1983.5 (Beta)


CHENEY sits behind a desk. He is playing NINTENDOGS on his DS, but, instead of trying to teach them tricks, he is STABBING the puppies with his STYLUS.

CHENEY: Not so tough now, are you? Answer me! Oh, you want some too, bitch?!

The INTERCOM on CHENEY’s desk buzzes. He sighs, reluctantly puts the DS in his DESK DRAWER, and presses the intercom BUTTON.


SECRETARY: John Poindexter is here to see you.

CHENEY: Tell him I’m out.

SECRETARY: I tried that, sir, but he can smell the brimstone.

CHENEY: Bah! Send him in.

A moment passes. The DOOR opens, and John Poindexter enters, left.

POINDEXTER: Heeeeeeeeeeeeeey, Doctor Doom! Howz’it–

CHENEY: SILENCE, MINION! A, I told you never to call me that again. B, you have thirty seconds, five of which you squandered on the “hey.”



Several moments pass.

CHENEY: You may begin. Twenty seconds.

POINDEXTER: Well, look, just wanted to tell you about a new National Security idea I cooked up last night. Oh man, this one is a doozy.

CHENEY: Dexter, your last idea–the future’s market where people would bet on upcoming terrorist attacks–wasn’t exactly a barnburner. And we’re still dealing with the fallout from the whole wiretapping boondoggle. So I’m afraid we’re going to have to pass.

CHENEY reaches over and puts his HAND on the LEVER to the left of his desk, preparing to open the TRAP DOOR.

POINDEXTER: Wait! My new plan would egregiously violate the civil rights of countless Americans!!

A beat. CHENEY reluctantly removes his hand from the lever.

CHENEY: Okay, I’m intrigued.

POINDEXTER: Imagine this: a mechanism that would track the activities of thousands of Internet users. Where they go, what they’re doing, who they see–everything.


CHENEY: We’ve had that for years, knucklehead. We collect IP addresses, sent emails, site logs, the works.

POINDEXTER: Sure, of course. But I’m talking about a system that would keep tabs on Internet users when they are not online, while they are walking around in the real world.

CHENEY: Hmm. I like the way you think, Dex, but I’m afraid that idea is pretty much DOA. We got a Democratic congress now, and there’s no way they’ll allow us to amend the PATRIOT ACT to allow it.

POINDEXTER: Ah, but that’s the best part. The program would be entirely voluntarily!

CHENEY snorts derisively.

CHENEY: Why would anyone voluntarily reveal information about their everyday activities?

POINDEXTER: Oh, you know: we’ll just say the whole thing is some kind of Web 2.0 Social Networking website. We’ll use lots of pastel colors, cutsie icons. Call it “Trackr” or “Twitter” or something. Trust me, Doctor D.: the hipster and early adopters will eat, it, up!

Greenhouse Gas

Email from my conservative buddy Duane, with whom I maintain relations so I can credibly claim to have at least one conservative friend:

To: Matthew
From: Duane
Date: Tue, 20 Mar 2007 10:27:37 -0700
Subject: I made up a joke!

What do you call the sketchy math used by global warming alarmists?

Al Gore-ithims!

I’ve previously made my views on Al Gore known here, but I loves me a horrible pun.


Guess who had a grrrrreat weekend!

No, seriously, take a guess. Go ahead.

Wha-? “Morgan Freeman”? No, I … how the hell would I know what kind of weekend Morgan Freeman had? And why would I be writing about his weekend on my blog?

Look, I’m going to just tell you, because you don’t appear to be very good at this game. The correct answer was “me.” Next time, you know, think a little before answering.*

Anyway, weekend. Let’s recap, shall we?

Friday: Went to see Bitter:Sweet at the Triple Door. If you get a chance to see them in concert, do so. It’s like having sex for an hour.

Saturday: The Queen and I went to Ye Olde Timey Rustic Bed ‘N’ Breakfast, located in North Bend (a.k.a. “Twin Peaks”), to celebrate our sixth wedding anniversary. We stayed in a small cabin just off the Snoqualmie River, decorated in an aggressively bear-centric motif. Not recommended for Stephen Colbert, salmon, or anyone else with crippling ursaphobia.

While there, our status as The Last People On Earth Without Cell Phones was reaffirmed. The cabins themselves lacked telephones, but the information card said we were welcome to use the proprietor’s phone. I hiked down to the main office and knocked on the door, which was answered by the elderly gentleman that runs the B&B:

Proprietor: Well hello, there! What can I do you for?

Me: I was wondering if I could make a phone call.

Proprietor: Sure, go right ahead.

{Proprietor stands in the doorway, smiling at me expectantly. A long moment passes. He is then startled by a sudden realization.}

Proprietor: Oh, you mean with our phone? Come on in.

Saturday: Hiked up Mount Rainier. Well, okay–actually it was Mount Si. ALL RIGHT IT WAS JUST “LITTLE SI” ARE YOU HAPPY NOW?

And where was Squiggle during all of this excitement? Safely ensconced in the home of Ma and Pa Baldwin, where he was stuffed to the rafters with cookies and Maisy videos. We are currently putting him through detox, and have put him on a strict diet of parsnips and the films of Lars von Trier.

* I had just finished writing the first paragraph of this entry (and had not yet post it) when I got an IM from Sarah Brown:

Sarah: Okay, I know everyone jokes like, “Oh, I laughed so hard I spat?” But that link you sent me made me spit all over my nice clean computer.

Me: The Crazy Frog video?

Sarah: Yes!

Me: It’s a thing of wonder, for sure.

Sarah: That kid in the back, I want to hug him.

Me: No, don’t! He would be changed forever. There’s like a Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle at work: he can behave like that, or he can get hugs from girls, but one negates the other.

Sarah: True.

Me: Hey, changing the subject: guess who I am going to see in a few hours.

Sarah: Morgan Freeman?

Me: !!!!!!!!!!!!!!


The Squirrelly is inexplicably three. I have no idea how that happened. It’s as if time were some sort of nonspatial continuum in which events occur in irreversible succession from the past through to the future, or something.

And while “The Squirrelly” suited him well when he was an infant and toddler, a more dignified blogonym seems appropriate for someone of such a wizened old age.

And so fair readers, I give you “Squiggle.”

Though he will, of course, continue to maintain his secret identity.

Secret Identity

In the year and a half since Squiggle was diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD), he has been averaging about 25 hours of therapy a week, the bulk of which is Applied Behavior Analysis. He has made great strides, thanks to an incredible team of professionals who work with him five days a week. His eye contact, for instance, has improved immeasurably, as has his response to his name. This is fairly incredible when you consider that these two symptoms–the earliest hallmarks of ASD–were the most obvious manifestations of his condition when he was diagnosed at the age of eighteen months.

These days, his most noticeable deficiencies are in the area of expressive language. While he will ask for things he desires (“want Booty” is a common utterance in our household, and not just by me), usually say “hello,” “goodbye,” “good morning,” and “good night” unprompted, and occasionally point things out to us (“that’s a truck!”), he’s not much of a conversationalist. He seems to have taken his father’s aversion to chit-chat to it’s logical conclusion. Unfortunately, this makes it difficult for us to know, at any given time, what he wants or how he’s doing. We can usually deduce his needs, but he doesn’t exactly spell them out.

Which is kind of ironic, given his obsession with spelling. (The kind with letters–not Tori Spelling, thank god). We suspect there may be a touch of hyperlexia in the mix. He learned his alphabet quite early; he wrote his first word at 2 1/2:

First Written Word

(That, by the way, is what he does when you request that he “smile for the camera.” :| )

He has a special affinity for writing As and Es. We will sometime find them scrawled, in erasable crayon, on a cabinet and doors, occurrences we have come to attribute to “The Mad Voweler.”

His current favorite toy is the Superman Laptop, which is no surprise they apparently used the Autism Society of America as their focus group for market testing. (“I like it, but it needs more buttons, bee-boop noises, and letters.”).

“I’m Superman!” says the toy, in a voice completely unlike any actor who has ever portrayed Superman in any medium. “Can you help me find the W?” Squiggle presses the correct key, and the toys crows, “Good job!” It’s cool that Squiggle likes it so much, but it makes me kind of sad. I grew up thinking of Superman as a role model, someone faster than a speeding bullet and faster than a locomotive; my son will grow up think of him as someone so helpless that he has to enlist the aid of toddlers to find the “F” on a keyboard.

* * *

We still believe that Squiggle is “high-functioning,” through it is too early to determine whether is has Asperger syndrome, Kannerian autism, or just some hodgepodge of traits that will eventually be diagnosed as PDD-NOS.

The question of his cognitive abilities is a tricky one, unfortunately. He’s maxed out some tests; on others he falls on the low end of average. As with most attempts to quantify intelligence, the results largely depend on what specific skills they are measuring and how they elicit his responses. And, obviously, his disinclination to express himself verbally complicates any assessment.

We are currently considering our schooling options. Our hope is to eventually enroll him in a FEAT (Families for Effective Autism Treatment) preschool–in which a mix of ASD and neurotypical kids share a classroom–but their services are highly sought after, and there is a considerable waiting list. In the meantime we will likely have him attend a regular preschool a few times a week, accompanied by a therapist who will help facilitate his learning and integration. Squiggle has attended music class for years (one class a week–not continuously), and does well in group settings, so we think he will fair well (and possibly thrive) in a classroom setting.

* * *

Though much has changed in the last year and a half, one thing remains constant: Squiggle has the most delightful disposition you are ever likely to encounter. Seriously, the kid could charm the pants off of another pair of pants. We recently received a thoroughly objective, dispassionate, and clinical assessment on his progress from the University of Washington, and, even here, the psychologist couldn’t help but describe Squiggle as “endearing” and “sweet.” This seems to be the consensus opinion, shared by everyone who interacts with him (except for our cats, who still view him as Monkey the Napwrecker*).

(* Gunning for the 2008 “Most Nickname-Intensive Post” Webbie Award, here …)

Raising an autistic child is frequently frustrating and often exhausting, but it also brings it’s own rewards. In many respects it is like watching a foreign movie: sometimes you feel like you don’t have enough context to understand everything that is happening, but you appreciate that you are seeing a story completely different from the conventional narrative.

Squiggle is different than typical kids, but that’s okay. If he weren’t, he wouldn’t be the son we love so much.



Fool And His Money

Coworker One: The vending machine is giving out Susan B. Anthony coins.

Coworker two: Mm?

Coworker One: Yeah. I put in a five, and got four of these back as change. It usually gives you those Sacagawea coins–I’ve never seen it give Susan B’s before.

Coworker two: I’ve never seen a Susan B. Anthony coin in my life.

Coworker One: Really? Here, take a look.

Coworker two: Thanks.

Coworker One: You can go ahead and keep it, if you want.

Coworker two: Okay, cool.

{Long pause}

Coworker One: Hey, wait a minute: I just gave you a dollar.