9/29/2011

Thought I'd Visit...Don't Get Around Much Anymore



"My mind's more at ease, but nevertheless, why stir up memories?"

And ain't that the truth?

I don't get around to many blogs anymore, too many papers to grade, and an ever earlier and earlier bedtime as I find myself worn out. Some nights I beat the girls to bed, and am grateful that Rick shoulders the bedtime duty. I miss some of my blogging buddies, those women and men whose lives I got to share in, but I don't miss the drama of visiting places that are angry, hostile places.

What I have read, though, are the dialogues at TPGA, some of the comments, and many of the posts written by other bloggers in response to those posts and comments. We've been putting those blog posts over at the directory as I'm able to find time to contact the blog writers and get their permission. If I haven't gotten around to you and you've written one, email me and I'll get it up.

When I started blogging in 2009, the autism community seemed to be clearly divided into two vocal camps: neurodiversity followers versus those who believed autism was caused by vaccines. The neurodiversity camp also lined up in opposition to autistic adults who very much want a cure for their autism. Of course, that's an oversimplification, but those were the factions I was initially exposed to. It was easier to find a place, in some ways, because you were immediately routed to one camp or the other based on what you thought about vaccines.

I made several close friends in the midst of blogging, advocating, and trying to make a difference. I made some enemies, too. I acted intemperately at times. I stumbled, occasionally, and I learned a lot. I lost some friends, too, people who quit blogging, or who retreated when something besides vaccines popped up and revealed that there was another line that could create a divide.

The directory that Kathleen and I run, the bloggers we've met through that, has changed my views, tempered my opinions, and led me to react differently than I did back in the summer of 2009. You can't practice inclusion, read hundreds of people with a variety of beliefs and experiences and not come away changed.

What I learned from reading parents who believe a multitude of things that differ from my own beliefs is that they write to reach out, to get comfort, to know they are not alone. Adults on the spectrum write for the same reasons. We all want the same basic things: acceptance, appreciation, accommodation, and to know that when needed, people will act on our behalf for our benefit.

Far too often, they don't find this, even in a community where we should have an abundance of experiences that should lock us together in solidarity. And yet, it often doesn't. Far too often there is rancor and strife and instead of making people's lives easier, we make them harder. Instead of finding comfort, we find drama.

Perhaps we could all spend a little more time asking what we bring to the equation: comfort or drama. And if I've brought you drama in the past, I'm sorry.





Cryptic Profundity


Sitting on the printer gives you control of the paper. 
And annoys your person when you play with the buttons
and keep printing out test pages.

Just saying.

Also, this:

Control the messenger and you control the message, right?
Intimidate others and you silence them, making yourself appear all the bigger, all the stronger.

Too many people are silenced by people who simply have the luxury of being able to outlast others.
Remember, the moderates rarely care enough to engage in the exchanges in the first place.
It's only those passionately committed who take the time and effort to keep battling.
All you have to do to win is be the more extreme.

In other words, right doesn't always win.
The good guy doesn't always save the day.
Sometimes assholes win just because they're assholes.

And that, my friends, sucks.
We almost all of us believe in the just world fallacy.

Learning it is not a just world is a painful eye-opener.
Not letting it dampen your resolve, though, is imperative.


9/28/2011

Some Rambling Thoughts On the Messier Aspects, Or a Shitty Exercise of Life

Sometimes, the shit hits the fan, right? Explaining that idiom to literal children can be illuminating. It's one of those that my kids at least get--it's visual enough and smellorific enough to work as an explanation that sometimes things in our lives go awry and leave us with big, steaming messes to be picked up. And a fan to dispose of.

To extend the metaphor, displaying the tools we use to clean up shitty piles that have decided to dot our lives (we've got five cats--while it usually isn't poop but instead them hocking hairballs or dinner), the scrub brush and stain remover come in very handy.

Not only do we need to expect some shit to rain our way, we need to be prepared to deal with it promptly.

And sometimes, we need to accept that there will be continued piles of that smelly mess that show up in places we least expect it. Now sure, we could do what my father does when one of his dogs lets loose at the house--we could walk by and pretend we didn't notice and hope my mother will buy that lack of insight. Or we could choose to actively seek out those messes and clean them up. Be preemptive, you know?

I'm going to point out there's always another solution to this messier aspect of life, and to that of internet drama. Yeah, we knew I wasn't really talking about cat puke and dog shit (although they are very real aspects of my life). When we come across a steaming pile of excrement, when it keeps finding its way into our paths we choose to walk in this online community, we can get out our paper towels, our spray, and our scrub brushes. We certainly can invest that time and effort to clean it up, make it disappear. Or we could spray air freshener and hope no one notices the fetid stink.

I'm going to do my dad's way of dealing with it. Walk right on around it as if it didn't exist and wasn't worth noticing. Because some shit ain't worth noticing and isn't our responsibility to attend to.

You know?

9/26/2011

Blues and Yellows






What We Fight For

Have I said I've been in the trenches now for two decades, fighting to get what my children need? I get tired of the fight, tired of the battle with the outer world to get the resources needed, and so, when Bobby was nine, after he'd had a stroke, I realized I couldn't battle it all. I was worn out. I was tired of fighting for an appropriate education all while fighting the medical system to get him help, and honestly, all while fighting with him to give him the basic self-help skills that would let him be potty trained, be able to dress himself, bathe, brush his teeth, comb his hair, and eat meals without disasters. I was tired of being up for 36 hour stretches since he wouldn't sleep and was destructo-kid and couldn't be left unattended.

Tired, worn, and grieving were the first ten years of my son's life. You know what else they were? Enchanted with his beauty, in love with his smile, delighted when he hugged or cuddled or vocalized anything. As tired as I was, I was completely head over heels for my sweet boy. I made the most of every moment with him, spending long afternoons lying in bed with him, surrounded by his favorite books that we would read over and over, day after day.

By the time the girls came along, I'd had a couple years to process his stroke, the real risks of him having another one, and the break from fighting the school system. After his stroke, we brought him home. No more fighting that, no more. It became about teaching him in a safe friendly environment where his psyche was safe, and we resumed those wonderful afternoons surrounded by piles of books.

Eventually, after we moved here, next door to my parents, we worked at getting him into the day center where he would have the chance to work on socialization skills with others like him, where he would be safe, accepted, and loved. And if you've read this blog at all, you know what a shining, bright young man he is and how far he's come. He is sweet, opinionated, giving, loving, and he makes a difference daily. He is happy, he is loved, and he contributes. He is my light.

after helping me move into my office last month

His sisters shine, as he does. They are my garden girlies, and they never cease to delight and amaze. All three of them adore the others, sit on the couch for our evening sci-fi marathons entwined in each other, the three of them: a grown man who loves to play pokemon and yu-gi-oh with them and who loves them so much that all he can talk about is getting them this $50 video game that he knows they'll love for their birthdays, and these two long-limbed girls: they wrap themselves around each other in complicated pretzels and hug and squeeze and loll on each other in a way my brothers and I would never have done.

I fight for them. I don't speak for them. I don't speak for anyone but me. I teach them that their voices matter, that who they are is wonderful, perfect, and lovely and that they can be what they want to be if they are willing to work for it.


There is a difference between fighting for one's children and speaking for them. There is a difference between advocating for equal rights, equal access, and appropriate accommodations and speaking for others. They have nothing to do with each other. Perhaps people have forgotten that.

I do not speak for autistic people. I would not even were I an autistic individual.

I do not speak for parents of children with neurological differences. It is not my place.

I do not speak for anyone, to replace their voices with my own.

I speak for me and my experiences as a mother with her own issues and invisible disabilities who safeguards her children and fights for what they need, while working with them to teach them to fight for themselves for what they need. 

My experiences and my words in no way negate another person's story or perspective nor does it ride roughshod over their own experiences and words.

Maybe if people quit worrying about who's speaking for them and spoke for themselves and let others speak for themselves, there'd be less acrimony and accusations.

9/25/2011

Excuse the Mess

A well-oiled machine, you say? Everything running like clock-work? Listen, some days I'm just glad I remember where I'm supposed to be and that I get there. Forget about remembering what it was I needed to say or do!

Our lives have changed drastically in the two and half years I've been blogging and we are a busy bunch of people. I miss the quieter days when time dragged on, but these are good days, too. Mostly.

Sure, we still find time to do what feels like really odd wastes of time and effort and energy, like go to the fair and go through the exhibits that don't really change from year to year:



Okay, yeah, the quilts are cool, but seriously, it was 100 degrees the afternoon we went, and we only went because we could get in free. We rode no rides (not happening, for so many reasons) and we spent no money. We went for lunch at Sonic afterwards and convinced the girls, who hadn't remembered we'd done the fair before, that next year we can skip the fair and go straight to Sonic.

But, most of the time, now, when I'm home, it feels like I'm busy sitting beneath my laptop grading way too many papers for hours on end each day and answering emails, devoting time to helping students learn outside the classroom as well as in, all while Bobby and Rick manage the various household chores.

And yesterday, I commented as much to my mother; without the men in this house picking up the slack, there is no way I could do it all. None at all. Between work and the increased time required working with the girls on things that only a mother can do at this age, well, you'll have to excuse the mess that this house tends to be. 

You see, there are ducks lined up across bookcases, and counting bears arranged in elaborate conga lines on the floor. There are pillows and toys and books in piles. And papers by the dozens and sometimes hundreds strewn about from the living room all the way back into the girls' bedrooms. The girls make the three adults in the house look slothlike in comparison: they are busy, and that creative burst of apparent destruction has deep meaning to them. The hundreds of drawings of monkeys or SpongeBob, all strikingly similar to each other (not the monkeys to SpongeBob), mean something to each girl. It's interesting to see their different obsessions handled in similar fashions, but at least Rosie hasn't insisted on going a month wearing nothing but monkey tees as Lily has with SpongeBob.

Yes, that's right. Other than one day the first week of school where Lil chose Mario over SpongeBob, Lily has worn a different SpongeBob tee to school for FIVE weeks. You're reading that right. She counted the tees up. She has 27 different (not counting pajamas, which I had to convince her she could NOT wear to school) SpongeBob tees. And she'll get four new ones for her birthday (and it's so hard not to give them now so she can finish week six with no repeats).

Is it wrong to feed a special interest like this? After all, I'm the one who buys the tees. I don't think it is. I think a goal of seeing how many days one can wear a different SpongeBob tee is an interesting goal. And no one at her school seems to be noticing this. We ask her everyday if anyone, including the teachers, has noticed and said anything. She grins big, a SpongeBob grin by the way, and says no one has.

So, yes, please. Excuse the mess. Ignore the precarious pile of papers, magazines, journals and books by my recliner. Ignore the conga lines and stacks of books, the star trek toys riding rooster figurines, the poncho on the skeleton and the offering of anatomy books at his feet and the christmas decoration hanging by its side while Madonna looks on and the cat plaque shows you where some of these obsessions come from.


We're happy here. Busy here. And often in the midst of global domination as the girlies laugh and shout "All hail the Ori" and variations on that theme, as they draw stargate after stargate and pretend their petshop toys are various Stargate characters working to save the galaxy from evil ascended beings and their freaky looking priors.

It's all good, even if it's messy.

9/23/2011

Insert Deep, Insightful Words Here


"It's always darkest before the dawn."
No shit, really?
My replacement: "It's always darkest in a room with no windows and no lights on."
Useful, huh?

The textbook I use with my composition students advises them not to use overused phrases, seriously, like "According to Webster's Dictionary." And you know, if there's one thing I've read too many times, it's "According to Webster's Dictionary."  There are other phrases, of course, and the admonition to avoid cliches in one's writing, but cliches exist because they allow people to express something quickly in a manner that is meant to convey instant communication and understanding between those using it and hearing it.

It doesn't always work, though. And our children often show us the truth of that in ways that have laughter ringing out. Yesterday, Lily was complaining that her ribs hurt. And I responded (we were at her grandparents), pointing at the right side of my chest, that "it hurt over here while I was teaching yesterday." She promptly responded that I wasn't teaching over at her grandma's yesterday.

Communication is such a bitch between people in general that some dusty old dead dude named Wiio came up with rules for it. Rule number one? "Communication usually fails, except by accident." Watch a married couple discussing who's going to do what, and you'll see it's a freaking miracle when both parties hear the same thing.

And yet, in the autism community, many act under the assumption that communication is going to be understood just like it would be in the general population. Are people ignoring all the messed up communications in the larger world? It's frakked everywhere; it's just that some folks have an even harder time with it.

There are myths about autism, to be sure. The myth that people with autism will have no empathy is one. Some may not have empathy. Some may have difficulty expressing it. But for every stereotype of empathic failure, there are undoubtedly hundreds of autistic people proving that stereotype a lie.

But there are also myths about neurotypicality and these need to be knocked down, as well. There is no such thing as neurotypical. Yes, there's a bell curve where the mythical average exist. And yes, there's no doubt that some people have more advantages than others, but everyone has issues. Everyone has weaknesses. And many of us walk around with invisible disabilities. We don't talk about them. We don't share them because we've seen what happens when we do. Many of us may have DSM diagnoses, too, that we choose not to disclose. Parents may be guilty of making functional assessments of autistic bloggers based on their blogging abilities, but it's just as true that autistic bloggers have assumed functional levels of parents based on their blogging rather than on knowledge of their neurologies. In fact, if there's one universal, it's that everyone in the autism community is constantly making assumptions about others. It's what we do as human beings to allow us to make decisions. We can't do the latter without the first. Sometimes those assumptions are incorrect, and if we're humble enough we correct our assumptions and adjust our behavior accordingly.

Everyone suffers from communication errors at times. And everyone lacks empathy at times. The autism community doesn't have a stranglehold on this. There's a reality in the debate between parents and autistic adults that is being ignored when it's to the advantage of those who identify on the spectrum: that there are parents who are undiagnosed autistics or at the very least BAPpy, and yet any consideration of their difficulties in communicating is often missing from the conversation equation, especially when it's more convenient to ignore that reality.

Here's another reality that is interesting: parent advocates arguing that autistic voices need to be heard and respected who then ignore those autistic voices they disagree with because of the cure issue (Jonathan Mitchell) or the vaccine issue (Jake Crosby). If all autistic voices are important and need to be listened to, then arbitrary exclusion of those whose positions you dislike is inappropriate. But maybe that's because we don't really mean that, not really.






9/22/2011

A Joint Review of Kerry Cohen's Seeing Ezra

Originally posted at ABD

Kathleen and I have been blogging buddies for over two years now, working on various projects together, struggling to figure out our places in the online autism community as we work in the real world to find our place there, as well, to find the best ways to help both our own children, and other children like ours.

We’ve read several hundred bloggers over the years, and with over 800 bloggers represented on the directory, we’ve read hundreds of stories of how parents have come to face the reality of what autism means not just for their children who are diagnosed on the spectrum, but for the families, as well. We’ve become friends with many adults on the spectrum, learning about how their autism impacts them and how they view the world. We’ve made friends, seen people come and go from the blogging world, and even irritated the occasional person (me way way more than Kathleen ever has).
We’ve witnessed intense anger, deep depression, denial, acceptance, and all the feelings in between in parents as they face the hurdles, struggles, heartache and intense joy and delight in our children that punctuate the difficult times. We’ve warred internally on how to respond to both acts and words that negatively impact individuals on the spectrum, and we’ve tried to figure out where we must act and where we should remain silent.

We’ve erred at times, speaking where silence was the right course of action (me more than Kathleen), and remaining silent where we should have spoken. We’ve been judgmental where we should have shown grace. We’ve been human, in other words, and it’s all been in real time. The blogging world is a reactive world, and sometimes pausing for reflection is not an activity we indulge ourselves in.
Blogs provide current snapshots of moods, feelings, and experiences and the chance for near instantaneous responses to others’ lives. They are monologues and dialogues, attempts to inform, to persuade, to berate, to communicate. Blogging is risky business, especially if you take the time to be raw and honest, especially in our community where we’re dealing with more factions than European politics have. Someone’s always waiting to jump on it and call in their buddies to dogpile (and too many times that’s been me).

Memoirs, on the other hand, offer a look at autism and how it impacts the individual and the family from the vantage point of distance. The writers are looking back, with the benefit of their current wisdom offering the chance to cover up those all-too-human mistakes. Whitewashing has to be a temptation, difficult to resist, a siren’s song to cast oneself as the hero of the story who overcomes all obstacles, never making messy, costly mistakes. So when a writer comes along and offers a memoir, that while tightly crafted and polished to a fine shine, still reveals the messy mistakes we’re all prone to, it’s a surprise. Kerry Cohen, though, has a history of openness and honesty that is raw and real, having authored Loose Girl: A Memoir of Promiscuity. Her new memoir details her journey as mother to Ezra, who has autism, and how coming to grips with this impacts every aspect of her life.
Her memoir is engaging and unapologetic; despite its difficult terrain, it’s easy to read, the text flowing off the page. There is at once a remove, an emotional distance, and an intense emotionality to the work that leaves the reader both pulled in and pushed away, a tug-of-war of emotional rollercoaster rides that many parents of special needs children will intimately recognize.

It’s a tug-of-war that the reader may feel viscerally, as well. Why’s she being so raw? Why’s she revealing the marital issues? The underbelly? Why? And yet, to have whitewashed any part of this story would have been a disservice to the reality that families face. And yet, there are other parts, gaps in the story, that leave the reader with questions.

It shouldn’t take courage to tell the whole emotional story of coming to grips with the reality of parenting a child with special needs. It shouldn’t be going out on a limb to express one’s own emotional and internal reality, and yet it is. All too often it is painting a target on oneself, and so when a writer, a mom, chooses to be this bluntly honest, all of us ought to be able to at least acknowledge that honesty.

Cohen offers that honesty in this memoir and the hurdles in coming to terms with her son’s autism and what it means. And, as she herself notes in her closing chapter, there’s no happy ending, no tidy closing to offer.

Is it inspirational? Not in a sanitized, artificial way. But there’s a takeaway here, even if there’s no happy ending. And with that, I'll turn it over to Kathleen:

I generally don't read books about autism. In the roughly ten years that I have been aware of it, I can honestly say that the amount of books I have read on the topic could be counted on one hand. There are so many  reasons for this..but mostly-it's because I have four kids and we have our own story.  In the early years with my kids-I was submerged in parenting 24/7..there was no online community-at least for me.  I didn't even have a computer. Autism was not as widely known or spoken about as it is today.  I had no clue that my oldest sons diagnosis (PDD (nos) ) had anything to do with it. So, when I finally took the plunge and entered the world 'o technology-I was blown away by the many different view points and experiences of other parents.  Some I was able to agree with-and others...well, as Kim said..I found myself pissing people off (although DEFINITELY not as much as she has!). In other words, I learned the hard way that my experience was neither better than nor less than anyone else's. That a blog post was just a blog post and not always definitive of who that writer was. That my thoughts and opinions were not always going to be welcome..and most importantly...that sometimes people just want a place to be heard.  Sometimes it is our place to just listen.

 Having read "Loose Girl," which I thought was a very brave and much needed book-I was interested in what the author had to say about her experiences in parenting an autistic child. This was a difficult book for me to read.   It brought me back to my early days within the online community. I had to remind myself that this was a memoir-the author's experience. An experience that she fully owns while accepting that other peoples' may differ. I can not criticize a memoir.  There were places where I wanted to hug her, places where I thoroughly disagreed with her..places where she made me laugh (her experience with a school in Portland and the teacher whose feelings she hurt cracked me up). It is raw, deeply personal, and it is real. To me, it was a story more about growing up and accepting that there are no givens in life than it was about autism.  That happiness and joy are something we have to work for-and that there are no guarantees. 

9/21/2011

Wednesday Wonderings

What?

Ever feel hamstrung? And then feel very weird about feeling hamstrung and completely unsure of how to get over that? Or if you should even bother to?




9/18/2011

N-O-I-S-E and Acceptance

But it's all good...

Now, if you were a regular visitor in this house, you'd know NOISE is the way of things here. All three of my exuberant, vibrant, lively, busy kids have volume control issues big time. They also say everything that comes into their heads. So, again, NOISE is a way of being here. It's slightly louder here this weekend, as the girls have three friends spending the night, but that is not the fault of the extra girlies, who are actually rather quiet. My girlies are louder in reaction to their quietness, so the extra N-O-I-S-E comes from my own children who are in a fever pitch of communication attempts. Since they're playing handpuppets at this moment, this involves Lil loudly doing puppet voices in a very screechy voice. So screechy that Rick, who was going to sleep most of the day since he'd gotten home after four, is now up and getting coffee.

I wouldn't trade these weekend sleepovers for quiet, not for a moment. Bobby struggled at that age so mightily, with no friends of his own, that I am overjoyed that the girls have created friendships and will do whatever I can to foster those friendships. And the girls' mothers are lovely, incredible women, so I get the bonus of relationships with women who love their girls as fiercely as I do mine. I also get complete understanding of my girls and acceptance of them from both these women, and for that, well, I would take a bullet for them. Or their kids for a weekend sleepover on a regular, repeating basis. :-)

Complete acceptance and appreciation of our children is often a rarity, even, I'm sure, if they have absolutely no issues (are there any such children who don't face some issue? I think not), so I am humbled that my vibrant, busy, exuberant, volume-control-impaired girls get such love and affection. Even when Lil is doing the screechy thing. Maybe especially then.



9/16/2011

Preaching and Teaching: Performance Art

As I stared up into the dark the other morning, up before the alarm again, and already dwelling on the coming day and the need to fit everything on my to-do list into the day, my mind turned to the idea that good teachers and good preachers have the same skill set: an ability to energize and motivate their particular congregation into action, to move them from point A to point B with as little resistance as possible and to guide them to a higher plane of existence: enlightenment.

Monotone droning doesn't do that.

No, like a good Baptist or Pentecostal preacher, if I want action, I have to be dynamic and energized. Have you ever tried to whip a group of 25 students into a frenzy of excitement over writing papers? It's no easy task, and to do it class after class, well, if preachers had to preach session after session, they might wear out of the righteous power of spreading the word.

The word--words--strung into tightly constructed works of art, that's the dream. Competent, effective communication skills are the goal. It's easy to forget when you spend your spare time online in a group of people who write to communicate for fun that not everyone finds the endeavor rewarding. Spending time with students who are intimidated by the very idea of constructing those words on the blank word document is an immersion in the reality that words, ideas, and the organization of those ideas into words, into paragraphs, is incredibly intimidating to many people.

And that's a shame. Words open the world, and what a world it is. What a world it can be, if only. So I spend my days trying to give students "if onlys" in as energetic and entertaining a way as possible, while letting them know that panic, fear, and mental roadblocks don't have to be the way that English classes are approached.

Something's wrong with our educational system if it churns out students afraid to try, resistant to effort, and certain their teachers don't care about them succeeding. If preachers managed their congregations that way, they'd be out of a job.

Maybe if teaching was viewed as a sacred trust, and the resources were provided to make sure that teachers had the opportunity to restore and feed their souls, and parents viewed teachers like preachers, there to assist and help, maybe so many students wouldn't come to us closed off, shut down, and resistant (and I mean that, not just for college teachers, but all the way down to the beginning of school).






9/12/2011

Handy-Dandy Checklists



Sometimes, when things are bad enough, we'll cave into things that we should know better. Common sense isn't nearly as common as it should be and we are none of us as skeptical as we should be. Except for those Missourians, who live by the motto, "Show me." I'm not too sure of that, though, as showing people works all too well or those power bracelets wouldn't be so popular. Brian Dunning, following on the coattails of skeptics before him, has devised a 15 point checklist of questions we can ask when our common sense has deserted us or, even worse, has us convinced that the bra genie will fix all our back fat problems.

Checklists are handy-dandy things to have when you wander off into woo-filled stores like Drug Emporium or Wal-Mart. Yes, even your favorite chain store is filled with unproven, untested products like these:


Ricola Green Tea W/Echinacea Sugar Free Cough Suppressant Throat Drops 19ct, 2pk Bundle Similasan Original Swiss Formula Homeopathic Cold & Mucus Relief Cough Expectorant Syrup, Kids 2-12, 4 oz Zicam Non-Drowsy, Seasonal Allergy Relief .5 Fl Oz


Without something like Dunning's list, buyers are at a serious disadvantage. Certainly some of his checklist questions won't be particularly helpful while standing stuffy-nosed and miserable in front of the medicine aisles in Walgreens, where the woo mixes with the real deals, with nothing to tip the foggy-headed buyer off. After all, when you just want someone to put you out of your misery, are you really going to ask question number one: "Does the claim meet the qualifications of a theory?" (Dunning). Do you really give a flying fig? You just want to breathe and do so now.

Dunning's second question, "Is the claim said to be based on ancient knowledge?" is more likely to be relevant in natural food stores where all natural, ancient remedies are a dime a dozen. Scratch that. They may be everywhere, but they aren't a dime a dozen; they're expensive money drains. 

After having rummaged through the local stores for cures to your misery, you sit bleary-eyed and ready to hurt someone, staring at your tv as informercials begin to air. And this is where Dunning's third question is invaluable: "Was the claim first announced through mass media, or through scientific channels?" If you're watching it on an infomercial, do you really think science has weighed in on it? If Chuck Norris is selling it, really?

Having recovered enough to go to the local peddler's market, you're still under the weather and you see a vendor selling salt lamps and magnets, both of which promise to cure everything from MS to allergies. This is where Dunning's sixth question is a real keeper: "Does the claim sound far fetched, or too good to be true?"

All fifteen of Dunning's questions are ones we do not, unfortunately, ask ourselves before we plunk down our hard-earned dollars on something that promises smaller waistlines or improved joint functioning or shoes that will make us lose weight or mystical, magical rubber bracelets with holograms in them that make you invulnerable and invisible. So, don't be a sucker, print these fifteen questions out and tape them into your wallet next to your credit card so you'll think twice the next time some huckster promises to cure your warts and make you grow two inches taller with the same product.


Works Cited

Dunning, Brian. "How to Spot Pseudoscience." Skeptoid Podcast. Skeptoid Media, Inc., 6 Apr 2007. Web. 12 Sep 2011.

Monday Monday

Some music and pics to start the week out right.












ant high-rise?