August 19, 2015

  • And the Journey Continues

    Ok, for those interested in the Xanga side of things - a small update.

    I've sent John a few e-mails.   A couple of e-mails were of what people had a concern over in regards to the Team not providing us an update.

    Now, I know that there's plenty going on with servers and basic site software upgrades, and that they've been doing some research regarding themes...  But I don't know anything beyond that for Xanga at the moment... so if you've been keeping track - there's not a lot of new things to report at the moment.  It's up to John and the Team to provide an update.

    I will say that as I'm looking into Autisable being upgraded more, deciding on a framework for your wordpress site is an important decision that must be thought through very carefully.   Your site framework sets the stage on what you can and can't do down the road.  After all, what Xanga is doing with wordpress is a bit more than just a standard blog.  Of the major theme frameworks that are available, there are some security issues that must be addressed.   Some programmers opt to create their own framework rather than take what is more readily available - due to security reasons.   Again, that's just my perspective on the themes issue, and I think that John and the team need to provide us a bit more of an update on this matter for Xanga.

    I have also sent John a couple of e-mails about Autisable transitioning away from Xanga proper, and having my own team work on the site.   This has been in discussion with the Xanga team for some time, now it's time to work on the steps to make it happen.

    I expressed to John and the team that I'm remaining around with Xanga as long as everyone still wants me around.  Happy to do so.

    Well, back to the grind...

August 13, 2015

  • Server's, Spam and Upgrading Sites - Oh My

    Got a couple of small updates from John before 5am this morning via e-mail...

    "Was doing an upgrade just now and ran into some issues.  We requested our collocation facility to reboot our hardware, and waiting to hear back."

    That was at about 4:48am this morning.   So, if you were trying to get on the site and ran into a small snag early this morning - you now know what happened.

    I let John know that we're long over due for an update from the team.

    There's some Autisable updates I'll be working on soon.   Most of the updates you can now see on Autisable's main page.  In fact, as we move forward you'll see more autisable updates on Autisable and not as much on this blog.

    Beyond that I have to review several hours of video and get the second episodes content over to the editor so it can be released in a decent amount of time.  There's also working on some business end stuff so we can accept payment from advertisers/sponsors.

    I plan on talking with John further regarding Xanga as soon as we can knock out a time to talk.

    Will keep you posted.

    The work continues....

August 12, 2015

  • The Summer Slow Down

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    It happens every year in the middle of the August.

    Beautiful weather, everyone is outside enjoying that thing called life, and we experience what many call, "The Summer Slow Down."

    Being on Xanga and blogging for over a decade I've seen it so often that you can actually plan for it.

    It's also a great time to gear things up for the fall and winter.   A good time to relaunch sites and tweak them.  In short, it's a good time to work behind the scenes while getting ready for when everyone is back to the regular year-round routine.

    On a personal note, I've been officially unemployed for about a year and a half.   Yep, I don't get paid for doing things on Xanga.  My aim on this blog and being a point person for the community is all about, well, the community.

    So, while I'm dealing with home repair, getting Autisable back on track and being the husband and father I need to be.... I'm still trying to keep tabs on Xanga.  I'm also looking for work.

    Since it's been awhile since I've made a Xanga related post - here's one to share while we are in the midst of the summer slow down.

    Now, there's a lot going on behind the scenes with the Xanga team.   A lot going on with Eugenia and John and Marc.   But it's really not my place to share things that I have no permission or direction in sharing.    Things that are of a personal nature I leave for each of the xanga team members to share.   Things as they relate to Xanga I share after making sure I have it confirmed with John and/or Eugenia.

    What I can say is that Eugenia is keeping tabs and following up with e-mails ( at 'help@xanga.net') and is continually helping folks out with their accounts.   I can say that Marc is as he's always been with the Team, a bit off to the side while John and everyone else is working on the servers and addressing themes.   For the longest time it was Marc who I've been in touch with regarding Autisable's mission and direction.... with some consultation with John.

    Some have chided the team, or me for that matter, in leading people in the wrong direction and taking peoples money.

    Allow me to share something on this note, while we are in the midst of the summer slow down....

    Two years ago we were looking at Xanga completely folding.    This means that there would have been absolutely no service for our blogs to remain.   By raising funds as a community, we were able to salvage what remains of Xanga, and provide a platform and servers for the site to continue.    This has still allowed people, even two years later, to retrieve their archives (for free).   It has also allowed anyone with a Xanga account to still either blog on Xanga (for $4 per month) or blog elsewhere.  This could not have been possible if it wasn't for everyone helping.

    Several people who have lost their loved ones who blogged on Xanga regularly, are still able to seek access to their loved ones accounts.   This is something one cannot put a price tag on, and providing a sense of peace in that area of a persons life is very important.

    Personally, I still see the ROI of doing $4 per month on Xanga compared to a free wordpress site.

    Over the next several months I will be shifting my focus onto Autisable a bit more, as is to be expected.

    I'm already working with a good team, and we are collaborating with John and the Xanga team on making Autisable it's own company in the near future.    Again, as expected.

    That being said, I want to reassure you that I'm still blogging on Xanga, and will still be a community liaison.

    I've shared all of our concerns to the Xanga team, specifically to John.   It is up to him and the team to respond accordingly.

    As things move forward, I'm sure you know that I will keep everyone informed either way.

    So as we get close to the end of summer, let's be hopeful of what is to come.

    Until later, back to the grind.

August 5, 2015

  • A Web Series

    What happens when you get a few folks together to address a common issue?   Progress.

    Thanks to Noah Guthrie and Project Lifesaver International, along with Tikko, Nick Phillips and Jason.....(and the list goes on)

    With Autisable relaunching yesterday, and the web series starting... I'm very grateful.... and going to be pretty swamped for awhile as we get the site more active and up to par from what it once was.

    The series will air a new episode once a month (that's our goal), with the first episode shown above.

    Now that Autisable is back online, much of my own blogging about the site and about Autism will slowly transition to there - as it once was before.

    In regards to Xanga, I know that the team was working on getting more data off of the old servers to the new ones.   There was a lot of concern about photo's and videos being lost from users, so the team has been addressing those issues.   They also are still working on a theme management system that deals with security issues more than what is currently on the market.   John spent the past few days personally getting Autisable relaunched, so you'll have to blame me for a small delay on using some of John's time away from Xanga.

    There's still much on Autisable that is to be done, but for now we're back online - and I'm very grateful.

    John and the team are still around, and still want to see Xanga move forward.    I'm still in touch with John to see about getting more updates from him on thexangateam's blog.

    We're all still here.

    Until later... back to the grind I go.

  • Autisable is Back Online!

    Autisable.com is back

    Yes folks, after nearly two years, Autisable.com is back online.

    There is going to be a period of transition while we shake off the dust and get things going... but the site is relaunched!

    Up next?

    A Web series being launched, called Autisable Live!

    Stay tuned!

August 3, 2015

  • A Productive Couple of Weeks

    These past couple of weeks a lot has been happening...

    So here's a few updates:

    •  I've been working with contractors to deal with several home improvement projects.  Everything from a new roof and windows, to adding a front porch to our home.
    • Keeping production moving forward with the web series for Autisable.
    • Trying to keep tabs on what is going on with the Autism community
    • Applying to jobs

    Suffice it to say, the work with the contractors is now complete - but there's always house work to deal with.   But, working with contractors can always lead to my time being pulled away from doing other things.   The good news is that the contractors we had were easy to work with and did an awesome job.

    Of course, I had to keep things moving as well with Autisable.  The first episode of the series is ready to launch, and so we are now working on the second episode while waiting for the website to relaunch.

    I did receive some disappointing news, however, in that our series will not (at this time) be picked up by The Autism Channel.   In time we hope that will change, but it doesn't deter us from moving forward.   Our advertisers are still on board, and we are still excited about what's to come.

    The Autism community always has something going on, so it's imperative that I keep tabs on the latest news and developments.   This can be time consuming, especially if some hot topics are going on in the news.   Luckily the news has been rather steady, but not overwhelming.

    I was asked as to why I'm still looking for employment even though we have a lot going on with Autisable in the coming months.

    The reality is that Autisable is a small business, and its aim is to serve the Autism community.   In time its revenue will allow me to work full time.  However, I'm always looking to improve myself, and also need to work regularly.  Not just to be employed to have a paycheck, or for insurance... but to make sure I'm still learning and growing.

    I've found in these past couple of years that I have to keep working....  if anything, for sanity sake.

    Speaking of work...

    Back to the grind.

     

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

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    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

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    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)

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    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.

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    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...)