Thursday, July 28, 2005

Things to Discover While Waiting for a Root Canal

Quote of the day:
"She's my rock, but not my rock of crack"
- Pete Doherty, about Kate Moss
(thanks to Eva for this)
At a later date, I will explore why Pete Doherty continues to be such a fascinating train wreck, but today I want to tell you about my visit to the dentist (kinda).
So, I'm in the waiting room, flipping through the magazines (and he actually has a lot of them). First I picked up that American women's magazine that you always see at the grocery checkout. I forget the name, but you know the one - there's always a woman on the front who has lost 100+ pounds and she's usually posing inside a pair of her old humungous pants, swimming in them, and right next to her is a picture of a really decadent-looking cake. Both the diet and the recipe are promised inside. It was my first trip past the front cover of that magazine and the contents are just as stupid and offensive as the cover.
Then I picked up a copy of Discover, to wash the taste of stupidity out of my mouth, and began to read an article about a woman called Temple Grandin, who is an Associate Professor of Animal Science. My undergraduate degree is in Animal Science, so this caught my attention. Turns out Dr. Grandin is autistic and her extreme sensitivity to touch, sound, and other sensations has given her a heightened empathy for farm animals and their reaction to their housing environments. She is well-known for having designed vastly improved animal housing and, in particular, transport chutes to make the trip to the final destination less stressful for the animal.
I've always been interested in animal housing. It's a real concern, particularly among species such as pigs, who are highly intelligent and responsive animals. Flooring is a big issue in pig barns. Floors need to be designed to allow waste to fall through the grates, while still allowing a safe and comfortable footing for the piggies' little hoofs. And farrowing crates have to allow the mom to nurse and be in contact with her piglets, which need to be kept warm with heating lamps (not much hair on those babes), while protecting the babes from being rolled upon by the sow. Pigs also need an environment enriched with toys to keep them entertained and to keep them from chewing each others tails for fun.
Back to Temple Grandin and how she turned her autism into a tool for her life's work. There has been a lot of public interest in autism the last few years. It's become quite a sexy condition. "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime" was a murder-mystery (of sorts) that explored the world from the perspective of an autistic teenager. It was compelling reading, and touched upon the viewpoint of the appeal of some neurological conditions which usually impart certain characteristics or, perhaps gifts, upon those afflicted. Tourette's Syndrome is another of those. Many who have the disorder view certain aspects of it as integral to their personality and, given the choice, would not chose to give up the condition for fear of losing the perspectives that they hold.
Unfortunately, I had really just started reading the article before I was called in for the fun part of the visit (being stood upon my head for an hour and a half while power tools rattled inside my mouth). I have to go back in a few weeks to get the crown put on, so hope to finish reading it then.
If you want to check it out, it was in the May 2005 edition of Discover. Let me know what you think. Also, what do you think of the idea of our personalities being controlled by medical conditions? Are we really just a sack of hormones and neurotransmitters?
Cheers to you all. Long weekend coming up - stay safe.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow, that's so cool that you mentioned Temple Grandin, and the boy who wrote "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime"....I'm just fascinated with autism, and that whole spectrum of disorders, and was recently referred by one of my profs to look into both of those individuals. (This, along with Hell for a Basement, is the 2nd very cool coincidence in as many days......weird...) If you happen to have a copy of "The Curious Incident.." I would be more than thrilled to check it out when we next get together!
Love your site!