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Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Top 10 Most Read: #4 I've Had Enough!

With a title like this you've got to be thinking I'm about to go on a tirade about something a school district did, or an ignorant comment made by a politician, or maybe what a misguided expert said on the news. Well, those would be great guesses but no... Actually, in this post I complain about the usage of "highway 40" over the proper "I-64" in Saint Louis because in my book interstates always take precedence over highways. Since this post I've heard much more 64 talk than 40 and obviously people must agree with me because this post somehow is my fourth most read.

Friday, December 9, 2011

I've Had Enough

Dear fellow Saint Louisans,

I've had enough! I can't take it anymore! I've tried to fight it, I've tried to hold my tongue, but I must be heard. What's got me riled up? Is it Albert Pujols heading to the Angels? Is it the proposed toll on I-70? Nope, it's none of those. What it is, well, it is I-64 constantly being called highway 40.

For those of my readers outside the metro area of Saint Louis let me explain. Here is a map of the route of I-64. The interstate goes through the middle of Saint Louis and runs out to Wentzville and I-70. The final portion of I-64 towards I-70 wasn't always called I-64. The portion that runs through the city has been I-64 as long as I have lived there.

Now that you've got a minor history of a highway you may never drive on or much less see, let me tell you why it has me so riled up. I have a rule, and this rule seems to be shared by all road signage in America, and that is that an interstate always takes precedence. That means, say, if the interstate is also a highway, and a road, it should always be referred to by its interstate number. In Saint Louis, when referring to I-64, it is very rarely called I-64 but rather highway 40, or simply, "40" as seen on the left.

Okay, I will give you 40 callers a break as 40 is an older highway and a longer road, but still the interstate number should take priority. Sure, us locals may know what we're talking about, but if someone from out of town is trying to find "40" and all they see on the signs are I-64's they could easily get lost. On top of all this I think MODOT is trying to convert us as the signs that tell us how far the next exit is says "I-64."

So isn't it time to change? I know that's funny coming from me who often says, "change is bad" but this change is okay. It may have been “40” back in the day, but it's bigger and better now. Think of it as it's all grown up now and it's been promoted so it's okay to turn your back on the past.

Okay, I must admit now I feel a little bit better. For years I've heard it and I haven't said anything. And trust me when I say that I truly wanted to say something. When I hear something that I know is wrong, or it should be called something else, it is a reflex for me to say it the right way. I don't try to be rude in correcting, but things need to be right regardless of the importance of whatever fact may be said. 

So, moving forward, I still will bite my tongue when I hear I-64 called "40". I've done my part in the crusade to get interstates the proper treatment. It's a slow movement, and I hope you join it as we can move on with the right names. So yes, I do feel better now.

Monday, February 8, 2016

#5: The "Autism Is..." Project

For several of my milestones in blogging I ran this project. This, somehow, isn't the most read post of all time of mine, but it is the most commented and if you'd like to contribute please do as currently 175 comments have been made and each day people find this post so please, if you feel like it, complete the simple sentence with what autism is...

I did this once and I wanted to run this again. For today I want you contribute. This is a simple task and all I want you to do is finish the line, "Autism is..." I want as many answers as possible. If you've contributed before feel free to do so again.

Autism is still a gigantic mystery to most people outside of the spectrum and I want as many comments as possible. This truly is a spectrum disorder and no single voice can cover the whole spectrum. So, autism is...? There are no right answers, or wrong answers. Use one word, use as many words as the comment form below will allow (4096 letters). The only thing I ask is that we keep this positive and if you want you can mention if you are a parent, on the spectrum, professional, or have no ties to the spectrum. You also have many options as you can post your name, or do it anonymously.

So now it's your turn, "Autism is..."

Friday, February 5, 2016

Top 10 Most Read: #6: A Crash in Huntsville

This title was a play on words to the title of a post back in 2012 when an incident in Nashville struck the stand I was in breaking a few ribs and that post didn't crack the top 10 which proves that Kyle had way more support than I. Just kidding.... Anyway, the scariest incident I witnessed while flagging did and it happened early last season involving Kyle in Huntsville. I'm glad to report all involved made a full recovery but the lasting impression which one never really forgets, is that at a track never for one second let your guard down regardless of where you are on the track.

Monday, May 18, 2015

A Crash in Huntsville

Racing is dangerous; always has been and always will be. It's also a spectacle of color, sound, and competition and is something I've been drawn to since the age of two and currently I am the chief starter for two different series and this past weekend I was working the USAC .25 Generation Next series race in Huntsville, Alabama. This was our fourth national event of the year and is my sixth season as being the starter and nothing could have prepared me for what happened on Saturday.

One of the things I love about the USAC .25 series is the safety. I've seen some of the wildest flips and the cars are tipped back over and the driver remains in the race. The rules and construction of the cars have made the safety for the drivers extremely high. However, things can still happen and as the field came to green for the first heat race on Saturday there was some minor contact and two cars headed towards the tire wall, which is rather normal, but as they got to the wall one car shot skywards.

I didn't believe what I was seeing. I don't want to say flips are expected, but they happen and 99.9% of the time are benign and the car remains in the race. In this instance though time slowed down and the car kept going up and it almost went over the eight foot high fence and then I saw my friend and coworker for six years and all time froze.

The next tenths of a second were an eternity as I could see Kyle running. "Run!" my brain screamed but he was only able to take two steps before gravity did its thing and the front of the car caught Kyle on the head and both he and the car disappeared from my view and then there was silence. There may have been noise, but seeing this was shock inducing. I think I displayed the red flag and the silence was broken when I screamed, "MEDIC!" as they were stationed right behind me.

The worst case scenarios began to creep through my mind. I couldn't see Kyle at all because the wall blocked my view and when the first person got to him the motions for the medics brought about a sense that the worst case was going to be realized.

More and more people got to him and the frantic pointing of the people continued to show the seriousness of this incident. I stayed in the stand because I didn't want to know. I thought back to my incident in Nashville three years ago and people reacted the same way so I was hoping that this was the same, but then again I was just thrown about in a stand and Kyle literally had a car land on him.

About five minutes went by and there was still a big huddle of people around Kyle and as they were righting the car I slowly walked over and as I got to the wall and peered over my heart finally started beating properly again because I could see that he was awake, in obvious amounts of pain, but was responding to those around. At that moment the shock disappeared and I went back into flagger mode and we started clearing out people that just didn't need to see what was going on.

The ambulance came and it wasn't until they left that the sense of shock came back. I've been flagging for 20 years and have seen a lot of things but never something like this. We are about as safety conscious as it comes and you can prepare for everything but still the unexpected can and will occur. For the drivers in the incident they were fine, as once again the safety of these cars were shown, but concern still remained for my friend.

We got back to racing but it just didn't seem real. My attention was on the track under green but between heats I still played back trying to figure out how a car went that high. I never did figure it out and about six races later on a start there was an incident that found it's way to the wall right at the flagstand which knocked me out of it and onto the ground. The first thing I said was, "you've got to be kidding me!" as it was obviously not a good day to be an official. I took a break as my shoulder was throbbing, and my shin was all different shades of colors it's typically not, but for some reason or another that incident put me back into a calm, cool, and collected mode as if Kyle's incident never occurred.

Kyle returned to the track just five hours later and I didn't see him right away but those that saw him described him as a "mummy" with a head bandage and other bandages from scrapes. Also, his foot was in a boot from a rather nasty break of some bones. I'd see him once the day's races were halted due to a flash downpour (a fitting way to end the day the way it went) and he was in obvious amounts of pain.

Back at the hotel I did all that I could to make sure he was comfortable as I was rooming with him and despite all the scrapes and trauma he was in rather good spirits keeping his sharp wit and still making me laugh. His nickname is "muscles" and it was obvious why because not many people would take a hit like that and walk out of the hospital just four hours later.

It wasn't until the next morning that I once again felt that shock of when it happened, but it wasn't just a sense of that, but in life in general. I started by saying racing is dangerous, but to be honest life is dangerous as shown by my possible tornado experience 10 days ago. It doesn't matter if one is at a race track because one is passionate about the sport, or crossing a street in a city, or simply walking down a supermarket aisle. Life is dangerous, things happen, we can prepare for everything and still the unexplained fluke can occur. This is where, at least myself, thinks about the fact that with all this being so it is of the utmost importance to cherish everything now because in the blink of an eye things can change, things can fall, and the unexpected can occur. Thankfully, Kyle is going to be okay and it may be a few weeks, or a month, before he's back to prime shape, but for a moment, I'm sure, all that saw that experienced the same moment of shock I did. So to Kyle, whom I sure will read this, get well soon!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Top 10 Most Read: #7 The Power of One

This post came in #5 on the Top 10 best posts of my first 1,000 and is something I live each day by. On another note today is my 33rd birthday but my full post about that will come within the Aspie Traveler series about Reunion starting in a couple weeks, but anyway, this post I wrote is the pinnacle of my mission. Perhaps you've seen my presentation in person and maybe you were in a crowd of 100, or 500, or maybe less than a dozen and regardless the size my effort and enthusiasm for the mission is the same because the only thing that matters is changing one person's perception, understanding, or empathy of autism because if just one person is changed then the whole course of their history and those around them will be changed forever.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Power of One

Recently I have been a bit on the spoiled side with having four presentations in the past month with over 100 people in attendance. I love bigger crowds, I'm not going to lie, but it wasn't until I was driving home late Friday night that I realized the power isn't in the bigger numbers.

My passion and mission is to raise as much awareness and understanding as possible and being able to do it 100 or more people at once is great. However, for there to be true understanding in this world we need to focus on the one and not the 100. What does this mean? All of us who are or know someone on the spectrum are advocates whether you know it or not. For those that attend my presentations, well, chances are they already are aware of autism. Out in the public though, this is where the power of one is.

Here's the thing; when a chance arises to inform a person about the spectrum you should take it. It is with the people who know nothing about the spectrum that need it the most. Speakers, like myself, can talk to big groups, but they already know of the spectrum. Granted, I'd like to think that I add some understanding in my presentations, but it is out in the general public that the ones we need to reach are.

I hope one day there is no need for a post like this, but I think back over the course of this year to times that I did state that I needed help and my plea fell on deaf ears. The quote I heard at the Salt Lake City airport will not soon be forgotten, "Sir, I don't know about autism and I have a flight I need to get ready."

Had I been in a better state I should have thrown it a quick thing of what autism is. This is the power of one; if we can get to as many people as possible then incidents like this might not happen. One person may not have the ability to make a situation perfect, but one person does have the ability to make a bad situation worse. And they may not mean to do so, but if they don't know about the autism spectrum and that those on the spectrum may need a little more help then they may choose the wrong words or actions without knowing it.

We're farther along than we were eight years ago when I was first diagnosed. I no longer have to explain Asperger Syndrome, or explain that I didn't say the word "hamburger" (true story, happened twice) but there's still a mass out there that may know the word autism but have no idea what it is, what it looks like, and what to do about it.

So, with all that being so, we all have the power when the chance presents itself. Now I'm not asking for everyone to grab a bullhorn and drive up and down the roads in the middle of the night spreading autism awareness (that would be cool though, although I'm afraid it wouldn't end well) but when the chance pops up, say, at the Salt Lake City airport, you can give a quick 10-15 second explanation of autism. We don't need to go into extreme depth but rather just enough to open the door of what autism is.

Here's what I hope happens. If you're reading this you already know about the spectrum, but if we can harness the power of one then maybe that person who now understands will come across another person who doesn't know about the spectrum and then they share it and so on and so forth.

I'm sure something like this has been thought of before, written before, and spoken of before, but truly the power of one lies with us. We can make the difference to that one individual who is ignorant of the spectrum. One by one we can make that difference and get us closer to a world where everyone is aware.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Top 10: #8 The Day Before...

I don't know how or why this is the #8 on this list. There's nothing all that special about it except me announcing I would be doing a sunglasses experiment. Come to think of it, I've been all about pushing myself in life and while I'm on an island right now in the Indian Ocean doing The Aspie Traveler I actually started putting myself through miniature experiments long ago with the Great Sunglasses Experiment and here is the post announcing that which, somehow, made the top 10 list of most read blog posts:

Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Day Before "The Sunglasses Experiment"

(This is the start of a long sequence of posts. There was no easy way for me to link them so if you want to continue reading after this post you can click on the archive to the right and go to July 2010, or scroll under the comments and click "newer post" to go the next day. This is one month I will never forget and I hope you enjoy my journey!)

I must admit I am getting just a little bit nervous. Tomorrow I set forth in wearing sunglasses in all social situations for one month. This is not a small task, and add on top of that I will be writing about it all.

I am also nervous to see if there is any change in social interactions. While watching the NASCAR Nationwide Series race last night I remembered the day I first wore regular glasses. I had been working at a video game store for about three months and was doing good in the sales department. Customers trusted me and I could up-sell almost anyone. At the same time my eye sight was slipping just a tad so I decided to pursue eyeglasses. My logic was this, the stereotype for glasses is smart people therefore if I wore glasses at my job people would buy more from me. Odd thing is, I was right! I don't recall the exact numbers, but I was already the best in the area and I furthered it by a landslide.

When I first got eyeglasses the change just wasn't with me, but also the customer themselves. The interactions were different, the dialogue sharper. I don't know how to fully explain it, but I am wondering if I am going to have a similar situation with the sunglasses, and here why; When I don't make eye contact with someone, say, in a store I think they too get defensive. If the other person assumes I am making eye contact will that open up a new line of dialogue that I am not accustomed to?

I will say again that I am nervous. This experiment was made possible by a person who attended a presentation and heard about this in talking with me afterwards. Without asking she said she wanted to make it happen, and tomorrow it will, but I am still nervous. I want to crack the dilemma of eye contact. Why is it so hard for me? Will I be able to make eye contact with my mirrored sunglasses?

Oh the suspense! Just 24 hours from now we will hopefully learn just a little bit more about this. Yes, in case you haven't caught my drift, I am nervous.


For more info on my experiment you can read the original entry here:

To read the next post click

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Top 10: #9 One More Lap

For anyone who competed in any sport in their youth I think the feeling from this post can be felt. If you played baseball what would you give to take the field for the first time? If you played soccer what would you give to go back to the field that you scored your first goal? The thing about racing, however, is that each track has, or in this case, a soul. No two tracks are the same unlike the conformity of, say, a football field, and while it's just been just over half a year since I wrote this post about Widman County Raceway Park I still would give just about anything to tackle turn one to set up turn two and oh, what I'd give to go through the sweeper one more time... Although one would turn into a full fuel run...

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

What I Would Give For One More Lap...

About three years ago I wrote a post similar to this in regards to seeing the past, but I feel I have more to add now, then again I may just repeat myself...

Over the past weekend I worked the Fikse Wheels SKUSA Summer Nationals at New Castle Motorsports Park. The track facility is unbelievable and is a stark contrast to where I began in the sport of motorsports. New Castle has garages, a full on diner, suites, more pit area than one could possibly use, and an infinite (that number could be slightly exaggerated) number of track configurations that could be ran. I have to admit watching photo finish after photo finish (the event is going to make for some exciting action on CBS SportsNetwork in a couple weeks) that I wish I was still behind the wheel instead of displaying the flags at start finish but as I thought of this I didn't want to take a lap around New Castle but rather I'd give anything for just one more lap around Widman Park.

I began racing karts in 1995 and the Saint Louis Karting Association had a lease for the Saint Louis County Parks department to use Widman Park ,which had been a motorcycle track for many years, to be used for karting. The land itself is in a frequent flood zone so there wasn't much use for the land to anyone else but for myself it shaped who I am today.

If you look on the internet you can find videos of many karting tracks in use today. With the advent of high quality cameras such as GoPro you can even get a driver's perspective of almost any track, but if you look up Widman and SLKA few hits will come up on Google. One of the leading ones is actually the time I blogged about it. When it comes to images, again, few come up, but I did find this one that a person posted in a Facebook community about the history of karting in Missouri.

With all of the picture capturing devices now kids of today will be able to remember the tracks they raced on. Heck, I take pictures of the tracks I flag at, but there are few images of the place that I spent my weekends racing, growing, and learning all the valuable lesson one learns while competing.

If you drive by the land that the track was on it'll either be flooded or will look like a unkempt field and there will be no trace of the track that was there. Was the track New Castle? Oh, most certainly not! However, I'd give anything to take turns one and two again (the turns in the top right of the track) or turn three, or the horseshoe which in six seasons I always felt I could take it just a bit better.

Memories are an odd thing and are something that will certainly be transformed by the ease of capturing video and pictures. The fact that no one has shared pictures from all the years the SLKA raced there is saddening in a way. When I began the club was getting about 150-200 entries for each club race. Those numbers today would be massive for a club race, and yet there is barely a trace that the track ever existed.

I owe a lot to that place; it's the place I first held a flag while motorized vehicles raced, it's the place I first became a chief starter (at the age of 13!) and it's the place got me through my childhood. Where would I be without this place? I'm not sure. This plot of land gave me a reason to get through the days. I didn't feel isolated in my teens, really, because I was always focused on the next weekend when everyone was socially equal being isolated behind the wheel of their karts zipping around the track.

Many years, 20 actually, have passed since I first took my first laps around Widman and to many that raced there it was probably just a hobby; something to do on the weekends, but to me it was much more. For all the kids that race today I wonder if, in 20 years, they'll think about the track they began at and the smell of the track, the early mornings, the sun rises, and all the dreams of racing stardom when they took that first lap. I can almost assure you one thing though; regardless if any of the drivers I flag today make it to NASCAR, Indycar, or even F1, there will be a time that every driver will think back to the track they began at and will give anything to do one more lap on the track and one more attempt to take that tricky corner just right. They'll want to relive that time that they made a three wide pass, or the time they won there first race. Maybe in 20 years the track they began at will still be there, and then again perhaps it won't, but the memories made are irreplaceably vivid. Sure, newer tracks will be built, but no place can replace the place where it all began. Oh, to be 12 again and take my first green flag!

Monday, February 1, 2016

The 10 Most Read Posts: #10: Why We Walk

I don't fully remember writing this back in 2010 outside of the line of, "We walk to be heard." Actually, that line has stuck with me for all these years and I've made it an effort not to repeat that line because it was so unique in the context I used it that it made the whole other part of the post a fog for me. Anyway, as I mentioned last week, during these two weeks or so that I'm in Africa/Reunion I'll be running a series on the top 10 most read posts and here, at number 10, is "Why We Walk"

Monday, October 11, 2010

Why We Walk

This past Saturday the Walk Now for Autism Speaks event was held in St. Louis. I had never been to one nor did I know what it was about. I didn't know how many people would show up or what type of atmosphere there would be, but this year I would find out the answers because I would be working the TouchPoint Autism Services booth.

I got there rather early and as the minutes ticked away the empty parking lot slowly started to come to life. I had no idea how many people would be there, and already at 7:45 I was impressed.

By 9:00 I was shocked. This event wasn't just a few families getting together to raise awareness but rather a whole community there for one cause.

There were parents, sisters, brothers, sons, daughters, grandparents, uncles, aunts, and every other type of family member you could imagine along with many who are on the autism spectrum.

While the general world hears the word autism and instantly thinks of the worst case negative situation, this community of walkers embraces the people they walk for.

By the time the start of the walk came the mass of humanity was massive. I also didn't know what type of atmosphere there would be, but it was like a celebration; a celebration of who we are on the spectrum. Parents were having conversations, sharing stories, and the best part was there was understanding between them.

As the walk started I became highly reflective and thought about so many people walking for the same reason. But what was this reason? What motivation was there for the tens of thousands of people to give up their Saturday morning to take a 1.5 mile walk?

I thought on those questions and came up with many answers. The first one, obviously, was that these people love someone on the spectrum. But walking? Then I saw a t-shirt that said, "Everyone wants to be heard" and then everything made sense.

With so many people having a collective cause being heard is easier. We don't walk to simply walk, we walk to be heard. Our messages may be different be it that I, myself, want the world to know that I am not defective but simply different (Aren't we all?), while others may walk to say that about their son or daughter.

The current numbers for autism state that 1 in about 100 will be on the spectrum, but that doesn't state how many people will be affected by the spectrum. The whole family becomes involved when a child is on the spectrum, and these walks allows the entire family to be heard.

So why do we walk? We walk to show the world that we exist. We walk to show the world that, while we have challenges, we won't run away from them. We walk to show our support for ourselves, or other loved ones, but most of all we walk in unison with others to be heard. Simply heard.

Friday, January 29, 2016

The Day Before

It doesn't seem real! I'm currently in Joplin and tomorrow I head for an island in the Indian Ocean. I still can't believe it. Because this week has been so intensive on travel and speaking I haven't been able to mentally prepare for this trip and I'll get home around 1AM and I'll have so much to do between a few reports that need to get done along with packing that I'm bound to forget a few things.

This trip is certainly going to be the most exotic location yet and with the introduction of renting a car it will give the trip the ability to travel to more places during the trip. I don't know if this will become a mainstay because the lack of personal mobility is one of the interesting aspects as in Tokyo I had to figure out the train system to get to the baseball game. Yet, traffic is such a bear from what I've read that taxis and the like aren't an option on Reunion.

As I mentioned at the start of the week my blog will be post-dated meaning the saga shall begin on here February 15th. Also, I'm anxiously awaiting the chapters that will be book specific as not everything I write goes to the blog as I've got another story arc which I haven't shared in the slightest in any of the previous trips. Also, this trip was strategically planned over my birthday as my birthday gets harder and harder to cope with each year.

Finally, I do look forward to these trips now because it opens up the writing flood gates and I had no idea just how many people have read my adventures until this presentation week and all the comments about Hammerfest, and Tokyo. While that one incident in Hammerfest I could certainly have been happy had it not occurred it has given me a talking point and people seem to really engage in the adventure of it all. This has motivated me even more to try and make the highs and lows of the trip jump of the screen with words. Of course, I can't change my writing style, but it's reassuring to know that the investment I've put into these trips have taught some things to those that have read and has even given some hope. How? I'm not sure but I'm glad it has because it may seem as if I'm just traveling to travel but as a writer these trips are, well, it's a lot of hard work. I was asked tonight, "Do you even get to enjoy the place you're in?" and I responded, "Not really. I'm so in tune with what I'm feeling along with note taking and constructing what I'm going to write in my head during each day that I don't really get to appreciate the things I write about." This is why I stated somewhere I really want to go to Hammerfest someday as a true tourist so I can just exist on the top of the world without writing or thinking.

Starting on Monday my blog will start a two week, ten post, series of the "Top 10 Most Read Posts". By no means are these the top ten best posts. I shook my head in disbelief at two of those that made the top 10 but search engine key words are an interesting thing, aren't they? Anyway, the next time I'll write something original will be on the airplane tomorrow but you won't read it until the 15th so I will wish you a pleasant two weeks as I head to a place I only imagined that I'd ever get the chance to visit. There's a story there as well and hopefully I remember to tell it in my opening post of The Aspie Traveler: Reunion (via Madagascar and Mauritius)

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Kansas survey 2016

On my Facebook page I'm currently doing a survey on what the top things Kansas could be. I list the top seven things I've seen, but is my list correct? Chime in on my Facebook page post on if my list I have there is correct or if you think something should be added.