June 24, 2015

  • Let us discuss Racism, Shall We?

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    For those that have followed me a long time on this blog, you know that I don't address controversial topics that often.  In fact, I prefer to find common ground on topics and move forward together.

    The picture in this post is a screen shot of the definition of racism.   I share this so we can discuss a bit more about this topic....

    First, a little background about me:  I'm listed as a caucasian (white) male.  I grew up mainly in Northern California in a predominantly white small town in the east bay of San Francisco.   However, I have had an eclectic group of friends over the years from various backgrounds.

    Personally I never understood racism.  The concept that one group of people is 'better' than another based on skin color is lacking on so many levels, all it shows is a significant amount of ignorance.

    If we look at History and the subject of racism, it's not always a black or white issue.   Every 'race' throughout history has had a group of people that has had prejudice towards them in some way.   I don't want to downplay any group of people, but just trying to put things into perspective when discussing racism.

    For example:

    When we look at the United States History... the Europeans who landed in the new world perceived the Native Americans as barbaric.
    If one was an immigrant from Ireland - you were thought of as being a lesser person.   Same if you were Asian origin and worked on the railroads.

    There are indentured servants, and there is slavery.   Although much of the population of slaves were from Africa, there were slaves of other origins as well.

    I think society has looked at racism on such a surface level, and with media so focused on the color of our skin - we have lost site at what it's really about... 'cultural identity'.

    Allow me to explain my thought on this before everyone goes crazy here...

    I'm sure that my DNA will show that I'm predominately a white person - of european descent.   Who knows what other DNA strands may show about my family lineage.   When people ask what race I am, I usually say 'white'... or if I am really honest... I'm human.   As last I checked, that's what we really are when we look at the big picture.   For all I know, I may have african or native american DNA in me.   With both sides of my family traced to the prior founding of the colonies - I'm sure that somewhere in my lineage my DNA has strands from various continents.

    But we are so much more than the color of our skin.   We are individuals who were born into different segments of society.  These segments are the different communities that are around us, with each community having it's own cultural differences...thus its own cultural identity.

    Does someone really choose where they are born and who their parents are?  no, we don't have that choice.   This is called life, and what we do with our life is up to us.   We all have choices in this regard.   We can either choose to live how our ancestors used to, or choose to change.

    There is a significant amount of history with each community, and this history must be respected and preserved.   We may not like what one community has done to another - but knowing what did happen so we don't repeat it is paramount of growing as a society.

    So, when someone talks to me about racism - it's so much more than just the color of one's skin.  It's about a group of people, about their history as a community.  It's about infringement on someone else's rights to believe what they believe, and to keep the history of their culture available for all to learn from and understand.

    We must not combat racism with another form of racism either, as that is similar to fighting bullying by being a bully ourselves.   We must educate ourselves, and encourage one another to understand the differences.

    In short, we must look beyond the color of one's skin, and focus on the content of one's character.

    Sound familiar?   It should.   And we should by now, be living it.

    It's our history, our heritage.   Let's preserve it and learn from it.

June 3, 2015

  • The Autisable Logo - A Deeper Meaning


    I've been involved in a discussion on Autisable's group page on LinkedIn.

    For the past 6 years Autisable has been focused on sharing all aspects of what life is like with Autism, from all perspectives.

    Those new to the website and what we're about are having concerns.  Some of these concerns reflect on Autisable's logo and tag line.

    After Autisable relaunches, we will be updating the tag line, which currently reads, "real blogs from people tackling the puzzle of autism."

    This tag line is out dated for a number of reasons:
    1 - aren't most blogs written by 'real people' anyway?
    2 - the words 'tackling the puzzle of autism' really doesn't define what Autisable has become.   This phrase also has struck a negative chord with many who are on the spectrum.

    The puzzle piece logo is also something that several in the community take offense at, primarily because some on the spectrum don't want to be defined as being a puzzle piece.

    But, a lot of work went into the design of the logo, and the name.  So allow me to share some thoughts as to the name 'Autisable' and the 'logo' and what we're doing...

    First - our puzzle piece logo is based on several factors, as it is a remnant of Xanga.com's primary colors from the company that founded Autisable six years ago.   It has become a brand that many have identified with, and many with and without autism have responded to us (and me directly) that Autisable remains objective and understanding - and that we have a good reputation.

    It is easy to assume that our puzzle piece logo is only about Autism, and although the puzzle piece is itself highly recognizable to represent Autism... that's not our focus on our use of it in our logo, but rather a by product of it being used.   Some corporate logos do have multiple meanings, and ours falls into that category.

    The triangle logo, consisting of 4 color puzzle pieces joined together is about community... and therefore has a deeper meaning...

    Allow me to explain further...

    Each triangle puzzle piece represents the different facets of our community, coming together to discuss all perspectives. They are not standing alone, like many puzzle piece logos of other autism organizations.  Ours are together, united.   Therefore, it is not about Autism itself, but rather the community - the parent/caregivers, the non-profits, the siblings... and the adults who are on the spectrum.   Each part of our community is a significant component.   We're all in this together.

    So the puzzle pieces (for us) isn't about autism, it's about the different parts of our community.

    To explain the logo a bit further as to its design...

    the four puzzle pieces are like parts of an arrowhead that when united, are pointing to the word 'Autisable' - which is two words combined "Autism and Able"  (not to be confused with ableism, which we find rather offensive as well).    We simply are providing a means by which anyone is able to share and discuss anything associated with Autism, without judgement... and with respect.

    So we submit that our logo is a community coming together to discuss and share about Autism.

    While personally I'm only a neurotypical parent of a child with Autism, I'm regularly discussing what Autisable is about with everyone, especially people with Autism.   From Mike Buckholtz to John Elder Robison, to Stuart Duncan and the list goes on....  I'm always making sure Autisable remains objective and balanced in the discussions surrounding Autism and the community.

    People with Autism share their journey, and educate many on what works, and what doesn't.  We've learned a great deal from people who have autism, and are constantly improving as a result.

    Parents and Caregivers have their perspective, as they have their own set of challenges as well.

    Non-profits and Corporations have their purpose, and try to help the best they can.

    Everyone must be heard.

    We are promoting discussion, on all sides of the issues surrounding Autism.   I understand that by doing so we open ourselves up to scrutiny on every side, and that's ok.   Our purpose is to look for the common points we can all agree on and move forward with.


    We know that our tag line is out dated.  Much has been done in the past 6 years to educate the general public (and us) on the subject of Autism.   We now know that 'tackling the puzzle of autism' has actually caused more harm than good, and we are working on way to capture more of what we are about and what we've become.


    We've connected with several hundred bloggers (with and without autism) and dozens of non-profits to bring the ever dynamic discussion of autism to the general public.


    Prior to this past year, where our site was shut down due to it being overhauled, we reached hundreds of thousands of people each month - many not knowing anything more about Autism then what the media brought to the table with such topics as vaccinations or the movie Rainman.


    We want the general public to know and understand just how diverse Autism is, and its impact on being a part of an individual or family, or even society.


    Bottom line:  We want the general public to know more about how those with Autism deserve the same respect and opportunity as anyone else.



May 28, 2015

  • Protecting a TV


    For those who have children and flat screen TV's, this post may help you.   For us, the added component of autism tends to lend itself to some periodic meltdowns.  These meltdowns can result in some damage occurring in the home, including the destruction of property... like a TV.

    Protecting a TV, or even other electronics, has become a priority in our home.   Many Autism Parents may understand the challenges we have to overcome to make things happen in this area, so I won't dive into all the background discussion.  The point of this post isn't to dwell on any issues, but to provide a solution, right?

    So let's get down to it...

    We already lost a TV due to a meltdown.  An object was thrown, and the TV screen was hit.   And as it is with many TV's now, the screen busted and the TV became unusable.
    Cost to repair a TV with this sort of damage is about the same as buying a new one.

    We debated at the expense, but decided on replacing the TV with another one.   Their are some routines that benefit our son, and us, by having a TV available in his room.

    But, we wanted to protect the next TV and looked online for anything that could be a protective cover... a screen... a TV Shield if you will.
    Most TV cases or protective covers start at a price of over $100 or more.   The average price we found was around $150, depending on the size of the TV.

    Here's an picture of what a shield would look like... (rather simple, really)


    Suffice it to say, paying out $180 for a sheet of acrylic made no sense.   After all, we both worked in the retail industry and knew what some stores payed for formed plastics at a wholesale cost.

    In our online research (thanks to google and youtube), we found that some folks contacted a local plastics company to create a TV shield.   This is essentially a sheet of acrylic that is placed in front of a TV to help protect it, as shown in the above picture.

    I remembered a company that is local to us, in Norfolk, VA, called Norva Plastics.   Looking on their website they also specialize in creating outdoor cases TV's for restaurants, and also protective/safe cases for hospitals and elsewhere.   I figured they should know what may work, and how best to install one on our TV.

    So, I called them up.   They asked for the dimensions of the TV I'm looking to protect.   This means making sure I measured beyond the screens edge, and even the depth of the top of the TV, where the plastic would rest on top.

    A few notes on this conversation:

    1.  The depth of the TV we purchased was shown as 3.5 inches.  This was the full depth of the TV, however we need the protective screen to rest about an inch in front of the TV, and we really didn't need to go straight back to the wall with the full 3.5 inches.   We opted for a 2 inch lip at the top of the plastic, which allowed for the one inch gap between the TV and the screen, and another inch for ... get this... velcro to attach the screen to the top of the TV.
    2. we also needed 1" spacers at the bottom of the shield to help maintain the space between the TV and the shield.
    3. the acrylic we opted for isn't glare resistant, but that was available.  It's thickness isn't too flimsy, but it does bend and flex.   The 1 inch gap is needed to help ensure that if it gets hit, the shield doesn't bust the TV.




    It took about a week for the order to be completed, and I drove on over to the company to pick it up.   Cost?  about $70.  more than half of the cost of ordering it from any of the companies we saw online.
    Of course, cost will vary depending on the size of TV, along with any extra shipping costs...but the goal was to save money on this  - and we did.

    I needed to dry mount the shield onto the TV to mark where to drill holes for a couple of spacers.   Once the holes were drilled, I removed the protective plastic cover (the white and clear stuff in the pic), and screwed in the spacers.   Then I applied the velcro to the TV and Shield... made sure it's set... and it's attached.

    Feel free to check out Norva Plastics at  http://www.norvaplastics.com/.   Tell them Joel from Autisable sent you. :)

May 24, 2015

  • And So It Begins

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    This past week has been rather hectic, but very productive.

    The picture above is the studio where we began filming segments for the series for The Autism Channel.

    The show is called, "Autisable Live" - and we will be featuring artists and non-profits that help the Autism community in some way.

    Stay tuned!  More information on the way... (with one or more behind the scenes moments...)

May 22, 2015

  • Pictures for Sale on FOAP

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    Okay, I know it's a bit self-serving and outright cheesy, but I was encouraged to see if my photos could sell.

    I was looking at a way to easily share and sell my pictures - and provide an opportunity for folks to sell theirs as well - and came across the FOAP app.

    Still a new app on the market, FOAP splits a sale of a picture 50/50.   And also because it's rather new, I'm sure there have been a lot of bugs in app when it first launched.

    So far, uploading has been 'Ok', and rating other people's pics is rather easy.   It does take a bit of time because you have to upload a picture one by one.

    Last night I spent a couple of hours sorting through some old pictures that I had left on my smartphone  and uploaded over 20 pictures to my FOAP account.   Some you may recognize as part of my Instagram account.

    There's a lot of great photographers out there, so one could say competition can be rather stiff.    Also, please be aware that those in the commercial graphic artist industry are able to find high quality photos at a much more affordable price on other websites.

    That being said,  I consider FOAP an outlet where I can earn a bit of money, and so I don't expect much.   And being up front with folks that if they buy a pic - they support me in what I do with at least half that.

    Like any other online store, the best way to make any sales is through self-promotion.   So this blog post and periodic sharing of this link to my FOAP account will occur on occasion.

    Here's my FOAP URL - give it a look... buy a pic if you like. :)  :    https://www.foap.com/users/joel.manzer

    If I come across any other apps or ways to earn a bit of extra cash, I'll pass that along.

    Do you like photography?   Do you sell your pictures?   What apps or websites do you use?

May 20, 2015

  • A few Updates...

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    It's been an interesting week so far.  Wish I could share 'everything' going on, but it'd be easier to share some highlights...

    First, we now expect Autisable.com to be relaunched by end of the month.   After over a year and a half, I'm looking forward to its relaunch.

    Now, given all that's been going on with Xanga, I'm not expecting a lot of bells and whistles with Autisable being on wordpress.   I do have a team that is willing to assist me in developing and improving Autisable's website as we move forward, but a lot has to be done until my team can manage it long term.

    In other good news, We are filming Autisable Live this Saturday!    This is a series that will be available on The Autism Channel.  Our first three episodes will be filmed, with one being released each month.    The series will highlight artists and local non-profits that are helping the community in some way.

    As requested, I'm going to integrate some of my instagram pics into this blog.  The above picture was taken at the Norfolk Botanical Garden's in Norfolk, Virginia.  For more pictures, check out:  http://www.instagram.com/joelmanzer

    Until later... back to the grind...

May 15, 2015

  • The Morning Walks and Evening Strolls

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    For those that follow me on facebook or twitter, you may already know I'm also on Instagram.

    The pics I take for instagram are usually in the morning or evening and of the sky.  I walk most mornings, mainly out of a need to get some exercise or activity, but also as a means to think and meditate.

    When I was younger I used to ride my bicycle everywhere, and one day I may do that again.   But sometimes a morning walk or evening stroll allows me to slow down and see more of what is around me.

    I'm constantly reminded at how big our world is and how one person can make a significant impact in other people's lives.
    The world around us is still rather big, no matter how much technology has allowed us to have this perception of making it smaller.

    For every picture I take and share, there's at least a dozen that I never had the opportunity to take.   I'm constantly in awe and wonder of what resides around me...

    When I see something that could be of interest (and my phone has enough battery power), I take a picture of it.

    Some folks have shared that where I live has a fascinating sky.  I first give credit where credit is due... and that isn't all on me.   Where my faith resides is whom I believe created the sky and the moments.   I also give credit to instagram for some of the filters they have... hey, I think they did a pretty good job, don't you? :)

    We all have opportunities around us.   The reality is that many of the pics were done before or after there were storms.   Just like life's storms, we don't see the joy and beauty of it until we take a look back upon it.   Sometimes I'll take a pic and don't see anything more about it until I start using some of the filters... as sometimes they pull more of a picture out of the original than what even I saw.   It's similar to a wood carver, chipping and carving away at a log to find what is to be seen.

    As odd or surreal as that may sound, it's a reflective time for me.   I thank you in advance for viewing those photos, it's very humbling to receive any encouragement.

    If you are able to take a moment and watch the sky, especially in the mornings and evenings before and after a rain shower... I'm sure you may find a similar view from time to time.   If not, no worries, they'll be there for you on a morning walk, or an evening stroll.

    *feel free to follow me on Instagram as well. :)

May 14, 2015

  • Blog Often about the Things you Love

    I've been blogging for well over 10 years.  I've seen the worst in people, and the best.

    That's what happens as you grow older as well.

    Along with blogging on Xanga, I also have accounts on sites where I contribute articles here and there.

    When Xanga 1.0 was around and we had many of the ISH sites, I enjoyed sharing my faith on Revelife, as well as talking about being a dad and discussing autism related issues on Autisable (which I will still do when it relaunches).

    I've discussed various topics on triond, or dealt with social media on another site.

    My point is, when you blog regularly, you tend to blog on many different sites.  Each site has it's own audience, it's own platform.

    I enjoy talking about being a dad, and connecting with other dad's - especially ones who have a kid with special needs.   Connecting with like minded people tends to open up ideas on how I can improve myself.    So, I will be a contributing blogger to the LifeofDad.com website.

    Just another place for me to share some thoughts.

    Of course, this blog is my online blogging home.

    Until later....

May 8, 2015

  • The Last Text Message Received


    Today marks an Anniversary.  The day my Mother died of brain cancer.

    Yes, she died last year, on Mother's Day.

    We all knew when the diagnosis came about the tumor, even she did, what would most likely happen.

    But I won't reflect on her death, as I know it's something we will all deal with one day.   I will reflect upon her life this year.

    My mom was passionate about people treating each other with respect, regardless of their personal belief's.   She was always fair, almost to a fault.

    She became a good friend, and although we had our differences, her heart was always in the right place.

    She moved several states away from me, and our phone calls became a weekly and sometimes a monthly event - but I looked forward to talking with her about what was going on in each others lives.

    I had the fortunate opportunity to visit with her about a month or so before she passed.    And based upon
    my faith, I am comforted in knowing that she's just gone ahead of me and I will see her again one day.

    I was honored when she asked me to visit an elderly blind neighbor, and read scripture to her.   It meant a lot to my Mom when I did that, and it meant a lot to me as well.  It was an acknowledgement of someones faith, and an encouragement to keep believing.

    Although my mom wasn't one to preach verbally her faith, she lived it.
    The quote "Preach the gospel at all times, and if necessary, use words." was something I can honestly say she practiced... whether she realized it or not.

    As she was a person who planned every aspect of her life as much as she could, and as stubborn as she could be, she fought and held on - making peace with friends and family.

    Her last day was Mother's Day, 2014.  Just a year ago.   Leave it to her to make Mother's Day even more special.

    Not long afterward I found this text from her when cleaning up my phone.  I saw it before, but it served as a reminder that she loved me.



    I still keep that text, and made a screenshot of it.

    It serves to remind me that although she might not be available for a phone call or a visit, I know she's still near.

    Happy Mother's Day, three words that now make me realize how important having a Mom truly is.

May 7, 2015

  • Ok, Let's Talk about it: "Spam Comments"

    After blogging for well over a decade on several platforms, I can honestly tell you that spam comments are just a part of blogging.   How you address it is entirely up to you.

    With Xanga 1.0 we laughed at, and often joked, about spam comments.  Many folks even got frustrated and made their blog private (sign in lock) in an attempt to reduce or eliminate spam.  Personally I received at least a dozen or more spam comments a week on my blog in Xanga 1.0, and have seen a significant reduction with it with 2.0.

    Allow me to share some facts regarding spam comments...

    1 - they will happen.  In fact, if you have a blog or website with a comment feature, someone somewhere wants to create a backlink to their site utilizing the comment field.
    2 - it's NOT about you.  Spam comments are the poor mans method to create a backlink to another webpage.  In short, they don't target you, they target search engines.
    3 - they are usually generated through automation.  Programs have been created to find blogs and make comments on them.
    4 - they are bad for websites/blogs, but are easily addressed through appropriate comment moderation.

    As annoying as spam can be, there are wordpress plugins that can help eliminate/reduce spam.   But these plugins only can improve when we know how to utilize comment moderation.  So here's a quick 'how-to' ....

    When you receive a notification that someone commented on your blog and you check your comments section - here's a quick guide:

    After reading the comment and hovering over it - you'll see the options on what to do with it (I have default settings for comments on my blog)

    1.  approve/unapprove - IF you approved a comment from a person previously, they will automatically be approved for future comments - and visa versa
    2.  Reply - you may choose to reply to that individual comment.  When doing so, that person will be notified of the response (this is the latest update to comments in Xanga 2.0 that has happened)
    3. Quick Edit - you may edit someone else's comment.  Most people choose not to do this, but if you have a family friendly site and want to edit out a curse word here and there... the option is there. (I've used this feature on rare occasions on misspelled words or curse words.  If something is way out there I just remove my approval of the comment.)
    4. Spam - when selecting this it's similar to moving something to the spam folder in e-mail.  The plug in will be updated and future spam from the IP address/e-mail address will be blocked.   However, comment spam software tends to switch things up, hence the reason why combatting spam is an ongoing process.
    5. Trash - this just deletes the comment and has absolutely NO impact on improving spam filtration.

    So, if you are getting a lot of spam comments - don't delete them... just click them as spam.   As the data comes in for The Xanga Team, they can improve the technology to help you manage your blog in this area.

    For more information - check out these links:

    This one from wordpress.org shares what wordpress does to combat spam on a regular basis.


    If you're really trying to understand spam and how to control it - this page is a good reference to start with


    And for those of you who do like to eat Spam - I'm sure your local grocery store has it available (but please don't send me any).

    Until later, back to the grind...