Monday, January 30, 2006


Found via Slashdot, originally from the BBC, copied here due to potential Slashdot effect on the story page in the near future. Presented here to justify this previous post of mine.

Scientific brain linked to autism

Scientists tend to be analytical
Highly analytical couples, such as scientists, may be more likely to produce children with autism, an expert has argued.

Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, of the University of Cambridge, said the phenomenon may help explain the recent rise in diagnoses.

He believes the genes which make some analytical may also impair their social and communication skills.

A weakness in these areas is the key characteristic of autism.

It is thought that around one child in every 100 has a form of autism - the vast majority of those affected are boys.

The number of diagnoses seems to be on the increase, but some argue this is simply because of a greater awareness of the condition.

In a paper published in the journal Archives of Disease of Childhood, Professor Baron-Cohen labels people such as scientists, mathematicians and engineers as 'systemizers'.

They are skilled at analysing systems - whether it be a vehicle, or a maths equation - to figure out how they work.

But they also tend to be less interested in the social side of life, and can exhibit behaviour such as an obsession with detail - classic traits associated with autism.

Body of evidence

Professor Baron-Cohen argues that systemizers are often attracted to each other - and thus more likely to pass 'autism' genes to their offspring.

He cited a survey of 1,000 members of the National Autistic Society which found fathers and grandfathers of children with autistic spectrum conditions are twice as likely to work in a systemizing profession.

In addition, students in the natural sciences have a higher number of relatives with autism than do students in the humanities, and mathematicians have a higher rate of autistic spectrum conditions compared with the general population.

Other research has found both mothers and fathers of children with autism score highly on a questionnaire measuring autistic traits.

Brain scan studies have also shown that mothers of autistic children often show patterns of brain activity more associated with men.

Professor Baron-Cohen said the rise in autism may be linked to the fact that it has become easier for systemizers to meet each other, with the advent of international conferences, greater job opportunities and more women working in these fields.

Richard Mills, of the National Autistic Society, said: "The society welcomes all new research, particularly that which helps us understand the nature and possible causes of autism and which may inform the support that we give to individuals.

"Over half a million people in the UK have a form of autism, it is a lifelong developmental disorder which requires specialist support."

Monday, January 23, 2006

It's alive!

After finding and implementing this fine camera battery hack, the Minolta (more specifically, "the Minolta's light meter") lives! Total cost, about $1.23 (battery plus wire). The hearing-aid batteries used won't last as long as the $30 adapter'ed alkalines would, but at $0.43 each, I'm not complaining.

I'm gonna stop by CVS tomorrow and see if they have any of that old tyme "film" stuff on the shelves.

Public Service

For Christmas, the girl's mom was kind enough to give me her old 35mm film camera (complete with 50mm f/1.4 prime lens, 28-80mm f/3.5 zoom lens, and flash). It's a late 60's or early 70's era Minolta SR-T 101. Mostly manual operation, with a battery operated TTL light meter, so you'll at least get an idea if your chosen aperature and shutter speed combinatin will produce a photo. The only downside of it is the mercury battery for the light meter. Mercury batteries aren't produced anymore (a good thing), and there is no off-the-shelf replacement. It looks like the best bet is a little $30 battery converter thingy, which will allow the use of modern button-cell batteries in the old-skool camera.

After receiving this fine camera, my first thought was "what the hell do all these buttons and levers on the body, and pointers needles in the viewfinder do?". So I went online to try and find a user's manual. After a lot of digging, I found this guy's site, which has just about the only user's manual available online without a fee. The downside is that it's available as 43 individual JPG files. Not the most convenient format. So thanks to the magic that is, I created a new document, imported all of the JPG image files, and exported the final product as a single large (11MB) PDF file.

Thanks to Ben and the generous hosting of (hosting service coming soon), I now present to you my first ever potentially useful PDF creation:

The PDF user's manual for the Minolta SR-T 101 camera.

Hopefully, one day, somebody on the net will Google looking for a copy as I did, and this will prove beneficial.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006


So I took a "sick" day from work today. I wasn't really "sick", but as our company doesn't have a "I'm a friggin' pansy, I climbed a mountain yesterday, and today I can't move my legs so I need a day off" day, I settled for "sick".

The girl and I made a full frontal assult on Old Rag in Virginia yesterday. The hike is (roughly) a 7 mile out-and-back, or a 9 mile loop (counting the nearly 1 mile walk (each way) to and from the parking lot to the trailhead). Total elevation gain/loss is about 2200 feet. So while she ain't Everest, she's still a good workout. Especially for a guy and a girl who's last walk up a mountain was many months ago (at best).

The first couple of miles of the hike is nothing more than walking up a seemingly endless series of switchbacks in the woods. Nothing to write home about. The good stuff comes in the last mile or two before the summit. That's where you get to the boulders. The trail becomes nothing more than blue paint blazes marking the "trail" over huge friggin' rocks (note, those are not my photos. I debated taking my camera, but thankfully, I didn't. I'd have definitely felt the extra weight. Additionally, the bulk in my pack would have made squeaking through tight rock crevaces impossible).

Try as we might, however, we didn't make the actual summit. We probably got within 100 yards of it (following the trail) and 20' (vertically). Ya see, Old Rag is one of the most popular hikes in VA. The summer outdoors season is a extremely busy time to make the hike. So bad, in fact, that on nice weekends, lines of hikers form while waiting to get up/past some of the more interesting obsticles. Therefore, a winter assult is a much more appealing thing (at least for me). Alas, the drawback of winter climbing is ice. As we neared the summit, the smooth rock faces, coupled with a slick 1/4" coating of ice stopped us. We managed to get past one really tricky/ice coated spot, but the next section was impassable for (non-climbing/amateur hiking/really f*ing tired/losing sunlight fast) us. With fading light and fading energy, we decided to turn around and make the hike back the way we came. The route down the boulders was just as interesting as the hike up, and the hike down the switchbacks was just as uninteresting. By the time we reached the bottom, our legs were jelly-like. The final insult is the mile walk down the road to the parking lot. I think the next time I make the hike, I'm going to bring along my beater singlespeed. I'll park in the lot, then bike to the trailhead. Lock the bike to a tree. Do the hike. Then bike back down the hill to the truck. Hell, the road slopes so much from the trailhead down to the parking lot, I doubt I'll even have to pedal. An extra mile or two doesn't seem like much, but at the end of the hike, you feel it.

Supposedly, somewhere near the summit, there is a scree field. Either we didn't make it that far, or I have no real idea what the hell "scree" is.

By far, the favorite part of the hike (both the girl and for me) was the bouldering. Anybody know where we can do more of that, without the long switchback/woods walks to tire you out beforehand? If you do, share it!

Friday, January 13, 2006

Happy Anniversary...

To me. Six years ago this month, I quit smoking. One of the best decisions I ever made. So I decided to celebrate the way I do every year. By doing a fat line of coke :)

(Note to the NSA: the part about the coke was a joke).

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Just slightly crazy

I stumled across link (on to a "how autistic are you?" test from Cambridge University Scientists. Knowing I've always been a little bit...err..."special" (in a charming sorta way), I took the test just to see where on the 0-50 scale I fell. First, the score breakdown is thus:

0-10 Low
11-22 Average (most women score about a 15, most men about 17)
23-31 Above average (and not in a good way!)
32-49 Very high (most people with high-functioning autism score about 35)
50 Maximum (call your doctor)

I took the test three times (so far), just to get an average. My results? 30, 35, 36 (in my own defense tho, I was drunk when I hit 35 last night). Unfortunately, I was stone cold sober today when I hit 36. Making my average (so far) 33.666666.

Wonder if this will qualify me for a special parking place at work?

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Art show

So the first public display of one of my photos is happening as I write this. Not quite as glamorous as I envisioned my "first time" being, but what can you do.

Granted, it ain't the Met, but if you happen to be in the neighborhood of the CVS store in Vienna, VA, stop in and check out my heron photo.

I went to the store last night to print up an 8x10 of that shot (since doing so at home would drain every black ink cartridge for miles around). When the photo popped out of the printer, the woman working the photo lab was quite impressed. After oooh-ing and ahhh-ing and showing the photo to the other clerks working the registers, she asked if she could have a copy to display in the store, along side of photos by other customers. Being a sucker for attention, I said yes, and there it hangs. They don't seem to have a set schedule for how long works will stay on display, so I imagine it could disappear at any time.