pdf/2008_09_DMA_Ranks.pdf

I've visited quite a few television stations recently, and I was struck by something today . . .

The producer and all the staff at FOX were happy, friendly, engaged, helpful . . . all of those things. They seem to like their jobs. No one looked miserable. The people all wore nice clothes and the parking lot was full of nice cars. It was a big, expansive studio. A first-rate place, no doubt about it.

Within the past few weeks I've also visited Buffalo, New York, and Dayton, Ohio, two of the more depressed cities in the US. Their television stations looked somewhat threadbare in comparison. They were clean and neat, but the equipment was well used. It was long past the age where FOX25 would have retired it, if what I saw is any example.

The people on the street in those cities are dressed economically, and the cars are older, compared to Boston. In Buffalo, it seems like every third storefront on Main Street is boarded up. In Boston, you have to struggle to find a single vacant spot in the heart of town.

There are huge differences between Boston and those depressed cities. Per capita income - one comparitive measure - is several times higher in Boston.

And yet . . .

The people in Dayton and Buffalo were just as happy, friendly, engaged, and helpful as the folks at Boston's FOX25. They also seem to like their jobs. None of them looked miserable, either. Their clothes may have been plainer but they were neat and clean and the people on the street were the same.

The contrast in property and objects was striking. Given that contrast, the sameness of the people was equally striking.

Many studies have found the same thing . . . once you get above a subsistence level (which varies quite a lot from place to place) and meet the need for basic necessities, extra money and more things does not buy much more happiness, if any.

But there's one caveat . . . . As long as everyone around you is in the same boat.

Everything looks threadbare in those rustbelt cities, and the average person is just like everyone else. He's therefore just as happy as the average person in Boston or Seattle, where everything looks new. But if you put that average fellow from Boston into an average apartment in Buffalo, he'd be bummed, for sure. Relative position is what seems to matter, once you have the basics.

Anyway, I just realized what a powerful comparison it was. I was thinking how happy and friendly the people at FOX25 were, and how nice the place was. And I couldn't help but think the same good things could be said of the people I met in those poor places, despite the physical surroundings. The guys running the old gear with the paint rubbed off had exactly the same geek pride as the guys in the brand new state of the art studio. The physical surroundings seemed to have no effect on how they felt. We all read ideas like that all the time, but somehow they strike you differently when you experience it firsthand.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Niagara Falls

I've made it home from this weekend's talk at the Disability Film Festival. Here's a link to my hosts, the Museum of DisAbility History http://www.museumofdisability.org/ New York State is developing a Disability Awareness Week in its schools. My talk followed a showing of Mozart and the Whale. The museum had programs running all weekend; several hundred people attended.

Buffalo itself is a somewhat depressing place, but nearby Niagara Falls is quite a spectacle. The fellow who hosted me at the museum took me to see the sights the following day. We had a really nice time. Jim Boles is president of People Inc, a western New York human services agency.

Here are some perspectives of Niagara Falls that you may not have seen . . .




This first shot shows the Niagara River racing toward American Falls. This shot shows the stream that feeds the Bridal Veil section, which is a small fraction of the total. It looks smaller in this photo because you're seeing a small part of the whole that's broken up by islands.



Here's that same stream as is goes over the edge. Doesn't look so insignificant anymore! The water is only 1-3 feet deep as it goes over the falls, but it's moving very fast.




This is the American Falls seen from the bottom. The base of the falls is filled with rubble that's fallen over the years.



This is as close as one can get to the Horseshoe Falls without actually going over. The Maid of the Mist can be seen a few hundred feet below.



Finally, we have the rainbow's end a few hundred feet downstream.

These pictures were taken with my Canon G9 pocket camera, which had a very rough time at the base of the falls where I was just inundated by sheets of water. I convert the pictures to 16 bit color in Photoshop and use a plug-in to expand the dynamic range in the colors. The actual scenes look fairly black and white because the water mist soaks up the color with its whiteness. But the colors you see are all there, all the time. They're just hidden.

There are no crowds there at this time of year. The air is cool and the water is cold.

In addition to Niagara Falls, we also visited the home of Buffalo Wings, ate Beef on Weck, and checked out the cars at the Pierce Arrow museum. I'll post more photos later.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Burn, baby, burn





So there I was at nine o'clock on a Saturday night. In my hotel room, on the top floor, settling in for the night. First I heard the howl. The the strobe went off. Then the PA system sounded the announcement. But I was already moving by then. I guess I have a strong sense of self preservation.


I grabbed my shoes, coat, and phone and headed into the hall. A quick look around revealed the exit stairs five doors down. People began pouring into the hall around me, and they followed me into the stairwell. I headed down at increasing speed. That's a situation where Aspergian logic is very good. I don't really think; I just go.


To my amazement, no one single door was open as I descended. The hotel was full, yet I did not meet a single person in the fire escape until the second floor, where people had started to stream through from the upper lobby. I joined the stream down the last flight of stairs and walked out into the night. It was a clear 35 degree night in Buffalo.


There were only about 25 people outside, but more began emerging as I watched. I marveled at the fact that I had reached safe ground from the far corner of the top floor while there were still people in the lobby. Security people began herding people back away from the doors as I heard the approach of sirens.


Within a few minutes we had four fire trucks and they suited up and went inside. It wasn't a big deal in the end - a small cooking fire. Half an hour later,, we got the all clear to go back inside. Of course, there were now 500 hotel guests lined up to use the four elevators, which were still disabled for fire service.


I walked back to the fire escape and trudged back up ten flights of stairs as the fire crew came down. Hopefully, the hotel will not catch fire again before I leave as I have to go to sleep now.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A blind guy and an Aspergian walk into a bar . . .

. . . . And each one picks up a telephone.

That sounds like some kind of joke, but it’s not. I actually credit the insight for this story to Paul Van Dyck, a well known radio personality in Portland, Oregon. Paul happens to be blind, and we had a fascinating talk about our respective conditions.

What do Asperger’s and blindness have in common?

Both conditions leave us unable to read body language or visual cues in others. We can’t instinctively read faces, like sighted nypicals (I know, that sounds like some kind of bird. For the rest of this little story I’ll say nypical but I mean sighted nypical. Blind nypicals aren’t nypical anymore. They’re blind) To succeed in life, Aspergians and blind people need to develop other skills to compensate. And some of those skills become very apparent . . . you guessed it . . . on the phone.

When we speak on the phone, all we have to work with is the spoken words and the melody of the voice coming through the phone. For nypicals, sight is the brain’s top priority when engaging other people. Much of their brainpower is focused on the other person’s face and occasionally their body, to divine those important unspoken messages.

Blind people and Aspergians can’t do that instinctively. Aspergians can only do it with conscious effort and practice, and blind people can’t really do it at all. But we can do something else – we can pay very careful attention to the words and inflection of people who speak to us. Since we’re not tying up brainpower reading nonverbal cues, we are free to deploy those resources to analyze speech. And we do it well.

When I spoke with Paul, I was struck by the clarity and precision of speech, and the way he immediately “got” what I said. In the middle of our conversation, I had an epiphany of sorts. I realized that telephone conversation is a place that both of us can really develop a competitive advantage in life. In face to face meetings, we’re disadvantaged because we don’t see what’s obvious to most nypicals. But on the phone, the tables are turned. We’ve compensated for part of our disability by increasing our ability to process and interpret spoken words, and when sight is taken out of the picture . . . voila! We’re on top.

There have been many times that I've done a phone interview and the other person says, "You sound so good on the phone . . . I can't believe you have trouble connecting to people in person." It took a conversation with a blind man to show me the answer to that.

I'll be interested to hear what some reader's thoughts are on this issue.

Meanwhile, we'll return to the bar, where Jimmy the Dwarf is stepping out with a full bottle of whiskey. . . .

The new RHI magazine for teachers is here

Random House Academic Marketing produces an annual magazine for teachers, librarians, and other professionals. This year's theme is banned books. You can see the content and download articles here:
http://www.randomhouse.com/highschool/rhi

You can also order print copies for your school through that link.

There's an article about the writing of Look Me in the Eye inside. Here's a link to a PDF version:
http://www.randomhouse.com/highschool/RHI_magazine/pdf3/Robison.pdf

And I'd like to invite you to one of my appearances this month:

On Thursday, October 16, I'll be at the Barnes & Noble at Boston University, 660 Beacon Street, at 7PM. Store phone number is 617 267 8484

On Friday, October 17, I'll be be appearing at the Disabilities Film Festival and Speaker Series at the Market Arcade Theater in Buffalo, NY from 6-10PM. Contact Tess Fraser tfraser@people-inc.org

On Thursday, October 23, you're invited to join me for a women's education fundraiser - meet the authors - Elms College, Chicopee, MA at Berchman's Hall from 5-7 p.m.

And then Wednesday, November 5 I'll be back in Boston. I'll be appearing at the Barnes & Noble, Northeastern University, from noon to 1PM. This is part of the Snell Library Lunch Times Series. Come to 360 Huntington Avenue in Boston. Call 617 373 2821 for more info.

For those of you who read my blog through syndications or feeds, remember that my current schedule is always on the sidebar of the main blog at http://jerobison.blogspot.com

Monday, October 13, 2008

I Always Liked Trains Better



I got another foreign edition in the mail today, and I suddenly got an urge to gather some up and post them. From the top, from left to right, we have: Australian edition (bestseller), British hardcover, US paperback, US and Canada large print edition, Brazilian edition (bestseller), brand new Dutch edition - retitled I Always Liked Trains Better, original US and Canada hardcover, NYT bestseller hardcover in library binding (with a plastic sleeve that you can't see in the photo), and finally the abridged audiobook, which I narrated.

Not shown are the unabridged audio, and editions for Germany, Portugal, Japan, China, and other places that have yet to send me books.

And while we're uploading pictures . . . I call this next image Bridge to the Sky. It's an abandoned railway bridge crossing the Connecticut Rover at Montague, Massachusetts.

The brilliant color in these photos comes from a dynamic expansion add-in for Photoshop. All the colors you see are actually there in the original images. I don't change the colors; I just work to bring them out and make them glow.



Sunday, October 12, 2008

Fall is the season for car shows



Here's the Range Rover, ready to leave work on Friday afternoon . . .



Three Morgans in a line




The world through Singer headlamps




An old car glows in the late afternoon sun




The classic E-Type coupe. This one came down from Canada.




This twin cam Jag engine is all chrome and glitter





A late model Morgan at dusk




An old MG

These images are all from the British Invasion at Stowe, Vermont. I'm a bit late sorting through all the pictures because I left at 6AM on the last day of the show to begin my west coast tour.

And for those of you in the Boston area . . . stop by and say hello at the Boston University bookstore this Thursday evening.

Woof!

Friday, October 10, 2008

For those who wonder what people ask me at these talks

People online ask me about the kind of questions I'm asked at my speaking engagements. A few weeks ago I had an opportunity to speak to Google through their video conference network, and they've made a full 1-hour talk and q&a available on authors@Google.

In this video you can see and hear the whole thing including questions from Aspergians, geeks, teachers, parents, mental health people, and others (whatever other may be.)

http://bravenewfilms.org/blog/56807-authors-google-john-elder-robison

Thanks to all the folks at Google's Boulder offices for putting this together.

While we're on the subject of Google . . . I am working with a product called Sketchup that allows people to create 3-D shapes and manipulate them. I will have a separate story on that soon.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

I've added some new events in the Boston area

I've added three Boston appearances to my schedule, and to my embarassment, one is this Tuesday and I forgot to post it till now . . .

Tuesday, October 7, Burlington, MA
Join me at the Burlington Barnes & Noble, 98 Middlesex Parkway at 7PM. I'll be speaking, answering questions, and signing books. 781-273-3871

Thursday, October 16, Boston, MA
I'll be at the Barnes & Noble at Boston University, 660 Beacon Street, at 7PM. Store phone number is 617 267 8484

Wed, Nov 5, Boston, MA
I'll be appearing at the Barnes & Noble, Northeastern University, from noon to 1PM. This is part of the Snell Library Lunch Times Series. Come to 360 Huntington Avenue in Boston. Call 617 373 2821 for more info.

Hope to see some of you at these events.

I had a great time at the AANE convention this week. Thanks to Dania Jekel and the AANE staff for having us out, and thanks to all of you who attended.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Brain Plasticity and how it affects us

I have written and spoken about the tremendous potential for changing one’s life in a positive way through brain plasticity. All of us have and use brain plasticity to some degree. It’s a natural part of life. We rewire our brains every time we learn a new skill, make a new friend, take a new job, or do anything at all that requires new ways of thinking and doing.

Brain plasticity is what allows you to play the piano instinctively after years of practice, when in the beginning you struggled to pick at the keys. Your brain reconfigured itself to make something that was difficult or impossible into something totally natural. The same thing happens much more quickly when you get fitted for a new pair of eyeglasses. At first, the world moves in a weird way. But within an hour or two, it’s as if you’d worn those glasses forever. That’s how fast your brain can adjust the way you process visual information.

Interestingly, recent research suggests that Aspergians like me may have considerably more plasticity than most people. It's possible some of us get life advantages from this trait, but it's also possible that excessive plasticity leads to mental disorganization or confusion in autism. Studies I participated in this summer suggest my brain may respond to changes very quickly, but it's slower than normal to return to it's original state. So when I put on a new pair of glasses my vision might adapt and normalize very quickly, but if I took them off, my vision might be slower than yours to return to the "pre-glasses" state.

It's hard to know how tests like that - measuring plasticity in a lab over a few hours - relate to larger reconfigurations like I describe here.

Significant rewiring takes place whenever one learns a new skill, so it’s no surprise that my brain underwent quite a bit of change as I’ve gone through the process of writing, publishing and discussing Look Me in the Eye. I’ve acquired many new abilities and insights, most of which are good. There’s no question that I’ve changed in ways that make me more acceptable to a larger number of people.

The TMS experiments I’ve participated in may have taken my brain rewiring even further, but I was well on my way on the basis of life changes alone. In total, the developments of the past two years are certainly one of the biggest packages of changes yet in my life.

I always wanted acceptance from other people. I wished I could overcome my lifelong shame, and the feeling that I was a fraud waiting to be exposed. I wanted to be able to engage others in the ways I observed, but could never do myself. I believe I’ve accomplished those things, in large part. Five years ago, I’d never have dreamt I’d be where I am today.

That’s a major change . . . it reaches far beyond adjusting my vision for a new pair of glasses, or acquiring a new technical skill. Learning to engage people differently brings with it the potential for a whole new way of life. But there’s a downside . . . what happens to everything that came before; the life one leaves behind?

Suddenly, I find myself in middle age, and it’s as if nothing I’ve done before matters. All my previous achievements – especially my work life - seem like they focused on machines, and it’s as if they’re for naught. And so much of my life is organized in support of those machines . . . I’m surrounded by them. I’ve made a huge shift in direction, and my life work so far was following a different path. What do I do now? This is one of the first times in my life that I’m really at a loss.

It’s almost feels unnatural to go down the old paths, and I have yet to find my way on a new one. I’m really not sure what to do, or how to do it. I’m usually pretty focused and decisive so this situation is sort of unprecedented for me.

I’ll let you know what I figure out.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Can we meet in Marlborough?

My brother and I will be speaking at the Asperger Association conference this Saturday, and I'll be doing a separate Q&A later in the day. I'll also be around all day to talk to people individually.

The event is at the Best Western Royal Plaza just north of the Mass Pike on 495.

http://www.aane.org/upcoming_events/pdfs/2008%20Connections%20Registration%20Brochure%20-%208%20and%201-2%20x%2011.pdf

Hope to meet you there!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

It's goodbye to the west coast

It’s time to say goodbye to the west coast. It’s hard to believe I’ve been out here a whole week.
I started last Sunday at Book Soup in West Hollywood, next to Los Angeles. That was a small talk, but the highlight came after when I got to have dinner with blogger Kanani Fong and her Writerly Pause group. Kanani was one of the earliest supporters of my efforts via her blog and book reviews, and it was great to finally meet in person.

The next morning, I flew to Denver where I met a book escort for the ride to Boulder. Book escorts are a little-known secret of the publishing industry. Their job is to shepherd authors to bookstores, media events, and hotels. They even feed and water us. And sometimes they read our books, and talk about them.

When you fly into a strange city, and you’re due at a radio station in less than an hour it’s invaluable to have someone who knows the way, knows where to park, and knows all the people you’re going to see.

My Boulder appearance was actually set up back in the winter when I walked into the Boulder Bookstore while in town for a speaking engagement at the University of Colorado. They called the publisher and asked if I’d visit when my paperback was released.

The talk went well. We had a full house in their upstairs event area, including one family that drove all the way from Colorado Springs. I’m always touched when people travel so far to see me. In addition, I had a fine tuna dinner at Jax with fellow author Doreen Orion and her husband and bus driver, Tim. When he’s not driving the bus, Tim works as a psychiatrist, and he was happy to explain the parameters for commitment to his hospital as we ate. I won’t repeat them here because the place is full and I don’t want to give away any trade secrets.

The next morning I was scheduled to speak to the folks at Google. Random House travel had put me in a hotel rather far from the center of town, and of course I didn’t have a car. And since this was a paperback tour with a limited budget, I didn’t have an escort either. So I set out on foot. A quick review of the map showed the fastest way to to town – a jog alongside the railroad tracks. As I was trotting along, I was surprised to be passed by a pronghorn antelope, moving at a brisk clip. Surprised, I looked around. Luckily there was no large predator in pursuit and in continued on my way.


Google was a fun place. I was particularly interested in the work they are doing with their Sketchup drawing and modeling program and kids on the spectrum. I’ll write more about that when I get home. I loved the offices and the environment – it was so free, and so different from what I’d encountered as an engineer 25 years ago. As I told them, it was a place I could have succeeded, if it had existed when I worked as an engineer.


After that I was off to Vail and the most spectacular scenery of the trip. I wish I’d had more time to take some pictures because the views were just magnificent. My Vail appearance was at the Bookworm of Edwards, a community place where everyone seemed to know everyone else. We had folks from all the local schools, plus a pediatrician and a psychologist in the audience. I had a great night there and a good sushi dinner with the owner and her husband later.

In the morning I was off to San Francisco and my first appearance at Corte Madera. But before that – I went for a walk. I stayed at the Rex Hotel, a small place just around the corner from Union Square. At the square, I hopped on a cable car and rode it all the way to the end, at fisherman’s wharf. I walked all over, and looked at the ships and the sights.



At the bookstore I had the pleasure of meeting author Becky Foust, a mom who had a book of poetry about her Aspergian son. Once again, I was struck by the many parallels between her son’s story and my own. We Aspergians are so different, yet so alike. I also met Max Sindell, one of the people behind the popular Redroom author's site.



The next night I read at Books Inc in the Castro district, and then it was off to Portland. My brother in law – Little Bear’s big brother – and his family have lived out there many years, and it was good to see them. I also enjoyed seeing the shipping on the Columbia River, though it was just the briefest of glances. My Portland event – at Powell’s Burnside store – was scheduled for the same time as the presidential debate. To my amazement, we had a full house despite the televised competition.


The next morning, I was off to Seattle, where I’m writing to you now. I spoke in front of a packed house at Third Place books and met several amazing people. Autism mom Tami Giles came with a bunch of her friends, and they brought food treats. But even more amazing – my next door neighbor and friend from the time I lived in Seattle came to see me. It’s been 45 years since we lived out here, but Cathy has stayed in touch with my mother the whole time. When I arrived she took me to our old apartment, the Ronald School where I attended kindergarten, and even the local beach. It was the most amazing thing, seeing it all again.




I’ve had a wonderful trip, thanks to all of you and your support. Now, I’m headed east to Dayton and then back home. But it’s not over . . . I’m back on the road again this coming Saturday, when I speak to the Asperger Association convention with my brother.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

I'll be on You the Owner's Manual this Saturday at 2:30 live

Here's a link to get the show via webcast, and you can also get it live on Sirius and many local radio stations . . .

http://www.healthradio.net/component/option,com_mtree/task,listcats/cat_id,25/

After that, I'll be at Seattle's Third Place Books at 6:30PM.

Monday night I'll be back East, in Dayton Ohio. After that, I've got a few days off and then I'm at the Asperger Association convention in Marlborough, MA.

Thanks to everyone for a great Friday night, at Powell's Books in Portland, Oregon. We had almost a hundred people, which amazed me given the competition for people's attention. I can't thank you enough for coming to see me with the McCain-Obama debate dominating the airwaves.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Mexicans, Aspergians, and history

There was a Mexican couple at one of my last appearances, and we talked about the way Aspergian traits seem to be inherited. Their visit got me thinking about how Aspergians fit into today’s world, and how we’re perceived by different cultures, and what that may say about Aspergians through history.

Their questions made me realize that I know nothing at all about Asperger’s in Mexico. I’ve been fortunate to do radio shows all over the world to support the foreign publication of Look Me in the Eye. I’ve done interviews and discussions in Brazil, other parts of South America, and all over the US and Canada. But Mexico – right in the middle – remains an enigma to me.

In a few hours I’m on my way to speak to the staff at Google. We now know that tech companies like that are full of Aspergians. Indeed, Aspergians are all over the creative, scientific and technical scenes. When we read Aspergians of the past, we hear names like DaVinci and Newton – more creative, scientific, or technical people.

Where were the Aspergians in other cultures? As far as we know, Asperger’s and autism are fairly equally distributed among populations and races. So getting back to the Mexicans . . . who were the Aspergians in their past? Where are the Aspergians in their present, for that matter?

Some parts of Mexico are very similar to the US. They've got medical research, scientific labs, and engineering firms. I'm sure they have their Aspergians, just like here. But what about rural Mexico, which is, after all, what most of the world was like before all this new tech stuff sprouted? What do the Aspergians do in those places?

Perhaps that sheds light on another question: What did a creative eccentric do in Mexico, 500 years ago? Were they the priests, the ones who are credited with the advanced calendar and astronomical knowledge? I really have no idea. What about Asia? It’s well known that many eastern cultures revere and venerate certain traits (love of math for example) that are closely associated with Aspergians. I’ve expressed admiration for those attitudes before. But where does it come from? Who were the Asian Aspergians of yesteryear?

I have no knowledge of forensic psychiatry, or whatever skill one would use to identify people with Asperger’s in the past based upon their writings or what’s known of them. But perhaps some of you in the blogosphere do . . . who were the Aspergians in other cultures in years gone by? What did they do, and why?

In our own culture we know people with more autistic impairments were historically dismissed as retarded. There was an ugly period where some went to “state schools” or other institutions but prior to that, most lived quiet lives in their communities. The lower functioning population was not just written off, though. Our written history identifies a good many “different” folks with extraordinary talents and abilities.

I have often wondered about the evolutionary purpose of autism and Asperger’s. As far as we know, it’s been with us forever, but why? Did we - as some people suggest - evolve to be out of the box thinkers? It would not surprise me to learn that the world needs a few people whose thinking it totally unique to move society forward, at all levels of functionality. Perhaps a look at Aspergians in other cultures would give some insight.

Monday, September 22, 2008

News from the road, fresh from Hollywood

I’ve just spent a wonderful evening with the folks at Book Soup here in West Hollywood. I was also able to have dinner with blogger Kanani Fong and her Writerly Pause group . . . check her blog for the story on that.

Now I’m off to the airport, but before I go, I want to update you all on this week’s events. If I make it to a city near you I certainly hope you’ll come say hello.
Woof!

Tonight * Monday, September 22, Boulder, Colorado
Join me for a night at the Boulder Bookstore, 1107 Pearl St. Boulder, CO (303) 447-2074 7:30PM

Tuesday morning I’ll be talking to the folks at google. You’ll be able to see this event on authors@google

Tuesday evening, September 23, Vail, Colorado
If you can't make Boulder, come to Vail! I'll be at Bookworm of Edwards, 295 Main Street- Unit C101 at 6PM. This is a $20 ticketed event - the ticket price includes a personalized copy of the book and of course whatever spectacle you and I create.
http://www.vaildaily.com/article/20080911/AE/809119915/1068

Wednesday, Sept 24, San Francisco area
Join me at Book Passage, Corte Madera store 7PMhttp://www.bookpassage.com/event_detailed.php?id=1874

Thursday, Sept 25, San Francisco
If you miss Book Passage, or if once is never enough, I'll also be at Books Inc. at 7:30PM. They're at 2275 Market St. @ Noe in San Francisco (415) 864-6777

Friday, Sept 26, Portland, Oregon
I'll be at Powells Books Burnside Store at 7:30 PM - Located at 1005 West Burnside Avenue (800) 878-7323

Saturday, Sept 27, Seattle, Washington
Join me at Third Place Books at 6:30

Monday, Sept 29, Dayton, Ohio
Look for me at Books & Company, 7PM, and meanwhile, check out with the Cleveland Plain Dealer had to say: http://www.cleveland.com/entertainment/plaindealer/index.ssf?/base/entertainment-0/1221899674324570.xml&coll=2

And then we come to a break. I fly home for a few days of rest, after which I’m off to the Asperger Association conference with my brother.

Stay tuned . . .

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Burlington Book Festival

I awoke at daybreak, and gathered my belongings. After petting our old blind poodle, and tossing my bags into the car, I headed north toward Interstate 91. With the cruise control set, I was able to reflect on my journey and the times I’d taken this same route in years gone by. Some of my first driving adventures had happened on 91, and I passed the scenes one by one.

First there was the embankment we’d gone down, when Juke’s VW Bus lost it on the ice. Then there was the long downhill grade, the one where the Vermont State police were waiting with a radar gun that said 124MPH. That one was good for a trip to the local jail. It seemed like every mile held some kind of memory.

I made the turn onto I-89 as the sun came out. The world changed from black and white to Technicolor. I passed a long line of Harleys, twenty-plus bikes holding the left hand lane.

Arriving in Burlington, I checked the web, where I was delighted to find Look Me in the Eye recommended in the Washington Post



On that note, I went in search of the Festival. I found it, along with hosts Rick, Elaine, and Shay, in a long building overlooking the waterfront. The festival was going full tilt, with events running in three spots all the time. They had quite an impressive roster of authors, as you can see: http://www.burlingtonbookfestival.com/htm/authors.htm

I am embarrassed to say I was too shy to actually meet most of the authors, but I had fun anyway.

My talk was scheduled for one o’clock, which was taped by Burlington Community Television. I’ll post a link as soon as it’s available online. Afterwards, I signed books and spoke to people in the main lobby, until Shay appeared to take me to my next appointment.

He’d organized a smaller gathering at a local school library – about twenty younger Aspergians, and some parents and teachers. That was very interesting, with a lot of good discussion.

As soon as that ended, I was off to the hotel to check in – Rick had gotten me a room at the Mariott with a view of the water – and then it was time for the author’s dinner. There was no real plan for the seating, so I milled around until a plan emerged.

My seat mates proved a most enjoyable lot. On my right was award winning novelist Ann Hood – author of The Knitting Circle and nine other books written over a 22 year period. To my left sat Crystal Zevon, the widow or ex-wife of musician Warren Zevon. She was there with her book I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead – the dirty life and times of Warren Zevon. Between them was noted music critic Anthony DeCurtis, author of In Other Words: Artists Talk About Life and Work, and editor of the Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock’n’Roll.

http://www.annhood.us/bio
http://www.crystalzevon.com/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthony_DeCurtis

It was a long but fun day by the time I crawled upstairs to bed at 11.
This morning, I did a radio interview with Burlington radio host Ann Barbano. You’ll be able to download that soon. After a brief stop at the Festival, I was off for home.

And now it’s back to the world of cars.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Tales from the road . . . stop #1

The first stop on the Look Me in the Eye paperback tour was River Run books in Portsmouth, NH. I told stories, answered questions, and signed books for a few hours, starting at 7PM. My brother was at this same bookstore a few months back, talking about his new book, A Wolf at the Table.

It was a good beginning . . . the first time I've spoken about the New and Improved version of the book, and what's going on now. The event was co-sponsored by the Birchtree Center, a local autism/Asperger program.

Right after that, I did an interview for the Psychjourney Podcast series. You can listen to it here: http://psychjourney_blogs.typepad.com/psychjourney_podcasts/2008/09/look-me-in-the.html

I've left River Run with plenty of signed copies, and I've also signed the stock at the Portsmouth B&N. I try and sign stock wherever I go . . . right now, you can find signed books at the Amherst/Northampton independent book stores (where I live) plus B&N stores in Holyoke and Hadley, MA, and Enfield CT. You can get signed hardcovers and paperbacks at Borders in Holyoke, MA.

Before the event, I was able to shoot these photos of the seaport. The first shot shows three Moran tugs at rest. The second shows the Hamburg Pearl delivering a cargo of salt to the mineral terminal. Her load of salt will be spread on roads all over New England in just a few more months.

For any of you in Vermont or upstate New York . . . my next appearance is tomorrow, Saturday, at the Burlington Book Festival. I will be appearing at one, followed by a small group discussion with a local Asperger group and an author dinner that night. Stop by if you're around.

And it's just one more week till the British Invasion, followed by my west coast tour - LA, San Francisco, Boulder, Vail, Portland, Seattle, Dayton. I hope to see many of you on the road.