Saturday, July 12, 2008

Yard works

It's a nice day today and we decided to clean up our front yard this morning, and we all did! Bảo mowed the lawn, Thuỵ rakes all the dead branches & leaves, and I trim all the bushes. We worked one hour straight, tired, but it was fun.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Six genes

In early development, synapses are created, formed, and strengthen all by experiences and regulated by a set of genes. Even when two toddlers experience the same event (ie. hear a sound of a train) but if the regulating genes do not help to create or form the synapses the development would come out differently; and this is what many researchers believe as the cause of autism. Yesterday, a group of researchers had identified 6 genes which may contribute to this disorder.

This is a good news! Many doctors as well as parents had the same hunch for more than 5 years ago. It is just a hunch, no proof, bunch of theories and conclusions drawn from observations & statistical numbers; but no hard evidents. Even without proof, they come up with seminars, talks, training, consultant certification programs, treatments and have been making lot of money of this hunch! Case in point: doctor Gutstein and his RDI. Sure, it works for some just as well as other treatments like ABA, VBA, and chelation; but it's still not 100% result. It's like using exercise to cure obesity. He does not have the hard evidences, nor does he has the understanding of what particular genes or parts which causes the missing pathway. However, I have to give him the credits of believing in creating more experiences to rebuild the pathway. Well, the pathway can be formed or not, may not necessary relying on the experiences alone. Like keep throwing the ball to a child, so that the child can eventually learn how to catch. But he failed to recognize that the treatment may work only if the child has two hands! If the kid does not have hands, he may develop the kid to catch the ball with two feet!

Oh well, back to the 6 genes which researchers had recently found, I believe this is the tip of the iceberg that there will be more new treatments based on this finding. Parents should be careful when picking & choosing treatments for their kids. We will be as well.

Here is another link to Dr. Walsh's finding
Podcast from the Science magazine

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Titanic analogy

I was once working on a project, actually a very old, huge software product. The politically correct name for it is "legacy product". We call it a beast for its enormous size, and ... very difficult to understand. It was so old that the design was not as flexible, or easy to extend. Whenever we want to add in a new feature, the logical place should be in bellies of the beast, but no one wants to touch the ugly code. At the end, the new feature was shifted into another part of the system or not implemented at all, due to risk of breaking the product. We're all know that its time is numbered, perhaps another year or two; and we were all hardly wait for that day. A day when we can just delete that branch of code out of CVS workplace, and don't have to see those ugly warnings, obsoleted standard library calls during compilations.

That day eventually came. The day the company sent out the news release, announcing no longer support that product, the product which has the beast in it. We were all happy, except a guy with his worried face. I asked and he slowly revealed:
- "You see, it's just like the Titanic, if we know that it's going to crash into the rocks. What are we going to do to save the people on board?". He turned and asked.

With his English accent, he continued:
- "We can either let them drown, because no emergency crew can get to the boat in time to save them, or we can build another fast ship, which can then catch up to the Titanic and just before the Titatic hits the rocks, we can transfer the people on to the new ship. Only then we can let the Titanic to sink."

Lit up another cigarette, he drew a long breath then said:
- "Unfortunately, two years ago we did not build the fast ship."

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Sense of urgency

There is an article today about the chelation treatment, one of the treatments which we had tried several years ago on Huân. A treatment which I have to admit: not very pleasant. I still remember the times when Huân refused to take that awful smell medication, and as a parent I tried to make him drink it believing that it would cure him.

Like any parents of autistic children, we are willing to try everything, every treatment which promises to make our child better. We even try unproven treatments. There is a sense of urgency that if we do not try, we fail; as in the same vein with if we do not buy a lottery ticket, we will never win. Sure, there is another factor which contributes to that urgency: older autistic kids are less likely to recover, thus the term: early intervention! Would you believe that there are more than 300 "unproven" autism treatments? The government does not have a clue about this disorder, so very so-called "doctors", "therapists", "consultants" out there are doing their best to reap in the money. They come up with some "theories" and develop a treatment around those theories. Each treatment is not cheap. Thousands, tenth of thousands for different kinds of treatments. Every treatment claims itself to be the "right" one! Each has testimonies from parents to back its claims. However, none of them dare to claim even more than 75% successful rate. Sometimes I wonder, how could a third world country parents with an autistic kid can afford even the cheapest treatment?

In the mids of this vicious cycle, parents are more likely one on top then the autistic children in the list of victims. The parents are the one who have to come up with the money to pay for any of the treatments, then they also have to select which treatments to test on their own child. That is one of the decisions any parents would hate to make! You see, if you make a wrong one, then you have to live with it for the rest of your already miserable life. With that being said, I now admire the courage of those parents, who had made those difficult decisions while fully understand of the consequence. They made those decisions based on a single hope of making their children better.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


There are so many things to do. Everywhere I turn I see tasks, chores, projects and all seemed urgent. At work, I am falling behind, and the due dates do not move; they are just so rigid. At home, there are so many rooms that need cleaning, finish, and/or repair; even the backyard and front yard. The project, VBNVote, is once again slipped, the features for the project are just multiplying by days.

I'll take one thing at a time, just do one thing, and do it well. Tackle the most important first, and work my way through them. So here is my list:
  • Day time: do the tasks at work
  • Evening time: do the VBNVote features
  • Weekend: houseworks
I may need to break the list down a bit further to help focus on particular tasks; but let's see if the simple list would work out. I'll revisit this list in one week, and reassess. For now, that will be my list to focus.

Monday, July 7, 2008

How long will it last?

I was driving slightly under the posted speed limit this morning. Also, during the weekend, I consciously kept my driving speed in check. It was neither because I am a good driver, nor I am getting to the age of driving slow; but it's because I got a speeding ticket last week. For several years straight I did not get any ticket or being pulled over or involved in accident then suddently when I least expected, there it was: a speeding ticket doing 45 on a 30MPH street. That does it!

I started to drive more carefully now, and often glance at my speedometer as well as paying more attention to the posted speed limit on the side while driving. The funny thing was that I was doing all those without remember the ticket. I don't even remember the date that I need to appear in court to plead to the judge or to pay the fine; but my driving habit had changed since the time the officer handed me the ticket. I was so disappointed of having a speeding ticket after all these good driving years. The effort of trying to keep the insurance fee low now vanished. It's not the yellow color court summon which made me drive more carefully, it's the fact that my good driving record being shattered affects me more, and that thought of having to start the counting all over again. Counting the consecutive days driving without an accident, a ticket, or being pulled over; counting the number of days of perfect driving record. That's what I want to achieve more than anything. When the counting be disrupted by a lousy speeding ticket, a ticket which was very easy to avoid. The effort to avoid getting this ticket is nothing in compare to maintain a flawless driving record for just one year, 365 days driving. I should have pay more attention, and drive more defensive. I should have "mindful" while driving, a Buddhism teaching which one should be mindful on whatever one doing, down to the smallest unit of time. That bothers me more than the ticket. So, how long will this good driving habit last? Few days? Few months? Not quite sure, but I know if I get back to my Buddhism practices, being mindful on what I do, then I should not worry about how long my good driving habit would last; because it should last much longer time, until the day that I let my mind wanders again.

A thought in my mind about keeping a count on how many consecutive days driving without a ticket on my website, that would be a good reminder for me to drive defensively. Perhaps having a count like that on my website would remind me to be mindful on whatever I do. But then again, if I already mindful, then I should not need a reminder. Oh well, so much for watching my monkey thought jumping from one branch to another.