Thursday, December 14, 2006

Truth and Consequences

It is embarrassing, but I feel I owe my readers an apology.

You may have noticed (I hope you noticed) that I haven't posted any blogs since October. Basically, I lost computer privileges because I didn't follow the rules for safe online activity.

Here's what happened:

(Oh, how I wish the names could be changed to protect Me!)

I joined an online forum without telling my parents. I had the bad sense to use my dad's email address for the registration. And, to top it all off, I ended up getting banned from the forum for spamming. I didn't mean to spam the forum, but I got carried away trying to "earn" the title of "Postmonger". "Postmonger" is the forum's notation for any participant who posts more than 340 times. I sent 258 nonsense posts to the forum in a 48-hour period trying to become a postmonger. The forum sent a note to my parents, who promptly took away computer privileges and put me on a, ummmm, behavior modification program.

(That was painful)


So, did I learn any lessons from this incident? YES!

1. It is absolutely not worth it to try to get over on my parents. They always know what I'm doing sooner or later. And they have rules for good reasons (most of the time). Even worse - this was a forum that they would have allowed me to visit if I'd just asked. (I hate irony!)

2. I am irresistibly drawn to the compelling challenge. I don't know whether this is because of my issues with Asperger's, my lack of impulse control, or simply because I'm a goal-oriented/competitive person. The forum administrator probably didn't intend to set up the "postmonger" title as a goal. But to me a title is a title and I had to have it. I hope to channel this positively in terms of completing degrees and achieving my goals - but apparently I have to watch it or I'll go off the deep end on the next pet rock craze.

3. Internet security and safety is no joke. Kids must let their parents know where they go online and who they talk to - in chat rooms, forums, and by email. Things aren't always what they seem online. That cool kid on Runescape could actually be an unemployed truck driver from New Jersey.

4. And finally, it was probably not a good idea to list "stalking" as one of my hobbies. Jokes don't always translate well online. It wasn't true, but still not a great idea.

Stay safe out there!

Stephen

PS If anyone wants to talk to me about this, leave a comment and I'll post back or email me at giftedgear@gmail.com.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Once more, with feeling....

(Although I really like this one, I didn't write it)

If Bud Abbott and Lou Costello were alive today, their famous sketch, "Who's on First?" might have turned out something like this:

COSTELLO CALLS TO BUY A COMPUTER FROM ABBOTT


COSTELLO: Thanks. I'm setting up an office in my den and I'm thinking about buying a computer.

ABBOTT: Mac?

COSTELLO: No, the name's Lou.

ABBOTT: Your computer?

COSTELLO: I don't own a computer. I want to buy one.

ABBOTT: Mac?

COSTELLO: I told you, my name's Lou.

ABBOTT: What about Windows?

COSTELLO: Why? Will it get stuffy in here?

ABBOTT: Do you want a computer with Windows?

COSTELLO: I don't know. What will I see when I look at the windows?

ABBOTT: Wallpaper.

COSTELLO: Never mind the windows I need a computer and software.

ABBOTT: Software for Windows?

COSTELLO: No. On the computer ! I need something I can use to write proposals track expenses and run my business. What do you have?

ABBOTT: Office.

COSTELLO: Yeah, for my office. Can you recommend anything?

ABBOTT: I just did.

COSTELLO: You just did what?

ABBOTT: Recommend something.

COSTELLO: You recommended something?

ABBOTT: Yes.

COSTELLO: For my office?

ABBOTT: Yes.

COSTELLO: OK, what did you recommend for my office?

ABBOTT: Office.

COSTELLO: Yes, for my office!

ABBOTT: I recommend Office with Windows.

COSTELLO: I already have an office with windows! OK, let's just say I'm sitting at my computer and I want to type a proposal. What do I need?

ABBOTT: Word.

COSTELLO: What word?

ABBOTT: Word in Office.

COSTELLO: The only word in office is office.

ABBOTT: The Word in Office for Windows.

COSTELLO: Which word in office for windows?

ABBOTT: The Word you get when you click the blue "W".

COSTELLO: I'm going to click your blue "w" if you don't start with some straight answers. What about financial bookkeeping? You have anything I can track my money with?

ABBOTT: Money.

COSTELLO: That's right. What do you have?

ABBOTT: Money.

COSTELLO: I need money to track my money?

ABBOTT: It comes bundled with your computer.

COSTELLO: What's bundled with my computer?

ABBOTT: Money.

COSTELLO: Money comes with my computer?

ABBOTT: Yes No extra charge.

COSTELLO: I get a bundle of money with my computer? How much?

ABBOTT: One copy.

COSTELLO: Isn't it illegal to copy money?

ABBOTT: Microsoft gave us a license to copy Money.

COSTELLO: They can give you a license to copy money?

ABBOTT: Why not? THEY OWN IT!

(A few days later) ABBOTT: Super Duper computer store. Can I help you?

COSTELLO: How do I turn my computer off?

ABBOTT: Click on "START"......

Friday, October 13, 2006

With Apologies to Gilbert and Sullivan...

I am the very model of a minor, twice exceptional,
About which science theories are misleading and deceptional.
You’ll find I’m very funny, sarcastic, and rhetorical,
I enjoy a good debate and conversations, metaphorical.
I’m well versed in mythology and Physics, theoretical,
With quantum realities, literal and hypothetical.
You’ll find me residing here on the continuum Autistic,
With interests eclectic and diversified; I’m Gifted, not simplistic!

Give my regards to Broadway!

Stephen

Friday, October 06, 2006

Musical Theater and Exercises in Futility

My sister is a talented and gifted artist. She sings, dances, acts, draws, sculpts, etc., etc. My friends assure me that she is beautiful (their word is "Hot!", but it doesn't seem quite right to me). She is also very funny. Think Avril Lavigne, Lucille Ball, and Cinderella all rolled up into one with more than a dash of Xena, Warrior Princess, thrown in.

What I've noticed, though, is that wherever my sister goes - there are lots of other pretty girls and very few boys. Thinking that this might make it easier for me to meet girls, I decided to go with her to Musical Theater class. (Plus, I thought it would have the added benefit of getting my mom off my back about learning to dance.) It didn't work out quite that way.

It never occurred to me that Musical Theater class would be difficult for me. I've always loved music and I'm a pretty good singer. First, class was loud. The girls were chatting and they played the same music over and over. Second, I felt out of place. It wasn't that I was a boy. More, they pretty much ignored me. The teacher was friendly, but when I couldn't bring myself to participate fully she went on with the class.

Why couldn't I participate fully? I recently read an article by Temple Grandin about her experience with autism. Dr. Grandin noted that she experiences difficulties with rhythm, timing, and musicality. She and other authors also believe that with autism and Asperger's Syndrome comes a higher degree of anxiety. I do feel anxious a lot. Doctors and teachers (two of my biggest triggers) really make me nervous. I've been having some trouble in my voice lessons with focusing on one song, understanding the timing of the music, and performing. I never thought that these might be symptoms of the Asperger's, but what if they are?

How do I get past these drawbacks and really pursue the things I like? Granted, musical theater is not going to be one of those things. But hopefully, my music, girls (in the future!), and even performing with a band will be things I can pursue without anxiety sooner, rather than later.

Have a great week.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Dedicated to Dr. R. (You KNOW who you are!)

So, a guy is flying in a hot air balloon. He's lost. He lowers himself down over a field and yells to a guy there:

Balloon guy (BG): Can you tell me where I am and which way I'm headed?

Ground guy (GG): Sure. You're at 43 degrees, 2 minutes, 12 seconds north; 135 degrees, 17 minutes, 3 seconds east. You're at 324 meters above sea level. Right now, you're hovering, but on your way here you were at a vector of 244 degrees and 3.2 meters per second .

BG: Amazing. Thanks. By the way, do you have Asperger's Syndrome?

GG: Geeze! I do! But how did you know that?

BG: Well, everything you told me is incredibly accurate, you've given me more detail than I need, but you've told me in a way that makes it completely useless to me!

GG: Huh. Are you a clinical psychologist?

BG: I am! But how the heck did you know that????

GG: You don't know where you are, and you don't know where you're going. You got where you are by blowing hot air. You put labels on people after asking them a few questions. And, you're in exactly the same spot you were 5 minutes ago, but now, somehow, it's my fault!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Friday, September 15, 2006

Life List

I watch the Ellen Degeneres talk show sometimes. She's been talking a lot about life lists this season.

I want a life list. They seem useful. Like, I might grow up and forget what I want to do with my life. And, imagine having a list to tell me what I haven't done yet. I tried relying on mom, but she only remembers undone chores. Not so much fun.

Anyway, here are the things that are on my life list right now:

1. Learn to make sushi.
2. Invent time travel.
3. Learn capoeira.
4. Meet Stephen Hawking and Dr. J. Richard Gott.
5. Direct a Sci-Fi romantic comedy movie.
6. Write a Sci-Fi romantic comedy movie.
7. Sing with the Penguins and Chuck Berry.
8. Go to the Olympics and watch Beach Volleyball and Curling .
9. Learn Japanese.
10. Write an historical fiction of the Battle of Sekigahara.
11. Take my cousins to Disney World.

Why do I want to do these things? Well, first - I have to eat something when I grow up. It might as well be really good. Who wants to get stuck eating macaroni and cheese for years until they learn how to cook? With sushi, I won't ever have to cook!

I'm actually making progress in the time travel department. So far, I've figured out how to travel to the future - one second at a time. Just kidding. Actually, I'm serious about time travel. Dr. Gott's book, "Time Travel Through Einstein's Universe" is one of my all time favorite theoretical physics books. Actually, its one of my favorite books period.

I'm just getting started on my life list. I reserve the right to change my mind in the future.

Hasta la vista!

Stephen

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Reader Q & A

Well, I really want to do a Reader Q&A post, but we've got very few Q and only slightly more A.

One of the big questions I've been asked is:

Q. "Why 'Gifted Gear'"?

A. First, its an homage to 'Guilty Gear' - the rock and roll fighting game. (Which may be the weirdest fighting game I've ever seen - but I enjoy it.) Second, I was really trying to do a sort of geek site where I would do reviews on actual toys, games, electronics, that gifted kids would enjoy. Honestly, I'd hoped to make a little money on a related site with links to the stores that sell the item and, eventually, get FREE stuff and become a gear Beta tester. But, I'm having a lot of fun blogging, so I may never get the other web site up. (FREE stuff is still accepted!)

Related Q. "Why are you writing about Asperger's instead of Gear?"

Related A. Well, they say write what you know. The closest I've been to gear, so far, is my computer and my GameCube controller. The first people kind enough to read my blog sent feedback indicating that I might actually develop a readership if I talked about what life is like as a gifted, Asperger's kid. Luckily, I do enjoy writing about my life. My life is fun. It would be even more fun with more gear though. (See above!)

Well, that gets us started. If you have more questions, comments, suggestions, or
FREE gear - please email me at giftedgear@gmail.com.

Stephen

Asperger's Syndrome and Me

Although you have to meet me to be able to define me (and I haven’t done so completely, yet), I have collected various labels in my 10 years. Some labels are rather obvious – boy, kid, and glasses-wearer. Some are not so obvious – procrastinator, best friend, and smart. Asperger’s Syndrome is different than all of these. I like to call it a “personality effect.” This is “defect” without the “d”.

The clinical definition of Asperger’s Syndrome is “a developmental disorder in which people have difficulties understanding how to interact socially,” according to www.WebMD.com. “People with Asperger's syndrome have some traits of autism, especially weak social skills and a preference for sameness and routine. However, unlike those with autism, children with Asperger's syndrome usually start to talk around 2 years of age (the age at which speech normally develops). They have normal to above-normal intelligence.”

I started school at age 5, going to a public school kindergarten at Fort Lewis, Washington. Although I was ahead of my classmates academically, I had trouble with the social structure of class. I talked too much and didn’t participate in activities. I switched to a private church school, Evergreen Christian Academy, in October. I liked Evergreen. I didn’t do my class work, I played by myself at recess, and I spent a lot of time in the office talking to the principal. She was the first person to suggest that I might be autistic (not that I knew that at the time).

In the summer of 2002, my family moved to Heidelberg, Germany. I attended Patrick Henry Elementary School on post. My first grade class was a German immersion class. I was very frustrated with the lack of translation and communication between English and German. Frau B. was frustrated with me. She didn’t believe that I should get extra challenges because, after all, I didn’t know German. In January of that year I was bumped to second grade. That was fun as long as I remembered when, exactly, to use my library pass to escape my frustrated teacher. Mr. H.’s class was much better. It was in English (which is major), and he was easier to get along with.

I met Eric, Ms. P, and Mari that year. Eric is my best friend, but we are exact opposites. We had “gifted” classes and cub scouts together. Ms. P was the TAG (talented and gifted) program. She has very little imagination, to my way of thinking – but I liked her. She wasn’t exactly sure what to do with Eric and me. Mari was the Special Education teacher. She was SPECIAL (as in absolutely terrific!). She was my first introduction to Elvis. She “had my number” from day one, and liked me anyway. I spent the next year in third grade and started fifth grade in my third year of school, all the while doing TAG and Special Ed. In Special Ed, I worked on social skills. I helped other students, played games, went fishing, popped popcorn, and danced with Mari. Life was great!

My parents pulled me out of public school in January, 2005, because it was just painful being in class. I was in trouble all the time for talking and not participating, and I was lonely when Eric moved to Texas. I tried, but I couldn’t seem to do anything right at school. The PHES Vice Principal, Ms. P ( a different one), gave me lots of support and personal attention but I really could not function in the classroom without somebody sitting next to me and helping every minute of every day. I started taking classes at CMA. I like CMA because its online (giving me yet another excuse to be on the computer) and the coursework is fun. I really like all of the mentors I’ve met and worked with: Linda Beth, Lisa T., Diane E., and Kim A.. My main mentor, Linda Beth, also seems to "have my number" and I believe that she likes me too. Even better, I really seem to fit in with the other students of all ages.

Asperger’s Syndrome is not something that you can see when you look at me. At home I don’t notice it much. Everybody is odd at home, at least at my home. Out in public, my biggest social skills challenge is shaking hands and when strangers, usually older adults, try to touch me (not in any inappropriate way – just rubbing my head or patting my shoulder). At first I shrugged, ducked, and swatted their hands away. Then I cut down on the swatting and tried waving “hello.” I figured if I said hi first, they wouldn’t offer to shake hands. Now, I just put up with it. It’s a good strategy because it works without embarrassing anybody.

Other coping strategies I’ve used or heard of are “So?,” buzz off cards, and “get out of line free” pass. “So?” is a strategy I use when someone is bugging me. Its amazing how annoyed bullies get when you respond to their taunts with “so?” or “why?”. Buzz off cards are business cards that parents can give to a stranger when an autistic kid has a tantrum in public and they want to explain the behavior without actually taking the time to define autism. I don’t think they actually say “buzz off”, that’s just what my parents called them. We’ve never used them since I don’t have tantrums in public, but they sound really effective. The “get out of line free” pass is my favorite. At amusement parks, like Disney World or Six Flags, I get a disability pass that allows me to skip the long lines waiting for rides. That’s cool because I don’t have to wait in long, loud, hot lines with strangers pressing in on all sides.

I consider Asperger’s to be something that has an effect on my personality. But, I don’t consider it a disability. In fact, I’m rather enjoying myself. If it wasn’t for Asperger’s, I’d still be in public school as a 4th grader. Asperger’s is an opportunity in many ways. It gives me more quality time with my parents and it operates as a “get out of line free” card for me.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Parental Supervision and Nutjob Cultists

Brian Clevinger writes a webcomic called "8-bit Theater" that is what exactly what my blog would be without parental supervision. (www.nuklearpower.com)

"8-bit Theater" is the ultimate in web-based video game parody. The characters are drawn from Final Fantasy, the jokes are drawn from gaming culture (and hormonal male adolescence), and the storyline picks up where the original game never began. In short, Clevinger adds an actual, original story to the game premise of providing an excuse to mow down large numbers of randomly encountered monsters.

I read "8-bit Theater" for a while before I showed it to my parents. The strip has blood, sexual references, and some cursing. I really didn't think that my parents would understand or appreciate the humor involved or let me keep reading the strip.

So, what made me finally show "8-bit Theater" to my parents? Last night I read the most hilarious comic and I needed to share the joke with my mom. Actually, I needed to use the joke to make fun of my mother. One of the characters, Red Mage, is granted a last request by the Evil Villain Cult People. (See Episodes 739 and 740).

Red Mage: "At any given point in history there are doomsday cults. Such as yourselves. For a thousand years your kind has striven for and preached an end of times that will never be."

Villain: "Your question?"

Red Mage: "My question is, What's it LIKE to be as stupid as you are ugly?"

Villain: [Here the character delivers a HUGE monologue on the nature of beauty encompassing 3/4 of the comic that is somewhat boring, but is more entertaining in comic form than if I typed it here.]

Red Mage: "I was being RHETORICAL."

Villain: "Sorry. I was a philosophy major, so nutjob cultist is the only job I can hold."

Mom actually took the joke pretty well. Dad was rolling on the floor laughing (actually it was the couch, but you get the idea). Mom WAS a philosophy major in college. I guess Dad could easily see her being a nutjob cultist too.

Actually, she would be the god worshipped by the nutjob cultist. She's that kind of control freak. No, thats not true either - but my parents are seriously overprotective. Parental supervision is not completely overrated, but its still somewhat annoying. For example, I couldn't read, see, or play Pokemon until I was 9. My sister and I have had to practice self defense techniques (all well and good until she uses them to hurt me). And, I'm not allowed to stay home alone for more than 15 minutes.

So, imagine my surprise when my parents read "8-bit Theater" and decided I could continue reading it myself. They said that it was as if I had invented time travel and was showing them what my work in the future would be. They also said that the blood and gore is indistinctly (I say poorly) drawn; the sexual references are infrequent and juvenile (and Mom particularly likes the fact that White Mage routinely kicks Black Mage around for being inappropriate); and the cursing is no worse than I hear from Uncle Scott (the Marine). I also know that they believe that their job is to prepare me to make good decisions, no matter what the circumstances.

So, now my behavior is my responsibility? What nutjob cultist came up with that idea?!?!?!?!?!

Monday, August 28, 2006

What's on Your Reading List?

What are you reading this summer? Do you read one book at a time? Or many?

I tend to read a lot of books at once. My mom reads one at a time - currently Wicked by Gregory Maguire. I can tell she's having trouble getting excited about it because she didn't finish it in 2 hours. My dad reads a lot of magazines and special reports. Fortunately for me, we like a lot of the same magazines - Wired, PC Magazine, and anything about computers. I have subscriptions to Boy's Life, Reader's Digest, and Shonen Jump (and I'm lobbying hard for Electronic Gaming Monthly).

My parents aren't too fussy about what I read. They very rarely put anything totally off limits forever, but things that are really inappropriate aren't negotiable. For example, when I read the prologue to Wicked, Mom asked me to wait before finishing the book. She thinks the author has some mature themes going and she wants to see how they resolve before letting me read it. So I have some hope of reading it soon. On the other hand, I won't be allowed to read any graphic, horror, or hentai manga in this lifetime.

Even when I am allowed to buy a book, I won't always get to read it. When I was 5, I read the first Harry Potter books. I had to stop reading them when I stopped behaving at school. Of course we later found out that I have Asperger's with ODD (oppositional/defiant traits) so that may have had something to do with my school troubles - but just in case Harry, Ron, and Hermione were the culprits encouraging me to disregard rules and defy adult authority, mom and dad pulled the books until 2nd grade.

Mom used to read every book before I did. Now, we both know the authors and types of books that I like, so I have carte blanche in most areas. She only pre-screens manga, non-child oriented literature, and some science fiction. (Yet, she always gets to the Harry Potter books first!) I personally stay away from books about demons, Germanic fairy tales, and anything with a pink cover. (Pink is the color of evil! Just Kidding). I've been known to have nightmares after reading something scary - even up to a week later. For example, the Erlking scared me to death. When I start shaking, crying, and can't sleep, I use a breathing relaxation technique to calm down and I repeat the Abbott and Costello "Who's on First" routine over and over in my head. If these things don't work, I go wake up my parents! (Sometimes its good to be a kid)

I am currently reading or re-reading the following (in no particular order, except Manga First!):

Naruto, Masashi Kishimoto
Hikaru no Go, Yumi Hotta
TeniPuri, Takeshi Konomi
Yuyu Hakusho, Yoshihiro Togashi
Trigun, Yasuhiro Nighto
The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis
The Tempest, William Shakespeare
Caves of Steel, Isaac Asimov (The Robot Series)
The Complete Calvin and Hobbes, Bill Watterson
Del Tora Quest, Emily Rodda
The Universe in a Nutshell, Stephen Hawking
The Ultimate Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams (The Series)
Time Travel in Einstein's Universe, J. Richard Gott
The Cuckoo's Egg, Cliff Stoll
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, Samuel Clemens

Keep turning those pages!

Stephen

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Twice Gifted

Twice gifted is a term used for discussing and labeling gifted and talented children with special needs. Now, I'm not much for discussing and labeling - especially since usually I'm the one who is being discussed and labeled around my house (and these discussions are about me not with me, but more on that later).

Most of the gifted and talented kids I know have other issues (like parents, ha!). Twice gifted kids not only have issues, they have actual learning disabilities and other special needs. By special needs, I mean diagnoses such as autism, Asperger's, ADD, ADHD, dyslexia, etc.

You think this is unlikely?

Monday, August 14, 2006

Christa McAuliffe Academy

The best advice given to aspiring writers is usually - Write what you know. At first glance, I'd say that advice is pretty limiting. The life of a 10 year old is pretty much school, family, and recreation. So, it seems fitting that in reviewing great gear for gifted kids my first post should be about something I know well - my school.

Christa McAuliffe Academy (www.cmacademy.org) is a fully accredited online school that is ideal for gifted students. It is ideal because it offers individual attention from professional educators in an environment that is self paced and focused on special interests.

I began attending CMA in January 2005 after many years of struggling in the public school system. I was a 4th grader when I started and am now in the middle of 7th grade. The courses are a combination of online work - taking classes and tests on a secure website and meeting with my teacher and classmates in a secure private classroom with voice and video capability - and offline work - including research, writing, art and physical education.

The best thing about CMA, from my perspective, is the ability to study things I'm interested in. Just this summer I've learned about African American history in Virginia, capoeira (afro-Brazilian martial art), Shakespeare (I'm reading the Tempest), video game design, and Japanese robotics. Even the things I'm not really interested in aren't too bad at CMA. This spring, for example, I had trouble with 6th grade fractions. Ugh! My teacher met with me online everyday and helped me work the problems until I really understood them.

I think CMA is the perfect school for a talented and gifted kid because it doesn't matter whether you are an overachiever, underachiever, or have special needs like me (I have a mild form of autism called Asperger's Syndrome), the classes can be formatted to draw on your strengths and strengthen your weaknesses.

If you are interested in learning more about the online learning experience that could be your gifted and talented kid's best opportunity at Christa McAuliffe Academy (www.cmacademy.org), tell them Stephen sent you!

Sayonara!

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Grand Opening!

Welcome to Gifted Gear Reviews.

This space is dedicated to presenting my thoughts and opinions about the gear available to stimulate the minds and interests of gifted children.

Why should you care about my opinions? All I have to offer on the subject is personal experience, but that experience is exactly why I can tell you whether something is likely to educate, entertain, or amuse the gifted child in your life.

My name is Stephen. I'm 10 years old and considered bright (and sometimes annoying, but that's another story). I am currently finishing the 7th grade and for fun I enjoy high school and college courses and clubs. My academic interests are theoretical and quantum physics, Japanese language and culture, and reading. I'm also into creative writing, anime and manga, tennis, curling, and video game design.

I hope you enjoy reading my comments regarding the various items selected for profiling here. If you have any comments, suggestions, or concerns feel free to post them or send them to me at GiftedGear@GMail.com. My parents screen every email, but will make sure that I can answer your questions.

Thanks and have a great day!

Stephen