I know I usually try for a Monday Moment, but this happened on Monday and I never got to share it.
Our son loves music, he does not care what style, it seems to make him feel free and he may also break out in a dance.
Goods and Bads of Autism
Hello, Internet! Cole here. Recently, I realized that perhaps it would be prudent to discuss my Asperger’s more thoroughly, since that is the main subject of the blog. I haven’t really talked about Autism very much for a variety of reasons, instead focusing on things like 11-page stories about bees. This month, though, I’d like to bring things back on track a bit. I discussed my condition a bit about a year ago when I first started this “sub-blog”; now, I plan on fleshing things out a little more.
November 2016: An Unfortunate Loss
Hello, Internet. Cole here. On the ninth of this month, something alarming happened – something that could greatly change our nation for better or for worse. Depending on who one asks, this event is either a symbol of America’s triumph or its demise. Regardless of opinion, however, many can agree that the repercussions of this event are going to be serious. Since serious things are no fun, however, I’m not going to talk about it. Instead, I’m going to talk about my robotics team’s latest competition, Rumble of the Roads. (Hopefully I’m less likely to be swamped with half of America’s hate this way.)
This competition deserves some introduction, since it wasn’t a normal robotics competition. We were – and currently are – off-season; this means that FIRST isn’t directly hosting any major competitions. Thus, this was much smaller-scale than anything like Worlds. Fewer points were scored overall, and there were only 30 teams, including ourselves. Our own entry into the event was pretty shaky: we were invited by the leaders at the last minute after a large number of teams unexpectedly cancelled. As a result, only 12-16 members attended the event – mostly veterans like myself.
Despite this smaller scale of competition, I still had a good time. The ride there was pretty long, so I passed the time by staring out the window and listening to music. Once there, most of my time was spent alternating between watching from the stands and trying to help the team in the pit. Our robot wasn’t performing well; it often stopped during matches, and it handled very poorly. We were having a lot of technical issues that we couldn’t quite understand – more on that later – so I found myself drawn to the pit on more than one occasion. At lunch, a team member went out and brought us Chick-Fil-A. The food was a bit salty, but adequate.
After the qualifying matches ended, things got… interesting. We discovered that our gearbox, an integral part of our drive train, had one of its axles bent. This was why we couldn’t move properly. In order to even come close to fixing it, we had to take an entire side-plate off of the robot, which put us way behind schedule and caused us to miss our alliance’s first qualifying match. Some members of Triple Helix, another team on our alliance, eventually came and helped us try to fix it. In the end, though, we made only marginal progress and had to send the robot out to the next match at below-average quality. We did… surprisingly well in said match, but it wasn’t enough; the opposing alliance won the quarterfinals, and we were out of the competition proper.
Most of the team, including myself, left after that – it being a relatively minor competition, after all, we had little reason to stay. A few people remained for their own reasons, though, and it ultimately paid off; we ended up winning the Captain’s Award, which is, according to my coach, on par with the Chairman’s Award, and those people got to carry the thing back to PCS.
This excursion could have gone better, to be honest. We were given very short notice on account of being a replacement for another team, and our robot was already battered a bit from a pretty difficult season… the whole scenario sort of lent itself to disaster. I don’t really mind, though – after all, the things that go wrong are more memorable than the things that don’t. Even though we lost, I was satisfied by the competition. Besides, we won an award anyway. Thanks for reading, Internet, and I’ll be seeing ya!
Cole is our young adult monthly contributor. He is an incredible asset to all of us. He is in the IT program in Henrico County, has Asperger’s and is also an animal whisperer.
Helping persons with disabilities transition from high school to the work world
When Lindsay “Drew” Miller was ready to graduate from high school, he and his mom Janet struggled to find the right daytime program. Although he is visually impaired and uses a walker, Drew is always willing to try new tasks. But it wasn’t until he joined the Greater Richmond ARC that he had the chance to develop his job skills at by answering phones; assembling boxes; and shredding paper.
In January 2016, River City Inclusive Gymnastics (RCIG) offered its first class to children with and without special needs. Liz Van Ness and Julie Dyke are two parents whose children participate in RCIG and have seen tremendous benefits from the program. Both Van Ness (mother of Graham, 10) and Dyke (mother of Jamie, 10) enrolled their children in the very first RCIG class, and have continued with the weekly classes ever since.
“Gymnastics is something Graham looks forward,” Van Ness says. “It has given him a lot of confidence.” The same can be said for Jamie, whose siblings have participated in other sports programs offered at River City Youth Fitness in Manakin Sabot (where RCIG meets). Now Jamie feels like she belongs at the gym too. Dyke explains, “She loves driving by and pointing out ‘her gym’”. Additionally, RCIG is a great fit for Jamie because it allows her to participate in a group activity without, “all the normal pressures that come with other organized sports,” Van Dyke says. RCIG classes function as a cross between a group and an individual activity. Students go through a series of obstacle courses together, but each can work at their own pace.
September 2016 – Back To School Again
Hello, Internet! Cole here. It’s that time of year again – September, when summer ends and the school year begins. I’ve just finished my first week and am beginning my second. I have my concerns about this year – judging from this first week, I believe that I can expect a challenge from the other 35. All the same, I fully intend to pass all of my classes with as much skill as I can muster – as well as to achieve other goals outside of them.
Compared to other first weeks of school, this week was actually relatively normal, at least in terms of content. My schoolmates and I went to our classes, collected our syllabi for future signature and return, and generally got our work schedules in order. However, I did note a higher expectation of responsibility from our teachers; this was to be expected, of course, as we were in a higher grade level. A lot of the courses, particularly Pre-Calculus (oh, sorry, I mean “Math Analysis”) and Chemistry, looked to be relatively interesting, though. I also got to meet up with my friend and talk with him – we had a lot to say to each other.
I am a bit concerned about this year for a variety of reasons. For one thing, I think that this year might be significantly more difficult for me than the last. It’s a common trait of people who do well in their early years of school to be utterly trounced by the later years due to underdeveloped studying habits, and I believe that that is something I may have to deal with this year. Perhaps more importantly, it will be necessary to keep my own behaviors in check – this is sophomore year, after all, and my teachers can’t be expected to put up with my nonsense. On top of all this, I will have to prepare for junior year, which is, if I’ve been told correctly, is the most difficult year in high school – I’m not saying that senior year will be a breeze, but junior year is apparently the year most colleges look at, which means I’ll have to take at least one AP class.
Despite this, I plan to make the most of my sophomore year. This year, I hope to see a lot of personal improvement – not only in my studies, but also in my work ethic and in my character. There will be an audition this Wednesday for a school production of Frankenstein, and I’m planning to try out. I also intend to involve myself more with my robotics team now that I have a modicum of experience with robotics. In May, I will have an AP exam for the Computer Science course that I took last year; if I pass, I’ll get college credit for the course.
In conclusion, I’ve got a lot to look forward to. My classes should be intellectually stimulating, and I have things to work towards as well. I do have my concerns, but I should be able to manage with a little help. As always, I’ll be sure to write about anything interesting that happens in my life. Thanks for reading, Internet, and I’ll be seeing ya!
August 2016: Spamalot
Hello, Internet! Cole here. Last month, Mom took me to Dogwood Dell to see a local performance of Eric Idle’s “Spamalot”. We spent the evening waiting in the hot, humid outdoor amphitheater for the show to begin. Finally, after about an hour or so of excited anticipation, a bubbly young lady took the stage and announced to the eager audience that the show was cancelled due to inclement weather; everyone was upset by this, but I suppose that the lightning bolts flashing through the clouds were a relatively good sign of approaching difficulties.
About a week later, the play was held a second time. This time, save for a short blackout in the middle of the second act, the play managed to run until the end.
In my opinion, the play was pretty good. I had a few issues with it, but at the end of the day it made up for them with its high-quality set design and notable acting. This sort of vague observation isn’t fitting for a review, though; therefore, I’ll be dissecting the production based on various theatrical merits.
This play was Monty Python member Eric Idle’s theatrical adaptation of the iconic movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail; as such, most of the production’s storyline is lifted therefrom. The story revolves around King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table searching for the Holy Grail. It tends to lose focus on this goal, gravitating towards the misadventures of the Knights and towards Arthur’s secondary quest to appease the Knights who say Ni by bringing them a Broadway production (meta-humor), but this is acceptable because, after all, the play is more focused on humor than on anything else. In the end, the Grail is ultimately found in the audience (more meta-humor), Lancelot is revealed to be gay and marries a prince whom he rescued in a prior scene, and Arthur marries the Lady of the Lake (whose role is emphasized significantly more in this production than in the preexisting movie.)
The narrative wasn’t my favorite part of the play. A lot of its jokes are pulled, in some form or another, from the original movie; this would be alright if you haven’t seen it or are very nostalgic, but otherwise it’s more or less the same jokes heard again, so they aren’t quite as potent. This play does have new material, though, such as the fish-slap dance in the introduction and “The Song That Goes like This.” This new material is relatively funny, but a lot of it revolves around pop culture references, which I don’t really like when they’re used primarily for comedy, and meta-humor, which is quite difficult to do properly; it’s easy to point out common tropes as they happen within the story, of course, but it’s tricky to joke about the medium in a unique and clever way. This play did it… fairly well, but it could have been done a bit better.
The actors did very well. Not only were their characters expressive and well-defined – Lancelot was a ham, King Arthur was commanding and lofty – but they also maintained foreign accents most of the time, which is no easy feat if one doesn’t naturally have a foreign accent. There were some slips, but for the most part even the louder characters managed to hold their accents. The musical segments were performed moderately well, too – they weren’t utterly exemplary, but they were fitting (except you, “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.” You fit in Life of Brian, but you were a stretch here.).
Stage Design/Production Value
The stage was not as good as the one for Peter and the Starcatchers, but it was good in its own right. It was shaped like the interior (or exterior, perhaps?) of a castle, which was fitting because of the many scenes set near castles. There were also prop trees that were moved in for certain scenes to make a “very expensive forest”. The actors all had lovingly designed costumes – King Arthur and his Knights were dressed in well-made prop armor, and the Lady of the Lake wore a bright teal gown that glittered in the lights of the stage. The technical aspect of the play had problems, though. Aside from the aforementioned blackout – which couldn’t be said to be the troupe’s fault – there were some problems with the microphones; sometimes they would seemingly shut off temporarily, leaving the actors temporarily inaudible. Despite these issues, however, the actors still performed as normal, which is not an easy thing to do.
I give this play an 8.8 out of 10. It was very good in terms of production value, acting and persistence, but flaws such as uncomfortable cultural references and foggy narrative prevent it from truly resonating with me. I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would have, but I can recognize it as a good play that has had a lot of effort put into it, and for that I can respect it. Thanks for reading, Internet, and I’ll be seeing you!
My wife Karen and I were recently asked to share some thoughts with our church about how we have encountered God recently. We decided to approach it through the life-changing experience of raising a girl with Down syndrome. I’ve included video from of our talk, plus the written version which contains a few more details. We give this in hopes to encourage other families who may be just beginning down this path. We’re eight years in at this point and it’s been a pretty good ride overall, but it certainly hasn’t been without its trials, doubts, and fears…
Hello, Internet! Cole here. As I mentioned in my previous article, I was planning on going to a work camp to serve the poor and to understand them better. I’m not planning anymore, though, because I already went. My experience at the camp was the most… OK one that I’ve ever had. I’ve never felt more ambivalent about any other experience in my life. It’s not because of a lack of activity, though; so many things happened at the camp in its one-week span that it would be imprudent not to include as much as I possibly can. In order to explain my time at the camp in detail, as well as to utilize a different format for the sake of novelty, I am going to use a day-by-day format for this article. I’ll start from the Sunday when I first set out for the camp and end with the Friday that I left.
The drive to the camp took about 7 hours. We had to make about 7 stops for bathroom breaks, missing items, and lunch (whenever one passenger car stopped, the other car had to stop as well to keep pace; we couldn’t carry all the passengers in one car), and our group leader played Christian rock and nothing else; he more or less actively avoided any station that wasn’t playing Christian rock nonstop, and when he couldn’t find a station that played it he switched to CDs. The car had a movie player, but the built-in remote’s battery was dead; as such, the group leader had to turn the movies on manually through the group leader’s console, and we couldn’t adjust the brightness or sound.
Eventually – and I mean eventually – we reached our “home base”, Lee High School. (For geographic context, Lee County is in the far reaches of western Virginia.) We were given a brief tour of the facility, and then we brought our personal items to our rooms. It was at about this time that my usual anxieties set in; historically, I have never functioned very well with camp environments, and this camp was no exception. After we had dinner and went to mass – activities that did little to calm my nerves. At about 10:00 PM, we headed to our rooms to prepare for bed. The room had two fans for temperature control, and by lights-out both of them were broken. It was a long, warm night.
At 6:30 we woke up and went to Mass for an hour; we would end up doing this every day. Mass was followed by breakfast, and then by a series of preparatory activities, including team-building and van-proofing. Team building was relatively fun – we got to create a “game” using three random objects at one point.
Once that was all done with, we traveled to our work site for the first time. It was 45 minutes away, and we got lost at one point and went into the wrong neighborhood. Once we finally managed to get to the site, we began to construct a wheelchair ramp for the residents’ elderly grandfather. We only managed to dig the holes for the posts that day, but it was a very good start. A portion of the team also began renovating the residents’ bathroom; however, since I worked more or less exclusively on the ramp, I haven’t much to say about that part of the project. At 5:00 PM, we packed our things and returned to base.
Then, I went into the first public shower that I had ever had. It was awkward and horrible.
After returning to my room and taking time to recover from the showers, I went up to dinner. The base was serving spaghetti and meatballs, I think. I tried to calm my still-frayed nerves by reading my large book of Lovecraftian horror – a rather poor choice of reading material for nerve-calming, but still the best one I had at my disposal. It… didn’t help my feelings of isolation much, so I decided to play a game with some of the other kids at the camp.
Dinner was followed by an evening program in the school’s gym. The camp had a strong Evangelical Catholic bent, so every night had a program to help expand our Christian faiths. The program consisted of a concert-like setting, with a makeshift stage set up at the front and a band to provide music. There was also a speaker who encouraged us to “see God in our lives” wherever we were. On this particular day, she explained that she was aware of our discomfort, but that this camp was “not about ourselves” and that we could still get something amazing out of it, albeit not materially.
Once the program was over, we held a brief meeting with our respective parishes, where we discussed specific questions that had been assigned to us. Then, we returned to our rooms and tried to go to sleep.
We traveled to a small Catholic church in the morning. The church’s proprietors gave a brief speech about how Catholics are a minority in Lee County; in fact, they explained, their church was more or less the only Catholic church in the area. They then provided us with breakfast, and we set off for our work sites.
Using the holes that we dug the previous day, we set multiple support beams into place and held them with cement. Once that was done, we headed back to base.
The showers were still awkward and horrible.
At the beginning of the program, one of the adult chaperones came up to me. She introduced herself and mentioned that had my mother not reassigned me to a group leader I knew, I would have been in her group. The fact that she actually spoke to me after I’d been feeling isolated and anxious for one and a half days caused me to cry tears of… sadness? Joy? I honestly don’t know, but this was not one of my finer moments in any case; in foreign social situations, it’s best to maintain composure and not to show signs of emotional weakness. (In layman’s terms, crying in public makes people look like wimps.)
First, we made a foundation for the platform on the top part of the ramp. We then measured the slope from the edge of the platform to the ground; upon finding that the slope would be too steep with the poles we set into place, we decided to dig a new column of holes, as well as a set of two trenches. In the meantime, we began to place slats on the existing supports, managing to finish the top platform and part of the ramp. After all of this, we ended up spending about half an hour more on the project than we were supposed to spend, and we had to rush to get dinner.
The showers were pretty okay today, except that they were horrible.
The Sacrament of Confession was held on the school’s fourth floor during the evening program that night. As I hadn’t attended Confession since the fourth grade, I decided to participate so that I could confess you don’t need to know. Once I’d confessed you don’t need to know, I went back to the gym and was launched into about an hour of quite tedious verbal prayer. As important as acknowledging the needy is, our vocal cords deserved their own prayers by the end of the program.
After eight hours of slat-placing, trench-building, and handrail-setting, the ramp was eventually completed. The bathroom was incomplete, but the contractor said he’d work on it. It was pretty cool to be able to actually walk on the deck; I’ve walked on decks before, of course, but it’s an entirely different experience watching all the parts of a planned-out whole come together and then walking on their sum. Of course, all of this resulted in another schedule slip for us, and we had to work quickly to get all of our tools in order in time for dinner.
Insert “showers were horrible” sentence here.
Dinner was special today. We were allowed to bring the residents of the sites we were working on to the meal, although our residents respectfully declined the offer. The servers offered some of the foods that had been offered the previous day, such as hamburgers and hot dogs. At the end of the meal, desserts were provided in the form of ice-cream bars and ice-cream sandwiches.
The evening program had a local bluegrass band performance. I’ve forgotten the band’s name, but I think that it had the word “rumblers”. Although I typically don’t like country music in general – exaggerated Southern twangs, in my opinion, sound like low – quality pulled pork tastes – I found myself enjoying the performance and dancing along with the rest of the group.
There isn’t much to be said here. We went to Mass in the morning, ate breakfast, cleaned up the work site, and left.
The ride back home was spent listening to Christian rock and writing in the journal that my mom sent with me. At one point, while everyone else was listening to different music through their headphones, our group leader even let me listen to the soundtrack of the musical of Legally Blonde. (Go ahead, judge me for liking that play. I won’t stop you.) After under seven hours of driving, we got back to St. Michael’s. I then packed my things, got into Mom’s car, and left.
I took a shower when I got home. It was remarkably non-horrible.
Ultimately, I have mixed feelings about the camp. It was hot and uncomfortable at the best of times, but I was able to help someone who needed help, and that was the whole reason I went. I may or may not go again in the future; as it stands, I feel like there are better, more efficient ways to aid the poor, and I plan to seek such opportunities out in the future. Thanks for reading, and I’ll be seeing ya!
Fresh New Summer
Hello, Internet! Cole here. It’s now the month of June, which constitutes the beginning of summer in the Northern Hemisphere. This, of course, means that I’m almost done with my first year of high school. I’ve only got the finals and some projects to do, and then I’m free! …At least until next September. Bleh. Anyway, I’m going to directly rip off the format of my New Year’s article and write about both my past experiences from this school year and my plans for the summer. (It’s lazy, I know. You try to work on a bunch of projects that the teachers gave for the sake of giving projects and prepare for finals at the same time. It’s not easy.)
Ah, freshman year. Where do I start? Presumably with an overview. This year was probably one of my better ones. I got relatively good marks in all of my classes overall, and most of my assignments were turned in on time. I even did well enough in Algebra II to constitute my receiving of an award for mathematical performance. I wasn’t as “popular” this year as I was last year among my peers – not that that matters to me – but I did make a few lasting friends, with whom I sat during lunch every day. I also performed in a mandatory one-act play for Theatre Arts I; several people have told me that I did very well, and I appreciate their congratulations. Perhaps most importantly, I entered Deep Run’s robotics club, Blue Cheese, which has provided me with both work experience and writing material. All in all, this was a very good scholastic year for me.
My plans for the summer aren’t laid out very well, as always, but I believe they will consist primarily of self-improvement. My summer will start with a work camp hosted by my church, where I’m going to help reconstruct houses for impoverished communities. I feel that this job will help to build my work ethic, as well as to enlighten me on the conditions of the poor; as such, while the camp will not be the most “fun” thing that I will do over the summer, it may be the most important thing that I will do. After that, I’m not going to do very much in the way of big outings, as most of the budget that could be used for such activity is going towards next summer’s planned trip to Costa Rica. I will, however, be attending a summer PE course (bleh) at Glen Allen High School, and during my spare time I plan to refresh my knowledge of Algebra in preparation for next year’s math course. For the sake of “catching up” to my peers in terms of technical knowledge, I’ll also attempt to advance my knowledge of programming through self-directed study. These activities will be essential for my self-improvement.
This was my first year of high school, and I consider it to be significantly better than my previous years in middle school. I made some new friends, kept my grades up, and even managed to win an award. Hopefully my summer will be better in terms of self-improvement than my other summers as well, though I doubt that it will be as fun. As always, I’ll be sure to write about anything that happens this summer that is interesting enough to write about. Thanks for reading, and I’ll be seeing ya!