Tunnel… Car Horn… Echo…

It’s a tunnel. The tunnel is fairly non-descript. You know it’s a tunnel with a road through it because of the cars you see and hear around you. You know it’s probably in mountains at lower elevations because it looks dry and barren all around before you enter the tunnel.

This is the Queen Creek Tunnel. It is along Highway 60 in eastern Arizona, between the towns of Miami and Superior. If you are heading west on this road, shortly after you exit the tunnel, you will exit Devil’s Canyon, and the desert floor will lay below you.

Superior to Miami has been probably my most favorite drive in the entire country. The formations through the canyon are a sight to behold. There are so many interesting things to look at. The drive it self is engaging as it twists, turns, and changes elevation. Eventually you pass through the small community of Top Of The World, only then to head back down in to Miami.

One of my more favorite parts of this drive is the Queen Creek Tunnel. I’d love to drive through there with a window down and honk my horn just to listen to the way it echos. It makes me happy.

This is one example of one of the things I would do that was out of the way and didn’t bother people. I didn’t have to worry about what others thought, except for the random other vehicle that would be in the tunnel with me at the same time.

As an autistic person, I don’t always have that luxury. I’m often around people that won’t, and may never understand me. That’s always too bad considering the effort I put in to trying to understand them. So I would mask. Yeeeessssss, everyone masks to some extent, but for me, I’m often taking guesses at what I am doing. It doesn’t feel natural. I don’t understand it, and I learn nothing in the process.

Masking is an exhausting process. There’s no time to be able to turn it off. Our “eccentricities” are not so easily written off by others as they are when it’s a non-autistic person. In the times behaviors aren’t written off, sometimes some nicety is used to communicate the desired change in behavior. It is full of subtext. This subtext is something you’re likely to pick up on if you are a non-autistic. However, for autistic people, those chances are slim. It’s real sapping trying to figure out what someone wants out of us when they won’t tell us.

There is a campaign that has started this week, led by some prominent people in the online autistic community. It’s called “Take The Mask Off”.

The topics and discussions are designed to educate about masking, what it is, and the effect on autistic individuals who must mask in the current society.

Since learning that I am autistic, I have gotten to the point I rarely mask anymore. I’m sure those close to me have seen that. It doesn’t change what I think about people. I just can’t always interact in THEIR desired manner. It’s not healthy for me. I will still make “social adjustments” here and there. However, these actions are by rote, and I still don’t always understand them. But I do understand that these adjustments help make others more comfortable.

Please take in all the content for the #TakeTheMaskOff campaign that you possibly can over the next six weeks.  Maybe it can help you learn more about autistic people, why they are the way they are, and be able to communicate with them a little more on their level. After all, this world is about compromise. A little push. A little pull. We are ALL better off when we meet in the middle.

Transmission Turmoil

The timing was funny that I was watching the season finale of Scorpion last night, where I watched a mechanical device cause an electrical disruption. That irony was lost on me until just a few minutes ago.

After having a leak in my clutch assembly a few weeks back, the mechanics had to drop the transmission to get to the leak to fix it. After getting it back, there had been a few times I noticed a power drop off at the top of my third gear.

This happened to me again today while on the freeway (Bronx cheer, anyone?), heading to have lunch with my wife. However, I was not where I could shift out of 3rd right away, and my engine flamed out. I coasted down the overpass, off my exit, and to a side street JUST in time to lose all momentum.

Despite having electrical power for my radio, my gauges, my A/C, etc… it wouldn’t start. A battery jump finally started it. I got the battery and alternator tested out shortly after, and there is no problem.

Have I ever told you that I don’t like problems that I can’t find an answer to?

Smart Kid

So I have been spending some time with J-Mac lately. He has this toy that plays several different songs, including “If You’re Happy And You Know It”. The other day, I didn’t teach him any words to it, I just did clapping, stopping, and shouting “Hooray”. So just now, I hear him around the corner, playing that song off that toy, and replicating the clapping, stomping, and shouting.

The other week when we were last present for Tara’s latest home football game, I made him clap along to the fight song one time. He immediately did it every time after (which was a lot, since they shut down and shout out the opponents by halftime with the mercy rule).

J-Mac is one smart cookie.

Hey #Toto, I think we finally made it to #Kansas!

We blessed the rains down in Africa while carrying on my wayward son, but we finally made it back from the land of Oz!

Kansas is a new adventure, just like Georgia and Arizona before it. On my way up here, I went through Liberal, Kansas and got to see “Dorothy’s House”. No, it wasn’t the real house. But it is one that could have likely been home to a real life Dorothy Gale.

Even up here in Northwest Kansas, away from the towns, away from the highways, the roads are a bit like what you saw in The Wizard of Oz. They are all dirt roads that criss-cross at particular intervals. I can imagine Mrs. Gulch peddling down one of those roads right now.

Also, considering that we live in the county in Kansas with the highest number of tornados in recorded history in the entire state, it’s not hard when I am out on the highway to imagine I’m keeping parallel with a grand looking twister. But that imagination always gets ruined when the Interstate curves in the direction I’m looking, and the tornado in my imagination would have swept me right up.

But, we can’t blame the Wonderful Wizard of Oz for that. My imagination has also been stoked by watching seasons of the now defunct Weather Channel series “Storm Chasers”. With the exception of the twisters of in Alabama during the time the show was running, they were either in the Oklahoma City area, or starting the day just south of where I currently live.

(Disclaimer: My county has the highest number of recorded tornados in state history, but zero fatalities. If I was on the road while I saw a tornado, I wouldn’t just blindly continue on. And I know my safety around these storms thanks to my good buddy Ron Roberts.)

Tragedy in Virginia

Many of my former colleagues from my time in television have been expressing their sympathies and prayers concerning this morning’s tragic killing of two journalists. Me personally, I’ve had a pit in my stomach all day since first reading the alerts on my phone, then the full-detailed stories. I’ve gone through my own issues both inside and outside the stations I worked at. They all pale in comparison to anything else that has happened though, including today. I’ve known people that have been threatened and been actual victims of crimes. It’s a frightening thought. And to think, today the victims’ attacker was a former co-worker. Even scarier. Prayers go out to those families tonight. They may never understand, but I hope they will get some peace sooner or later.

windows update

Patience, young grasshopper, patience.

The manner and method of release of the brand new Windows 10 operating system has highlighted one particular thing that is not the forte of most Americans these days. Patience is required when going to this new operating system.

Another thing that is highlighted is Windows Update. There are many people out there who have not turned on their Windows Updates because they didn’t know to. There are also those that heard that there was a malicious update that crashed computers. There’s a better chance you will have a car crash than a computer crash due to Windows Update.

Good thing is that if you have updated to Windows 10, Microsoft has taken this worry out of your hands. All you have to worry about now is to be patient. Your Windows Updates will now load for you. If something isn’t working just right just yet, have patience. It will.

This article will help you understand the particulars better.

(Disclaimer: If you’re having patience with a corporate network, talk to your IT guy. Then decide if you still want to be patient or not.)

tropical followup

The key word in the wake of Tropical Storm Bill was deluge. I came to work the morning it was supposed to hit. The storm decided to hang out off the coast for another 5-6 hours. In that time, the storm moved west. The storm did indeed bulls-eye where I work. Nothing crazy on the wind, so not really any damage to speak of. But we got all the rain. It is estimated that 13.5″ of rain fell around the area of the office. My route back home was closed off by 10am. The office closed at 1pm. I left then. I was planning on leaving at 3pm originally had the office not closed. I had to drive west, then north, then back around to home. They closed off several stretches of the route I took within an hour of me going through. My total drive time was 2.5 hours. Then it took me an hour each way the next day on top of working late.

Now the ground is drying out. Maybe it will stay that way for a little bit.

first in a decade

The last time a tropical disturbance hit the Texas coast was nearly 10 years ago. Check Wikipedia and other article sources for a little storm named Ike back in 2008. I remember it quite well because I was working in television at the time. We were broadcasting pictures from helicopters hovering above Houston. They issued evacuation orders (probably later than they should have) and all of the hurricane evacuation paths were jam-packed with cars. Traffic was at a standstill. We were hearing stories of people running out of gas waiting for traffic to move. I found out later that one of my aunt and uncles that live in a town south of Houston ended up being one of those that ran out of gas. This was also the second of a one-two punch that year. Gustav had made landfall only 12 days prior.

The one tropical system I’ve personally experienced prior to now is Hurricane Chantal back in 1989. However, it was a tropical storm by the time I experienced it. The storm actually formed similar to how this week’s did. It spun up just north of the Yucatan peninsula. It was a category 1 hurricane by the time it made landfall. I was 8 years old and visiting my grandparents at the time. I remember being upset that I couldn’t go outside because it was raining so heavily and the winds were blowing so hard. However, when it was over, I was ecstatic. Then my bubble was burst 12 hours later when I found out that the eye of the storm was just passing through.

So, by morning, Tropical Storm Bill will be kicking our tail. I will likely be heading for work right after the storm makes landfall. We’ll see how the conditions are. The funny thing is, the National Weather Service Hurricane Center is putting the forecast track for the eye to make landfall and push right up through Ganado dead on. With the cone of uncertainty built in to the forecast, that may not necessarily hold on, but it is an interesting though. I’ll be interested to see if I can even make it to work or not. The one thing that they have been saying with this storm is to expect probably 20-25 hours straight of rain. It will be interesting to see what the rainfall rate is, because the entire region is just starting to recover from historic flooding just last month!

a camel

True Story: I was leaving HEB with a few accoutrements for Southwest Chicken Salad night at our house. As I am about to exit the building, a lady walks in wearing a tie-dye t-shirt. It has a picture of a camel. And yes, today is Wednesday. You can guess what else was on that shirt.

Story Time: Before this woman could get through the door, a camel comes running from around the corner of the building. It tells “Guess What Day It Is?!?” The woman, scared out of her wits, is upset for being scared, and turns around to slug the camel thinking it is a man dressed in a camel suit. To her surprise, it was a real talking camel. Her punch lands somewhere in the vicinity of whatever the camel version of an Adam’s apple is. This causes the camel to spit in the woman’s face. She starts to shriek. I run away laughing. My reason for running away? My family was waiting on me at home, and I didn’t feel like being delayed due to having to sign photography release paperwork for the camel’s commercial production company filming the incident!