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Monday, September 26, 2005

Autism Book

I recently finished reading Making Peace with Autism by Susan Senator-- a wonderful book about one family's experiences raising an autistic child. Sue and her husband Ned are good friends of mine. Because of this, I read this book on a number of levels.

A beautifully and sensitively written account of the day-to-day challenges involved in raising a disabled child. It's also a great resource for parents of autistic children or for those who may yet have an autistic child or a child with any disability for that matter. Sue is very open about the stress she endured and continues to endure because of these challenges. But she tempers that with advice on how to deal with various situations that family's might encounter.

Reading a book that details the lives of people you actually know can be a bit unsettling. I'm ashamed to say that there are things I didn't know about Ned and Sue that I learned only by reading this book. I remember getting to a certain chapter and saying to myself, "Oh, here's where I first got to know Ned and Sue", only to realize that I didn't know half of what was going on in their lives at that time and later. Sue writes about a period during which their son Nat was suffering from a sleep disorder which caused the rest of the family to lose sleep. I can remember thinking on a number of occasions that Ned looked very tired. But I had just assumed that he had been up late writing code (Ned is a software engineer who absolutely loves to write code).

I never realized the challenges with which Ned and Sue were confronted on a day-to-day basis. At work, Ned always seemed in command and able to concentrate completely on his job. On the occasions I was invited to their home, Sue always seemed more concerned about her guests than any behavioral problems Nat might exhibit. I remember thinking that Nat's excellent behavior must be due to some real effort on Ned and Sue's part and some excellent educational programs they must have found for Nat. But this book really opened my eyes to the amount of effort they had to expend to achieve this and the difficulty in finding the right programs for Nat.

As an aside, I always knew that Ned was a real family man and so I'd like to relate a story about Ned that didn't appear in the book and maybe even Sue doesn't know.

Ned and I worked at a company called Iris Associates ( the makers of Lotus Notes) which was a division of Lotus Development. Every January, Lotus would hold a big conference called LotusSphere which took place at Disney World. That particular year, we were all given Motorola text pagers that we could use to send messags and receive email. These pagers ended up becoming very useful in setting up various extracurricular activities during the week. On the last day of this conference, a number of us happened to have some free time so we rented these little motorboats that you could putt around the lake in. We were all having a great time except for Ned. One of Ned's kids (I don't remember which one) had come down with a fever and Ned was pretty upset about it. He really wanted to be home with his family instead of in a tiny boat at Disney World. But then Ned received an email from Sue on his pager. His son's fever had broken and everything was OK. Ned's whole face brightened and he ended up having a lot of fun for the rest of the day. That's the kind of caring family man Ned is.

Making Peace with Autism is just a beautiful book both in style and in Sue's honesty and her sincere desire to improve the lives of autistic individuals and their families. I highly recommend it even even for those who are not raising a child with disabilities.

Don Adams

Don Adams passed away yesterday. For those of you who have been living under a rock for the last 35 years or so (or are much younger than I am), Don Adams was the star of the comedy series Get Smart--an absolutely brilliant sitcom of the late-60s written by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry. I loved this show even before I got all the Brooksian psuedo-Judaic humor. I can remember my father doing a wonderful imitation of Maxwell Smart. "Would you believe...it's bedtime?".

I loved the opening credits in which Maxwell Smart made his way through multiple door configurations to finally wind up at the telephone booth that would drop him into CONTROL headquarters with all the flair of Batman on the batpole. I loved his arch-nemesis Siegfried and his sidekick Starker, Hymie the robot, Harry Hoo, The "Craw" and of course, the lovely Agent 99.

Rest in peace Don Adams...

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Favorite Albert Einstein joke

How do you get an elephant into a black hole? That’s the easy part. Try getting him out.

Monday, September 12, 2005


I wasn't around yesterday or I would have posted this sooner...

Not surprisingly, I was thinking back on the events of September 11. I remember it vividly. Just a week earlier, I had been "furloughed" from the startup at which I had been working. "Furlough" is a euphemism for "we're circling the drain and so we're laying you off. But if someone finds a plunger strong enough to suck us back out of that drain, we'll give you a call." My friend Ned was the only one of us kept on to make the product we had built do whatever a customer or company willing to acquire us wanted it to do.

I woke up on September 11 and immediately turned on NBC to see what what was new with Katie Couric that morning. She was reporting that a plane had crashed into one of the World Trade towers and was wondering whether there was some problem with air traffic control in that area.

Ned was at work so I IM'ed him the news over Yahoo Messenger. As events unfolded, I gave Ned a play-by-play account of what was going on. I can remember typing, "Oh my God, another plane has hit the other tower" and "Now they think that this might be a terrorist attack!" Months later I was devastated to find out that I had inadvertently deleted the log file of that entire IM conversation. That's something I really would like to have kept around and looked at from time to time.

My friend Andrew was on his honeymoon in Europe and ended up being stranded there for quite a while until the planes starting flying again. I was able to contact him a couple of times via IM as he was able to find an Internet cafe in Spain.

Later on that day I realized that my father sometimes drove to downtown New York for meetings. It took me a while to reach my mother and when I finally did, I learned that he indeed had a meeting scheduled for that morning downtown and my mother had not yet heard from him. Luckily, my father had gotten a late start and by the time he reached the city, they had already begun closing the roads and he had to turn back.

Since I was unemployed, the day before I had sent out a networking email to friends of mine asking whether any of them knew of any job openings. This included friends at Sun Microsystems. It was then that I found out that a former boss of mine, Phil Rosenzweig had been on American Airlines flight 11. If this event hadn't been quite real for me, it became real at that point. A short time later, I attended a memorial service for Phil attended by hundreds of friends and well-wishers. Limousine 18, the limo service that had taken Phil (and me) to the airport so many times offerred to provide free shuttle service from a nearby parking lot to the synagogue. Just one example of the numerous small acts of kindness that were so prevalent at the time.

So here we are 4 years later with our country reeling from another disaster. This time, an attack of nature as opposed to an attack by terrorists. All of this makes one feel a lot less secure even while living in the "most powerful nation on Earth..."

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