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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Would You Give Electric Shocks To Your Child?

Would you give electric shocks to your child?

I'm asking because while most of the so-called civilized world would react in horror at the mere suggestion of torturing children to alter their behaviour, this is exactly what's discussed by the State Education Department at the University of New York, right now. The issue at hand is whether or not to allow aversion therapy to alter or hinder unwanted behaviour in children, especially in disabled children. Sounds abstract? Uncivilized? Let me give you an example.

Autistic individuals sometimes display seemingly involuntary body movement such as arm flapping, rocking, or tics of various kinds. They call this stimming and while such behaviour can certainly appear bizarre to "normal" people, it is actually a sensory coping mechanism and allows autistics to deal with outside stimuli and reduce overall stress. The fact that stimming works is well documented in autism research.

Adults with autism and Asperger Syndrome can often avoid stimming noticeably in public, knowing fully well that NTs (Neurologically Typical, in other words normal people; a term coined by autistics on the Internet) have difficulty accepting such deviant behaviour. Autistic children, however, often don't realize this and happily stim whenever they need to.

But, as I said, many "normal" people consider stimming deviant behaviour; some even think it should be forbidden.

Which brings us to Judge Rotenberg Center in Canton, MA, an educational facility where aversion therapy is used. They use a Graduated Electronic Decelerator or "GED", a device of their own design, to regulate the students' behaviour. The GED is basically a zap box complete with two remote electrodes to be attached on the hapless student, up to six inches apart to increase the "therapeutic value". Every time a student displays unwanted behaviour (stims are the prime time example here, but talking without permission is perhaps easier for most readers to relate to), the educator pushes a button and shocks the student.

Now, unless your children have special needs and must be educated outside the public school system, they are safe. You see, the Judge Rotenberg Center is a special needs facility, serving "both higher-funtioning students with conduct, behavior, emotional, and/or psychiatric problems and lower-functioning students with autistic-like behaviors". Also, it is privately held, and here's the key: aversion therapy is not approved for use in public educational facilities.

I ask again: would you give electric shocks to your child?

Saturday, June 10, 2006


Just downgraded wine to 0.9.11. Everything works like a charm, including XMetaL, Internet Explorer, and my newly installed FrameMaker 6.0!

Monday, June 05, 2006

wine 0.9.12

Just upgraded to wine 0.9.12. It broke my XMetaL installation. It seems that wine now wants to handle ActiveX using built-in libraries, but unfortunately the new library either doesn't implement OLE properly, or there is a bug somewhere. A quick Google search didn't tell me anything earth-shattering but confirmed that others are having problems as well.

On the other hand, the Debian wine still lags behind; 0.9.14 is the latest version out from Wine HQ.

Thursday, June 01, 2006


I talked to a friend yesterday. He works at an IT consultancy that is best left unnamed here, a well-respected one, I might add, and yesterday, they had a job ad in the paper. They have everything, the ad claimed, but they need to grow. They need a few more good men (and women).

My friend and I, we have a mutual acquaintance, a developer who's one of three or four top developers in his field. He's also a nice, likable guy, and so my friend recommended him to his bosses at the well-respected IT consultancy. Of course, they asked to see his CV, and so far, so good.

Except they said no. He isn't what they're looking for. He's got the wrong profile.

So I started to think about this, and realized that the people who hire other people are usually the ones who are the least qualified for the job. They're executives, salespeople, or perhaps HR people in som cases, but most of them have never done any dirty, hands-on work in "their" fields. They lead, and they hire people, and they make executive decisions, all of which is fine and dandy, but they don't know the details of what their companies do.

Therefore, they shouldn't be the ones hiring other people. In this case, everyone in the field but the bosses know the value of our mutual acquaintance. We all know he's top notch, he's a real find, he's proven his worth many times over. Yet, the bosses are the ones doing the decisions, and they say no. Why?

A part of what's supposed to make a leader great is the ability to listen, to trust those working for you. Why is it that this trust is so rarely extended to the employees?