1/31/2011

Offit Is Everywhere you Want To Be


Dr. Paul Offit is the Hillary Clinton of the autism world. Or is he? It seems really unfair that a well-respected pediatrician and infectious disease expert who has devoted his career to saving lives is the recipient of the vitriol that places like Age of Autism and people like its editors and followers heap on him, all because he has the courage to stand up to their intimidating tactics and speak out honestly about vaccines. He's one of the first to admit that vaccines have caused damage; he writes openly and honestly about the live polio vaccine causing polio, about Cutter laboratories. 

He writes eloquently of the role that concerned parents and consumers can have in calling for safer vaccines, in more vaccine research to minimize the unfortunately occasional severe side effect (like the Sabin polio vaccine had in infecting six to eight kids per year in the US with polio rather than preventing the disease (page 58 of Deadly Choices).

Offit writes that if parents are looking to advocate on vaccines, pushing growing vaccines in "mammalian cells rather than avian ones. Although this procedure wouldn't be easy, it's doable. But, absent a public outcry, pharmaceutical companies have had little incentive to make the change and public health agencies haven't insisted they do it. Again, it's a perfect situation for an advocate" (page 59).

So why is Offit constantly vilified by the likes of Age of Autism? Why is it so easy for so many to get the facts wrong? In an earlier post, I noted the tendency of people to rely on the claims of others (like Age of Autism) rather than looking at the evidence for the claims. 

For two years, Age of Autism has consistently written outright falsehoods regarding Offit; even when there is every reason to believe they know their information is bad, they continue to dispense it. This week, Age of Autism has felt the need to launch multiple attacks on Offit.

Offit has never passed himself off as an autism expert, despite repeated allegations by Age of Autism editors and commenters that he has done so. Today at Thinking Person's Guide to Autism, Offit responded to the notion that he is an expert on autism (he is a pediatrician and is likely to be more an expert it on it than Wakefield ever was):

"That's a fair question. But I would argue that Jenny McCarthy is also not an autism expert. Nor is J.B. Handley, nor are any of these other celebrities that you see on TV. But I have read the research on the subject since 1940; I'd say that I've read as much if not more than anyone else who is also "not an expert." And as a scientist and clinician, I can form opinions that are reasoned and well-informed. 
I'm never going to be an autism expert. The first thing I say when people ask me, "what do you think causes autism?" is that I'm not an autism expert, but I can tell you which studies are compelling. And I *am* a vaccine expert. 
I don't represent myself as an autism expert, and I think people like Jenny McCarthy need to be upfront about that as well. They're experts in their own children, they're not experts in autism."

You'll never see the folks at AoA or their true believers evaluate this; Wakefield remains a saint, even though it's clear he was dishonest and fraudulent, even though there is no doubt that he took a sizable amount of money from lawyers seeking to get money for MMR adverse effects. Wakefield, because he's "helping" autistic kids (how has never been explained; he's not licensed to practice medicine and was not legally allowed to see patients). No, the truth is that Wakefield fed parents what they wanted to hear and offered them false hope. He catered to their need for answers and someone to blame and he basked in the parents' adoration. He still does. Wakefield is not the only one to profit from desperate parents. The list of folks profiting off of them is pretty high. Let's not leave out Boyd Haley. Or the Geiers. Or any of the regulars who frequent the woo conventions and sell MB-12 pops and supplements and the hope of a cure.

Blaxill pulls new numbers out of his sorry hide to keep rallying his troops that Offit's made money on vaccine invention. His numbers aren't right, of course, and they're irrelevant to the question of whether vaccines, specifically the MMR or thimerosal cause autism. The answer appears to be a pretty conclusive no. And the rotavirus vaccine has never been implicated, hinted at, etc. by this crowd of woonuts. 

Handley this week feels the need to call Offit a lunatic and a liar and whip his followers into a frenzy. The Colbert Show page at facebook is awash in anti-vaccine conspiracy theorists.

Offit donated the royalties of Autism's False Prophets to the Center for AutismResearch (CAR) at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. The royalties from his new book go to the Autism Science Foundation. He's not profiting on his books. He's not out attacking people's wives either and insisting they're anonymous bloggers who are fathers to a child with autism.

Handley writes frequently about the hungry lie, but the truth is that Offit is not a part of that hungry  lie. Neither is Trine Tsouderos. Or Amy Wallace. Or Sanjay Gupta. Nor are Matt Lauer, Anderson Cooper and George Stephanopoulos.

One need look no further than the antics of the writers, editors, and frequent commenters of AoA to see that there is an insatiable hunger to attack anyone who speaks out about the science on autism and vaccines. One doesn't need to go further than people who think the vaccine program is a eugenics program, that the world governments and pharmaceutical companies, and mainstream science have all conspired to bring one lone wolf, saint Andy, down.

Paul Offit is not a saint, and he doesn't need to be put on a pedestal. He's a man with strong convictions, who works to save the lives of infants around the world from a disease that takes 500,000 a year. In his own words, he speaks out against vaccine misinformation not because there is profit it in it, but  "Because it's the right thing to do. Because children are getting hurt by all this misinformation. It's the reason I went into pediatric infectious diseases in the first place -- because kids get hurt." 

Don't take my word for it, though, and for gods's sakes, don't take Blaxill's, Olmsted's or 
Handley's (because I'm not sure they could find the truth if it gave them a lap dance). Go read Offit's interview at TPGA. Watch him on Colbert. Read his journal articles and his books.

And in the meantime, watch this:






NECSS 2009 - Paul Offit from Maggie McFee on Vimeo.

Students Already Planning NO SCHOOL Here Oh, and Ullman is Full Of It



Only in Texas! So today is supposed to be nice, but tomorrow and Wednesday notsomuch, and my students are already planning on sleeping in Wednesday. I betcha the Tuesday students are hoping like all get out that classes are canceled, as well.


People, I have plans. I have critical thinking skills to teach. If the comments on Ullman's latest piece of crap at Huff (and Lanza's and Hyman's) are any indication, critical thinking skills are at an all time low. There's so much fuzzy thinking over there that listening to Skeptoid podcasts should be a requirement, especially How to Spot Pseudoscience. There can be no delay in inoculating students against scientifically debunked claims! Imagine if all those homeopathy/Ullman believers had only listened to that one podcast!


I mean, Ullman's latest post isn't even new stuff. He's been claiming Luc (lost his mind) Montagnier has discovered nanoparticles and EM waves and blah blah blah for a while now and that proves homeopathy is for reals. No, it doesn't and who cares? And this was already dealt with back in 2009: The Quackometer covers this supposed proof:


"At least, I think that is what is being claimed. The paper, it is fair to comment, lacks any rigour. It is a sequence of ad hoc assertions, hypotheses and post hoc rationalisations. Important experimental steps are described dismissively in a sentence and little attempt is made to describe the detail of the work.
There are many problems with the paper, not least that it is pretty much self-published in a journal without rigorous peer-review (it took two days from ‘receipt’ of the paper to publishing) and the journal was set up and edited by Montagnier himself."

The article concludes:

"Montagnier’s status as a Nobel Prize winner lends a level of credence to these views that they do not deserve. His authority will be used by those who wish to exploit the vulnerable with quack cures. This is life and death stuff. Nobel prizes are the greatest scientific honour, but they also create false authorities and science, unique in human endeavours, does not need authorities. It runs on evidence, reason and critical thinking. And that is dangerously missing from Montagnier’s work.
Nobel Prize winners often feel a sense that they are freed to dream thoughts that others cannot. That is, on balance, a good thing. Science can make huge strides when people are able to think the unthinkable. But all Nobel unthinkable thoughts need not be true. In fact, very few will be. We need to be on our guard against those that exploit the false authority of the Nobel Laureate and examine all scientific claims with equal dispassion."

Harriet Hall takes care of it as well, in October 2009:

"A recent study is being cited as support for homeopathy. For instance, the Homeopathy World Community website says
Luc Montagnier Foundation Proves Homeopathy Works.
And I assume that you all have seen the new research by Nobel Prize-winning virologist Luc Montagnier that provides significant support to homeopathy. 
Nope. Sorry, guys. It doesn’t. In fact, its findings are inconsistent with homeopathic theory.
The study has nothing whatsoever to say about homeopathy. Its abstract concludes:
This opens the way to the development of highly sensitive detection system for chronic bacterial infections in human and animal diseases.
Homeopaths are grasping at straws when they cite this study. It involved dilution and agitation: that’s the only possible hint of anything homeopathic and it is nothing but a false analogy."


Derek at Corante this month writes: " I truly don't know what to make of this one. Virologist Luc Montagnier has announced that he's heading off to Shanghai, to found an institute and investigate. . .mysterious electromagnetic signals from extremely diluted pathogens." He concludes: "But at the same time, I'm not going to hold my breath waiting on success.
That's because this whole homeopathy/high dilution/water signature business isn't just another wild new idea that might or might not pan out. Even if it were that, this would be tricky stuff - any of the edge-of-detection phenomena are. But this area is a known swamp full of quicksand (and inhabited by various strange swamp creatures) which has claimed careers before. There are huge sunken deposits of quackery and self-delusion to be found out there, and before you announce you're digging up something valuable, you'll have to be very sure that you're not just dedging up more of the same swampy stuff."

Sometimes smart folks believe crazy things. That's no reason to follow along. An appeal to authority isn't valid if they aren't really authorities and there isn't evidence to back up their claims! It isn't the person, peoplel it's the claim! There's not a moment to waste, folks, in making sure that students are prepped and ready to recognize woo when they see it. After all, anecdotal evidence and inaccurate causal assessments are easy to fall for. 

Cold or no cold, snow or no snow, this stuff doesn't get into students' heads through osmosis. :-)

Bias, Age of Autism, and Trine Tsouderos: Thoughts on Persons and Claims

Saturday morning I peeked., just a small peek, at AoA, and saw this: 
And I was intrigued. You know, that whole "admitting to total bias bit" had me cracking up. See, Age of Autism insists it is a "daily web newspaper" and its pieces (in which obviously no fact checking ever occurs) come up in the google news hits (a travesty, as you well know), and Dan "I used to be a UPI reporter until I got it all wrong about the Amish" Olmsted is completely biased (yes, a wee bit of snark). 


Tsouderos bases her conclusions on the mainstream consensus of scientific evidence regarding vaccines' efficacy in preventing disease and she's totally biased? Yes. In favor of reality. On the other hand Olmsted, who appears to have been a successful journalist ( former assistant national editor at USA Today),  was apparently by 2005, completely biased in favor of the idea that thimerosal was to blame for autism: "Both reporters believed that Olmsted has made up his mind on the question and is reporting the facts that support his conclusions" (Schulman, 2005). This, of course, completely explains why he's the editor of the anti-vaccine rag Age of Autism and the writer of some truly tortured logic in his book of the same name, doesn't it? After all, Schulman, in 2005, managed to get this bit of honest self-examination from Olmsted: "He admits that his findings are not scientific. 'I could be getting a completely wrong impression from what I’m finding, but it’s interesting,' Olmsted told me."  


Olmsted's last piece for UPI, where he was a senior editor, was in July of 2007. In it, he wrote that "United Press International, which has been the hospitable home for this series, is restructuring, and I'm off to adventures as yet unknown -- although I intend to keep my focus on autism and related issues." He admitted that he would continue to focus on autism because "it is the story of a lifetime." He rebuts the reporters in Schulman's piece who argued that Olmsted's mind was made up: "Actually, my mind is made up about only one thing: Both vaccinations and autism are so important that definitive, independent research needs to be done yesterday -- and the fact that it hasn't should be making more journalists suspicious."


It's abundantly clear, though, that Olmsted's biases in favor of thimerosal causing autism and in his embracing of vaccines as being dangerous have only grown over the years. He began his quest in 2004 and he's been dogged ever since. He's more than willing to embrace anything in vaccines, too: "The still-rising autism rate might be related to some other aspect of the immunization schedule as well -- timing, age, total load or other ingredients." 

And yet he seems incapable of fact checking. He condones (since he's editor)  pieces on Age of Autism that are blatantly factually incorrect. As editor he condones comments (that were moderated, meaning one of those three editors had to read and approve) that argue that vaccines are a eugenics program. 


Journalism is supposed to be about reporting on the facts, right? Here's what we know about the story...here's what we can verify. Here's the truth as close as we can get to it. And yet, time after time, we see in the media abysmal attention to the details and a really piss-poor ability to reason. And nowhere is this more on display than the daily newspaper of the autism epidemic (and CBS's Sharyl Attkisson, lest we forget that the ability to completely butcher scientific research findings is not restricted to AoA and Fox News).


Trine Tsouderos's article for the Chicago Tribune is an opinion piece. Perhaps this escaped the esteemed Olmsted's renowned attention to detail? It's not a news article. It's an opinion piece. And it's one that at least rests on accurate facts. Tsouderos has demonstrated what investigative reporting is all about. And it's not because she agrees with me, although it certainly helps when two people can read the scientific literature and consensus reports like the IOM's 2004 report and show comparable reading comprehension skills. Because at one level, that's what this boils down to: reading comprehension skills.


That's harsh, yes? No. It's really not. People who believe fantastical things like governmental and industrial conspiracies that are worldwide? Really? People who believe a case series of 12 kids or 14 monkeys over well-designed studies that looked at autism rates in over 2 million kids?
As I commented at the Tribune in response to someone who thought folks should not read Mnookin or Offit's books but was instead pushing the new book Vaccine Epidemic (which just became available) , who should we trust: 


Evidence-based books, one of which is by a well-respected, credentialed infectious disease expert or a book that features a chapter by someone who really believes that the thimerosal in some vaccines and the aluminum salts in some vaccines mix explosively in the blood? Yeah, no brainer, that one. 
It does, in fact, boil down to reading comprehension skills. Oh, and actually reading the material. Apparently, there are folks in the anti-vaccine community who don't bother to read the evidence. Talk about a bias. They just accept Age of Autism's assertions as being factually correct without bothering to actually read the IOM or other relevant materials. They encourage people to not read the actual science; they instead condemn it as a product of corrupt governmental and industrial conspiracies to cover up the autism-vaccine link . No, instead read Handley's butchering of it at the 14 studies site. Because we all know Handley and facts go hand in hand.


So we've got reading comprehension problems, we've got an unwillingness to read the actual evidence ( you know, like the Fitness Panel on Wakefield; instead let's just believe he's too darn handsome and charismatic to be dishonest, fraudulent and in it for the money), and we've got complete biases to believe pseudoscientific claims and the anecdotal testimonials of parents who know what they know, saw what they saw, even when it can be demonstrated that what they've known has changed over the years. Internet trails are right bitches, is what I'm saying, and the vagaries of memory are impossible to escape; once you know the science on memory formation, memory rewriting, and self-justification, you can't help but hold memories of events with some amount of skepticism. Some of the anti-vaccine advocates even have to resort to rewriting their own blog posts on how they realized their child was autistic, and move from noticing the similarities in the husband and the child in terms of traits to insisting it was a vaccine reaction. And the rest is history.


Don't believe Trine Tsouderos's articles because she agrees with what you've already decided. And don't dismiss her articles because she disagrees. Do the hard work and read the evidence itself. 


We've all got to decide who's the authority we can reasonably rely on to relay accurate information. No one can be an expert on everything, and it's tremendously shattering to realize some of the authorities we put our trust in will be wrong. It's a betrayal, and you know exactly what I mean if you've ever gone to a doctor who's made a mistake in your care or a loved one's care. 


People who rely on reason to make major decisions don't put absolute faith in anyone. They realize that mistakes happen, that people are fallible, and that sometimes people screw up. They don't then throw reason out the window. As an example, let me offer this, in reading Mnookin's book The Panic Virus, I've discovered two errors on two consecutive pages. Now, just because Mnookin got it wrong and wrote that Bettelheim was a medical doctor and confused Freud and Jung as behavioralists doesn't mean everything is wrong in his book. Even the most carefully researched pieces may have errors. Adopting a cautious approach and fact checking before I believe without evaluation is a reasonable approach. That's what footnotes and endnotes are for. I can go examine where the writer got his information and I can check to see if it was relayed accurately. Now, granted this takes a lot of work that most people aren't willing to do. So what do you do? You hold beliefs gingerly, you look at consensus documents, you still hold conclusions gingerly, and you remain willing and open to go where ever the science goes.


You don't rely on Olmsted, Attkisson, Tsouderos, or Mnookin for what you think. You look at their supporting evidence. It isn't the person making the claim: it's the claim itself.

Why People Believe Lies

1/30/2011

Animaniacs, Shatner, Nimoy, and Karaoke




We finished watching this sketch and Lily, who reads the Star Trek novels, asked how come they hadn't also done DeForest Kelley in the skit, because he was Star Trek, too, and they needed Bones (and she used his actual name!--that's a trekkie!).


Also hilarious:

And what I really wanted to post today....

Okay, so this is not how our front door started yesterday. It had all the magnets from the LOLcats on there; it had a wreath and dozens of papers taped to it. It looked, well, like the rest of the place: cluttered. So this was midways through decluttering the door.


I was going to stop there. It looks good, right? Okay, you haven't seen what it looked like, but work with me here.


I thought, what the heck and kept decluttering. Okay, a lot of it I just removed to the refrigerator and no, I'm not taking a photo of that. Ick. It's cluttered. And there are handprints on the fridges. I'd clean them off, and I do, but the kids keep dipping their hands in whatever it is they are eating and putting their hands all over the two fridges we have. So there. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. The door is decluttered. Nothing else is, but by gosh, there you go. One single solitary thing is decluttered.

This is what remained: a magnet from Kathleen, a saying I modified for the kids to read, and on the blue post-it, something the President of the Colonies, Laura Roslin, said towards the end of the show that delighted me no end: "Is that clear enough for your brain, or do I need to shine a light up your ass for you to see it?" That was a strong woman. Thelma would like her is what I'm saying. No, it's not nice and it was buried where the kids wouldn't see it but I wouldn't lose it. Maybe the placement is not quite right. I'll move it to a more secure location. :)

Okay, so you should be totally impressed. I also made more room for the cats on the bookcase by the window, but totally pissed them off because I lowered the blind, so they rewarded me by dumping the books and pictures off the windowsill so they could see out:

Seriously, this morning those thick literature books, Ganesh, and pictures were strewn all over the place. So not nice.

And the ubiquitous cat photos:




I have no idea why the boy sat there to pay attention to Aphrodite.
4 out of 5 cats photographed yesterday. :)

And last but not least, birds in trees:



my favorite one.

1/29/2011

Bill Gates on Vaccines

Caturday



My idea of a good day, cozied up with books.

House: Disaster.

Kids: Happy.

Cats: Happy.

Me: Lazy.

Rick: Errands.

Good day? :-) Hah. Depends on how long the happy lasts with the kids. The lazy can't last as I have too much to do.

Happy Saturday!

1/28/2011

Inclusion, "Dead End Programs" and Multiple Perspectives

It's been weighing on me since I first read it a couple days ago, Lisa Rudy's post "Dead End Programs for Children with Autism." Rudy begins "These days, there are quite a few community program available for children, teens and families with autism.  Most are not true "inclusion" programs; they are, instead, 'autism only' programs intended to provide entry-level access to everything from sports to art to movie theaters."

Rudy and I live a couple thousand miles apart, in vastly different worlds. Where I live there aren't quite a few programs for people with autism. There aren't sports teams for autistic kids here. There aren't any "autism only" programs. Do I think there should be? No. Not autism only. We do have some programs for the mentally and physically disabled, though, for which I will always be grateful, as the adaptive recreation center my son attends has given him a place to thrive, to have friends, to be of service and to feel valued. 

Rudy's push in the piece is that there should be transition programs so autistic children with specific talents can move into regular, inclusion teams and that if there aren't, then these programs are dead ends, and therefore somehow bad.

My comment over there stated well my initial reaction to Rudy's piece:

My son attends a recreation center for the disabled. I guess, by your criteria, it is a dead end program. I don’t look at it that way, and I dare say that few of the participants look at it that way, either. It’s a full time year round program that provides classes and recreational activities for a very small fee each month.

They go on weekly field trips to local stores and restaurants; they participate in special Olympics events that they train for year round. It is where my son will most likely spend the rest of his life, at least as long as the program is available. Indeed, two of the participants have attended it since it began over thirty years ago. One participant at a concert that they put on last year spoke about how important it was for her because no one looked at her funny, treated her mean; there she was free to be herself.
Where our children can take their place in an inclusive society and fend for themselves, great and awesome. We’ve got a ways to go to making society receptive to those it considers different and less than. My son can’t do that fending for himself and needs a safer, supervised environment. I’m grateful there’s one there for him.

Interestingly, this got no reaction from Rudy, so perhaps she doesn't mean the severely disabled? I don't know. The comments in the piece were interesting, but frustrating, at times. It was nice to see that Twyla, who is ideologically opposite of me, actually has the same position on "inclusion" that I do. In a follow up post by Rudy, where she professed her surprise that people didn't agree with her on inclusion mattering (that's a bit of a stretch, though), Twyla commented:  "I think inclusion is extremely important. But I also think that programs tailored to people with special needs are also extremely important. I felt that describing joyful, enriching special programs as a “dead end” was unnecessarily perjorative [sic]."


And that does seem to be part of the point, one that Rudy didn't seem to quite understand. Either that or Rudy's defining inclusion and community differently. My son is a part of the community; he volunteers at the local animal shelter, but on a day and time where he is sheltered because dealing with the public coming into the shelter or a large group of volunteers would tax his ability to function. It's difficult enough for him to interact with the few regular employees, even after a year. Rudy's idea of inclusion in community would seem to suggest that unless he did it at the busiest hour with the most people, he hasn't been included in community. Narrow definitions of inclusion and community don't work.


Another area of community inclusion that Bobby has are the Special Olympics, which are important to Bobby, and he trains most of the year in the three events he routinely participates in. He's thrilled with it. The days of the competitions, spaced one each  quarter, participants come from around the Big Country and it's an all day affair, and a joyous event, and because there are volunteers from the community helping bring about the event, it is absolutely inclusion in the community.


These two posts by Rudy, along with some of the comments, really struck me. I don't want to say they irritated me, as that's not quite right. I'm not mad or annoyed, but perplexed.  

It may be that Rudy's posts were inspired by frustration over trying to help her son find a place in the mainstream world with his peers, and the accompanying belief that all parents, indeed all people, would want that inclusion. Since we are none of us, and that includes our children or the autistic adults in our community, the same person, we each approach the idea of community and inclusion from different perspectives and obviously with different definitions. 

My son's day center may be a "dead end" to Rudy because it won't somehow magically transfer him into normality and her idea of community inclusion. To me, though, it embodies community inclusion. The participants range in age from the teens to their late 60s (and perhaps older); the senior citizen recreation center next door prepares the hot meals that the participants at the day center eat. There are volunteers from the community at all the Special Olympics events, and the city firefighters are there, too, watching and handing out the medals to the participants. 

The reality is that community  is something we will all define differently, as is inclusion. My son is happy, he is fully included in his community, and his community intersects with the broader community on a regular basis. It is anything but a dead end program, even though he will not age out of it. I, for one, am grateful that it is a community that will be there for him as he ages, that the city has demonstrated a commitment to provide this program for those who would otherwise be relegated to the isolation of their own homes or at group homes. The city has promoted a wonderful community for my son and his friends. 

Remembering that we are individuals who are unique, with our own desires and levels of comfort for community inclusion, is paramount.  Expecting that everyone will agree with us and our definitions is bound to lead to disappointment, and one could argue that it leads away from community inclusion. 

I'd also argue that expecting every competitive activity to have in place transition programs for autistic individuals alone is, at best, unnecessary (and unreasonably narrow; there are other special needs groups, and it's self-absorbed to think that autism is somehow more deserving or more needy). 

Not everyone is going to be able to compete for placement on a team, and it's unrealistic and unreasonable to expect the organizing body of whatever event or team sport to fund such a transition program. Sometimes, it's our job as a parent to be that 'transition program' for our children. That's parenting. If it's important to our child to participate in a competitive event in an inclusion setting and it's important to us, then we'll do the work to help the child succeed. If our child just wants to play, then we'll find a setting that allows the play without the competition.

Over at Thinking Person's Guide Today

While I'm sure I'll have a post here today, as well, I'm over at TPGA. Go on over and read.

1/27/2011

Kathleen Gives Me a Chance to Fib


Kathleen got this award from the wonderful bbsmum and gave it to me (and some fabulous blogging friends). She copied and pasted the sanitized directions that bbsmum posted, and when I saw the word sanitized, I went and found the original version at Jillsmo:

"1. You must proudly display the absolutely disgusting graphic that I have created for these purposes (put it in your post, you don't have to put it in your sidebar, I think that would seriously be asking too much). It's so bad that not only did I use COMIC SANS, but there's even a little fucking jumping, celebrating kitten down there at the bottom. It's horrifying! But its presence in your award celebration is crucial to the memetastic process we're creating here. If you need a higher resolution version... I totally have one!!

2. You must list 5 things about yourself, and 4 of them must be bold-faced lies. Just make some shit up, we'll never know; one of them has to be true, though. Of course, nobody will ever know the difference, so we're just on the honor system here. I trust you. Except for the 4 that you lied about, you lying bastards! But don't go crazy trying to think of stuff, you'll see by the example I've set below that we're not really interested in quality here.

3. You must pass this award on to 5 bloggers that you either like or don't like or don't really have much of an opinion about. I don't care who you pick, and nobody needs to know why. I mean, you can give a reason if you want, but I don't really care.

4. If you fail to follow any of the above rules, I will fucking hunt your ass down and harass you incessantly until you either block me on Twitter or ban my IP address from visiting your blog. I don't know if you can actually do that last thing, but I will become so annoying to you that you will actually go out and hire an IT professional to train you on how to ban IP addresses just so that I'll leave you alone. I'm serious. I'm going to do these things.

5. This one isn't actually a rule, but once you do the above, please come back here and link up to the Memetastic Hop so that I can keep track of where this thing goes."

First off, I totally love cats, so that's a winner for me, but that thing up there doesn't look like a cat. Not much, anyway, but that's okay. Once you realize it isn't a bear, it works as a fat cat. And I know fat cats:

The disdain practically drips off of him.
No way he'd ever be happy happy, you know?

Five things about me, with four of them being lies. Thank gods, as I'm running out of self-disclosure things. It's vastly easier if I make it up.

Of course, I have to compete against Kathleen's incredible imagination and more importantly, the fascinating things she's actually done! This is no easy task, especially when you look to Stink Creek's citizens and their extraordinary lives.

  In my earlier years, I joined the Peace Corps, where instead of stationing me somewhere in the wilds of Africa to dig wells and teach the villagers how to speak English, they sent me two towns down the way, as my bathroom issues wouldn't allow me to live anywhere an indoor toilet was not possible. Now, sure, I still could have gone places, right, as there are indoor toilets to be had in Africa, but I can't fly. My bathroom issues are so crippling that if I even think someone's aware I'm in an enclosed room trying to pee, I freeze. So, no planes, that's for sure. A whole plane of people knowing I need to go? Not happening. Alas, the town they sent me to already knew English and had no private stall bathrooms where no one could see me enter, and I drove home in shame. 

 Well, with one thing about me out of the way, I suppose it's bound to get easier to share my deeper, darker secrets. Better to let it all out.

   When I was a teenager, I decided that the school system was entirely inadequate and I went on a ninja stealth-improvised (with closely located loos, of course) campaign to steal the Texas textbooks that allowed creationism to be taught in biology of all places and replace them with more appropriate copies of Charles Darwin's On The Origin Of Species. Unfortunately, I was caught red-handed and promptly expelled. 

There, I feel ever so much better for revealing that tidbit. Marching forward, now, onto the third thing about me.

  In my quest to understand the world and the way it works, I embarked on a journey to read and practice every possible (major) religion. In the process of this quest, I made little bitty golems of all my quantum mes and then I systematically poked the quantum mes I was pretty sure were having more fun than me. Lanza assures me that since I can never die because of said quantum versions of me, I take comfort in knowing they are out there in other quantum dimensions grabbing themselves and wondering why they keep feeling a stabbing pain in their ass, especially the skinny quantum mes, whom I'm convinced are sending me their extra pounds.

Well now, if that didn't tell you what for, maybe number four will.

   When I was in my mid-twenties I taught at a Pentecostal private school. For reasons that still mystify me, they thought I'd be a good fit and qualified to teach World History, which began at around 5,000 years ago, SAT prep, and later Spanish. This was followed with two months of teaching drama. As part of this job, I had to attend the school's chapel services twice a week with the students. I did everything I could along the way to buck the system. I taught that the world history book they had was crap. I sucked at teaching Spanish because it had been four years since I'd taken it in college and I'd only had two years. SAT prep bored the hell out of me, and the closest I ever got to drama was reading plays for my English degree (and I really didn't read any plays). I taught Hamlet. Teach them to throw weird classes at me that I was poorly qualified to teach. And I had a bad habit of both rolling my eyes and sighing loudly in chapel and then sneaking out to smoke. Oddly enough, I was not asked back for the next school year. I'd have rather gone on a plane and peed in front of everyone than teach there again.

Fifth and final thing about me:

  In my spare time, when I'm not being me and doing all the grand things I do as me, I write technical manuals for the Chinese. Little known to most Americans and Chinese, but there is a burgeoning underground of Americans boxing up Ikea furniture for shipment to the growing middle class in China. I am part of this underground and I make sure the instructions are completely nonsensical, all in retaliation for all the clothes the Chinese make that magically shrink so that a woman with a 28 inch inseam (ME!) has to buy women's tall pants (which become capri length after four washes). In this way I take my revenge on these workers who have single-handedly been vaulted into the middle class by my having to rebuy the same pair of pants every two months.

Alright, onto the other rule of passing this on to five other folks so they can curse me as they try to figure out what to write:

Because I am in a contrarian mood and these people would never expect an award from me, plus because these folks need the bling of this memetastic award:


These very interesting bloggers are all on the Autism Blogs Directory, although they may not be aware of that fact, and I'm well aware that some of them may not feel at all charitable towards me. 


Stink Creek Book Club Meets Up!

Below is Edna's write-up of their second meeting, where it appears they were a bit distracted, what with chickens and Willa. I'd like to report that my morning's class met with more sustained attention, but it's gonna take some time to get up to speed with reading the pieces and being willing to discuss them. Oh, and the ever present technical glitches are always fun. Still, I think the American Lit class is a grand class. I'm having a blast, anyways!


Second Official Meet Up of the Stink Creek Book Club

Edna here, ready to offer up these here minutes of the second official meeting of the Stink Creek Book Club. We had us a heck of a reading assignment to discuss; if yall are behind the power curve, you can see what we been busy with over there to the right under Native Voices. And don't forget the reading already on what literature is. I reckon I came to the decision that if it sucks that's what they are calling literature, but that KWombles assured me that it ain't all bad, nor is it all dead white men who were stuffed shirts. And that's why we're focusing on Native voices.


Yu-huh, but the Emperor done glared at me from his perch upon all those dead white men's books he's sitting on and Thelma's got that danged racoon wrapped around her neck and is looking at me. Louise is sitting beside Thelma, her six inch stiletto thigh high boots just the prettiest shade of red, but shew, as attractive as them boots are, they ain't right. Louise oughta act her age, quit wearing them hot pants and them leopard print blouses that leave her so-called "orbs of glory" spilling out for everyone to see, including my husband, who's right now wiggling in the first pew oggling her. I'm gonna ring his neck, that's for sure. Anyways, I guess I'm to hush for now and just record the minutes of our meeting.


The Emperor clears his throat, but ain't no one listening, as we're up at the Sisters of Perpetual Agony in their chapel; that way my buddy Willa can participate, along with Luther, who done went and got himself admitted yet again for his chicken shenanigans. Seems he went wild in the local grocery last week and took all the cans of chicken noodle soup and decided they needed to be set free. There he was, chucking those cans out of the grocery, and they was hitting cars, people, and even his own live chickens that he had tied up at the bike rack. Well, we are gathered here, the nuns are lining all the exits like bouncers, making sure we gonna get some edification, dangit all to heck and back whether we want it or not. I tell ya, it's a hell of a Sunday, it is. Already listened to the preacher at the bar telling us our salvation might be better found at the bottom of a mug than not found at all and all mugs were half off for the last hour of the preaching, so some of us here had to get here in the back of the sheriff's tahoe, as they was more than into their cups but still no closer to salvation. Now we gotta see straight to discuss the creation myths of the folks what was here before us, and KWombles tells us that weren't us, but were the Native Americans. Alright, I'll be quiet for now and record here the Stink Creek Book Club Second Official Meet Up.

Emperor- ahem...I'm glad y'all could join us tonight to discuss these fascinating creation tales brought to our attention by Mrs. Wombles...Can we have a round of applause for Miss Kim? Tonight I think we ought to have the Raisin lead us off in our discussion as he is a bit of an expert on the topic. before we begin is there any business to announce?....yes Miss Louise?

Louise-Well hey there folks. Boy howdy, it sure is nice ta see y'all comin out for some edification an whatnot. I just wanted to announce that me an the silver panthers will be hostin tha next book club meetin down at the senior center. The panthers an me will be doin an interpretive pole dance a sorts actin out tha creation myths an such. There'll be breast poundin an sweat wipin! thats for damn true!

Emperor-Thank you kindly, miss Louise. We are always looking for places to hold our meetings. If anyone would like to volunteer-please see the lovely Thelma at the end of our meeting. And now without further ado...Raisin? Would you care to edify us?

Raisin- Ahem...yes..Creation myths..lovely things these explanations for our very being..the Iroquois story..

Willa-What the hell do the Eyerackis have to do with how the United States was built!?

Raisin..the err uhh..The uhh...

Willa-Dang it all! Now I know some about native americans an such...why I'm one twenty seventh Cherokee..my great great great..

Louise-Hush up now, Willa-He aint talkin bout the Iraqi's! He's trying to talk on the Iroquois...EAR A KWA..iffen y'ad quit yer jabberin you'd of realized that!

Willa-Don't you tell me to hush, Louise!! My very great grandma was an indian princess!

Louise-Indian princess my bodashuss backsi.. Ouch! Mama H?!!

Mama H-Listen here, the Raisin is set on telling us all about this here creation myth and how it's similar to the biblical myths. Yall hush it now so we can get us some edification and get on outa here so we can get us some of my blackberry wine. We ain't having this in the Sister's chapel again unlessin they get the sacramental wine out and share. Ain't nobody no how should have to be edified without libations!

Louise-Yes Ma'am.

Luther-You is my princess, Willa. I'll share my chickens with you anytime.

Willa-thank you Luther.

Raisin- Uhh..well yes..uuhh..ahem..if you would all look at creation myths from the iroquois..Cusick was Christian and it is my strong belief that this affected the way in which he..

Willa-I am the way the truth and the light!

Edna here interposing to say it ain't nice that while we are up here at the Sisters so that Luther and Willa can participate that Thelma and Louise feel it's alright to be over there snickering about my best bud Willa. She can't help it if she slipped a bit off of her rocker. She stays on the evangelical kick, and she'll be out of here in no time. After all, it's more than alright for folks to wander around and proselytize and it beats the hell out of being scared out of my knickers when she hollers "bully bully" when I open my front door to get the paper.

MamaH- Alright now, folks, I can see you're restless and ready to get down to the business at hand. Raisin, my man, get to it before we lose em all.

Raisin- Ahem..yes..now..You see..if one were to take The creation story from the Bible and compare it to th..

Mayor Percy Bentpole-Now hold on! We aint gonna be comparin the Bible to anything!

Preacher-Amen to that brother!

Willa- Now this needs ta stop! First you got tha iraqi's creatin the good old U.S. of A and now you is tellin me they created the bible! That sure is some ouredee hogwash I'm tellin ya true..What in the name a all things holy is you laughin at Thelma and Louise! I done tha readin! This is ..This is..Blasphemy pure an true..some strange named fella makin ants from sweat and buzzards! Buzzards!! Why the hell didn't he use chickens! A fine American bird!

Luther-Chickens!!

Willa-y'all don't see folks eatin fried buzzards at tha church social do ya now! I thought we was gonna talk some about literature an such! I got me some fine Harlequins we all could learn from I'll tell you what! Man and woman makin babies! They even got some a that breast beatin and sweaty palms! but ya sure as H E double hockey sticks don't get no ants!

Daddy sore bottom-I have me a couple of aunts. They don't talk much about sweat an such. They is a couple a nice ladies. Don't think they'd care for this creatin stuff none..they never did marry..

Thelma- Daddy sore bottom, did you notice them aunts of yours lived with each other until the day they passed on? They were more than friends, darlin. I tell you what, leave alone the Iroquois story, although that whole turtle thing was something else, the Pima story was pretty as a picture: "In the beginning there was no earth, no water—nothing. There was only a Person, Juh-wert-a-Mahkai " And this Juh man was the doctor of the earth. That's pretty. Ain't it, Emperor, hon? Listen, you wanna go play doctor of the earth? I'll be the earth, and you can try and bring something forth from nothing, ifn you catch my meaning.

Raisin-Ahem, I fear, we're losing even Thelma. Well, Emperor, you could say I did try.

Louise-Oh darlin don't you fret none-you just wait till you see me an the panthers do our interpretive pole dance! Maybe you'd like ta do a little recitin while we're bein excitin!

Raisin- Why yes ..yes..I always was one for the creative arts and such.

Mama H-Aww, Raisin hon, you sure are. Listen here, I reckon what with Luther and Willa busy playing with the chicken, and Milo T and Daddy sorebottom busy playing pinochle in the pews, and the Mayor cozying up to Euvula, we've lost em all. Emperor, close it up, son, let's get on down to the trailer and get some blackberry wine.

Emperor- Well, this was a mighty fine first attempt at discussing literature. I want to thank you all for coming. Please check the church bulletin for the time and date of our next get together. I look forward to seeing you all then.


Edna closing off this meeting's minutes. Everyone pretty much paired off and left me here with the Sisters staring daggers at me as the others lit out without cleaning up the mess. Everyone left their readings in the pews, and ain't that a sight to see, the Iroquois and the Pima creation stories scattered about the hymnals and bibles. It's a melting pot of ideas, ain't it, and it's powerful hard, I reckon to keep clear where them influences begin and end. Bound to happen, since the white man's world won out and the stories might have been helped a bit to blend. No one wants to be the lone person left outa the party, like me here, writing these minutes. Thelma and her crew done taken off to party down at their trailers with MamaH's homebrewed blackberry wine. Luther and Willa done taken that chicken and wandered back to their rooms. Milo T and Daddy sore bottom are off together to find their own answers in the bottle, I reckon, having made a right mess of their lives. I reckon they'll get together with Trussie Begelow down at the town. The mayor and his uptight wife hightailed it out of here. I got the goods on the folks of Stink Creek,  I do, and while most not know it, that Thelma and Louise, my nemeses, and their Mama, they own almost every damn thing in this town, and the mayor knows it well. He'll give me my chance next election, but it's gonna take craftiness to get MamaH voted out and me into the President of the Ladies for the Glorification and Edification of Stink Creek. I might prefer me my Harlequin romances, but I can beat them at their game. I'll be ready at the next meeting and I'll dazzle them, even when I'm bored near to tears reading something about keys and language.


I might be against the work, but that KWombles was telling me about a saying that was posted on the door into her college today (sometimes you work with folks you is ideologically opposed to, like me and Thelma), something about responsibility and taking it, and keys to one's destiny, how we all hold them keys. Uh-huh. Well, I tell you what, folks might be holding them keys, but they for damned sure ain't fitting the locks. Maybe that edification stuff is about making sure we make them keys fit the locks. Maybe.


What the hell do I know, though? I'm tired and ready to go on home, sit in my recliner and watch Hoarders off the netflix and wait for that husband of mine to get back from Thelma's. It's a good thing that Hoarders is such a damn good show, or I might be mad that my man prefers my nemeses to coming home with me. That's alright, though. I got me my plans and my shows. Makes me feel right pleased with myself.