A Key Concept for Neurodiversity: Niche Construction
When I suggest that neurodiverse individuals, such as those with autism or ADHD, might have been labeled gifted in other times and in other cultures, the quick retort is: “Well, we don’t live in other times or cultures. People have to adapt to the culture they’re in right now.” So what does the person who is a round peg have to do to fit into a square hole? Answer: Shave off enough of its wood to fit, uncomfortably, usually, into the square hole. That’s one solution. The other solution is to round off some of the square hole so that the round peg can stay a round peg and still fit in. That’s niche construction. In other words, I’m saying that people with neurodiverse brains can create special niches for themselves where they can be their unique selves. An example would be a person with ADHD in a job that requires novelty, thrills, and creativity. Instead of suffering in a 9 to 5 desk job (an example of poor niche construction), they create a career for themselves that allows them to be who they are. Another example: a person on the autistic spectrum who has keen mathematical skill working as a computer programmer in Silicon Valley, instead of wasting away in a group home somewhere. Niche construction is what animals have done for eons: the bird building a nest, the beaver building a dam. They’re modifying the environment to suit their unique needs. We need to make niche construction a key tool in improving the lives of individuals with autism, learning disabilities, ADHD, mood disorders, schizophrenia, and other neurological conditions. Yes, there will always be the need to adapt to the way the world is, and there are medications, behavior modification programs, and other adaptational programs that can help accomplish this. But let’s not lose sight of the fact that we can also help neurodiverse individuals be who they are and still fit in.
(Via Neurodiversity – The Book)

Temple Grandin spoke brilliantly on that theme at TED. Check this out:

Monday in Santa Fe

It started with this Dilbert blog entry, which begins with the statement:

A lot of what passes as creativity is just combining things that aren’t normally combined.

I received an email with the link and quote and responded:

Combining things that aren’t normally combined IS part of the creative process. Other elements of creativity:

and, of course, a dynamic range

(((Please feel free to add to that!)))

Then I went for a walk and kept thinking about the creative process. It seemed to me that association may be the most important part of creativity. That is evident in every art form. Association is what makes for great poetry. Sometimes the association can be very stylized, as in a Haiku. Often the references are cultural. Reading three lines about cherry blossoms might seem merely beautiful or pretty to a Western person, but to an Asian, and certainly to a Japanese person, the cherry blossom always speaks about the brevity and fragility of life.

As long as I can remember my brain has always jumped sideways with lots of associations, like rapid-fire lists of connections and references overlaid on everything I see, hear, feel, taste, touch.

I don’t know whether I turned to art because my brain was shaped that way, or whether art shaped my brain. I think that both statements are true. And my meditation practice (((I have meditated since I was 15 years old))) probably increased the association activity as meditation creates connections between the two halves of the brain.

Associations can feel like happy accidents. Like trains jumping their track and suddenly veering into a new direction. Neurons flying off the beaten path and creating new connections within the brain. One walks down the road thinking of one thing and is suddenly hit by an idea for a seemingly unrelated subject!

Associations can be the result of play or work (((or playful work)))… finding connections, combinations finding a new meaning in an old feeling, finding new words or colors for an old situation.

I think these associations can grow more intense with age because there are more reference points in one’s memory. I write “can”, because some people seem to give up that wonderful and magical ability we are all born with, the ability to let go and play.

I didn’t used to be very aware of how I created, working mostly from my body/heart, I suppose. But, partly because I have been asked so many questions in interviews, partly because I find it fascinating, I have tried to figure out HOW I work. I didn’t contemplate much while recording Nouveau Flamenco in 1989. I didn’t have time for that. I was working a day-job, performed several evenings per week around town and somehow was able to write, record and mix the album under a deadline. I just made the music I wanted to hear. There was no cleverness involved on my part. I didn’t think about combining elements of Flamenco with a Pop-song structure and a strong melody. Sure, later I recognized that’s what I did, but at the time I was just making an album, aware that I had a wonderful opportunity to simply create something different.

I can find a melody over just about any chord changes. I am not sure how that works, but it’s always been easy for me.

to be continued…
Here is a very interesting TED talk I watched last night:


New Logitech Touch Mouse Turns Your iPhone or iPod Touch into a Wireless Trackpad and Keyboard | BLogitech
iPhone and iPod touch owners: If you haven’t had the chance to check it out, go to the iTunes App Store and download our cool new Touch Mouse app. It turns your iPhone or iPod touch into a wireless trackpad and keyboard for your computer, so you can point, click, scroll and type from afar, in any application, on a Mac or PC.

It works over Wi-Fi, so you can use it anywhere in your house and is a great way to control your computer when it’s connected to your TV and you’re lounging on the couch. And to make typing easier, text is displayed on the screen of your iPhone or iPod touch as you type, so you can see what you’re doing without having to continually look up and down.

And the best part is, the app is free!

Nice. Haven’t tried it. Jon said it works quite well. Next step: turning the iPad into a trackpad and making it work with ProTools. That might be the only thing that will get me to update my studio computer, which is an ancient G4 Power Mac with Dual PowerPC processors running at 1.25GHz and OSX 10.3.9.

Alex Ross: The Rest Is Noise: Listen To This
The new book is a panoramic tour of the musical world, touching variously on Bach, Mozart, Schubert, Verdi, Brahms, Marian Anderson, Frank Sinatra, Cecil Taylor, Led Zeppelin, Björk, Radiohead, Mitsuko Uchida, Esa-Pekka Salonen, John Luther Adams, Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, Bob Dylan, and the Malcolm X Shabazz High School Marching Band. In the Preface, I say that the aim is to “approach music not as a self-sufficient sphere but as a way of knowing the world.”

Thank you ochazuke, for this:


It’s becoming increasingly difficult for one media outlet to reach multiple audiences. Here’s Clay Shirky on Twitter, CNN and Iran:

TED Blog: Q&A with Clay Shirky on Twitter and Iran
CNN has the same problem this decade that Time magazine had last decade. They simultaneously want to appeal to middle America and leading influencers. Reaching multiple audiences is increasingly difficult. The people who are hungry for info on events of global significance are used to instinctively switching on CNN. But they are realizng that that reflex doesn’t serve them very well anymore, and that can’t be good for CNN.

Will Santa Fe have a Phoenix climate and Phoenix the climate of hell?
From the United States Global Change Research Program:

Recent warming in the Southwest has been among the most rapid in the nation. This is driving declines in spring snowpack and Colorado River flow. Projections of future climate change indicate continued strong warming in the region, with much larger increases under higher emissions scenarios compared to lower. Projected summertime temperature increases are greater than the annual average increases in parts of the region and are likely to be exacerbated by expanding urban heat island effects.

How does language affect thought?

From the Long Now Blog

In one reported study of several:

“We gave people sets of pictures that showed some kind of temporal progression (e.g., pictures of a man aging, or a crocodile growing, or a banana being eaten). Their job was to arrange the shuffled photos on the ground to show the correct temporal order. We tested each person in two separate sittings, each time facing in a different cardinal direction. If you ask English speakers to do this, they’ll arrange the cards so that time proceeds from left to right. Hebrew speakers will tend to lay out the cards from right to left, showing that writing direction in a language plays a role. So what about folks like the Kuuk Thaayorre, who don’t use words like “left” and “right”? What will they do?

The Kuuk Thaayorre did not arrange the cards more often from left to right than from right to left, nor more toward or away from the body. But their arrangements were not random: there was a pattern, just a different one from that of English speakers. Instead of arranging time from left to right, they arranged it from east to west. That is, when they were seated facing south, the cards went left to right. When they faced north, the cards went from right to left. When they faced east, the cards came toward the body and so on. This was true even though we never told any of our subjects which direction they faced. The Kuuk Thaayorre not only knew that already (usually much better than I did), but they also spontaneously used this spatial orientation to construct their representations of time.”

I wonder how this fits in:
Let’s say you are a self-taught artist, maybe a painter or musician, and through your work and experience you are creating rules or methods for your work that you had no knowledge of and no words for. You did not learn this and you did not know the words for this, and yet, you developed your own vocabulary, based simply on your experience over time.

I don’t think this contradicts the notion that the language you speak fundamentally shapes your thinking – linguistic relativity – but complicates the matter somewhat.

And, isn’t the same true for meditation? Without knowing names for their meditative experiences, without the framework of a religion, without any linguistic background, hermits throughout history have arrived at knowledge through experience.

Make sure you clean you boots really well, when you return from Mars!

Revived Microbe May Hold Clues For ET Lifeforms
Science Daily is reporting that a microbe, Herminiimonas glaciei, buried some 3 km under glacial ice in Greenland, and believed to have been frozen for some 120,000 years, has been brought back to life (abstract). The microbe, some ten to fifty times smaller than E. coli, was brought back over several months by slowly incubating it at gradually increasing temperatures. After 11.5 months, the microbe began to replicate.
(Via Slashdot)


(Via the music of sound)

Good old Ludwig did not say “Music is the electrical soil in which I live, think and invent…”
I find that this excellent TED Talk is related and mentioned it in the Diary before. Who creates works of art? (((Ha! And who is reading these lines on the screen…))) Humans have wondered about this for thousands of years. The Romans maintained that creativity came from Genius and that Genius was thought to be a separate entity that helped and inspired the human artist. It was only relatively recently that we started calling a great artist Genius – earlier they “had a Genius”.

Genius Olé

Brilliant TED talk about creativity, genius and where the Flamenco expression Olé! comes from. (((hint – if you know that the roots of Flamenco are Arabic, you might know the answer already)))

I am hoping that this is another sign that we might leave the me-centricity of the past decades behind. (((eventually)))