Friday, 1 February 2013

Filtering Information, Unexpected Surprises and Django

Welcome back to Adventures with Autism Works. It may easily be assumed from the lack of activity on this blog lately either that business at Autism Works has been slow or that nothing much interesting has been happening. but over the last two weeks, I encountered different, and in one case, an unexpected situation to apply skills and techniques that I have learned from my MA (Hons) in Information Management and mindfulness practice.

Filtering Information
This week I have been assigned on a task of identifying appropriate contracts that Autism Works could possibly apply for searching online via Business Link's Contract Finder site. This task reminds me very much of when searching for relevant journal articles when researching for assignments and my thesis for my MA, and later when a Research Assistant at Northumbria University, using e-journal databases. A major difference that I noticed during my time at Northumbria, both as a student and as a Research Assistant compared to when began my undergraduate studies at Teesside University in 1996 is that the challenge is more about filtering rather than finding information, as e-journal databases can hold so much more information than a large physical space. Being able to filter such information has enabled me to separate the relevant contracts from the irrelevant, as well as pick out in the more obscure where there are elements of software testing required that Autism Works could perform, including possibly testing some more web-based software.

One of the main reasons though for the lack of entries on this blog so far this calendar year has been because my Asperger training has been very busy this month, and 2013 has already thrown up some unexpected surprises, not least when giving a lecture at the University of the Third Age (U3A) and who should turn up but my former Head of House from school! As you may remember I was reacquainted with some of my former school teachers and peers at the Monkwearmouth School Grand Reunion last October. What my former Head of House, who witnessed at first hand some of the difficult times I went through during adolescence, later said she was impressed with about my talk was that, despite such difficult times I went through back then, I didn't lay any blame to anyone from my past, including former teachers and peers.

One of the first aspects that mindfulness practice enabled me to do was to be able to see people from my past, including former teachers and peers as they are now, and that they didn't know as much I didn't that I had undiagnosed Asperger's Syndrome, a condition that was barely heard of back then. Something else I was slightly surprised mindfulness enabled me to do during one of my training sessions with ESPA's Training and Awareness Group (TAG) was walk in a straight line while looking at the floor through binoculars! The purpose of this exercise is to give one an idea of what motor skills difficulties as well as awkward gait that a person with Asperger's Syndrome can present with might actually feel like. Applying a mindfulness of walking technique though, I was able to focus on other sensations that we often tend to pay little attention to in daily life, including the contact of the feet with the ground when walking or standing, and I was surprised I could still walk straight, whereas another participant thought it was like walking under the influence of alcohol!

Elsewhere in 2013, I have been to the Tyneside Cinema to see Django Unchained, starring Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo Di Caprio and Samuel L. Jackson, and directed by Quentin Tarantino. For me, as well as entertainment, this film could also be a moment of cinematic history in that it is not only a revival of the Western genre, but also exploring the largely untapped aspects of the American west not often seen in western movies (e.g. cattle drives, gold rushes wagon trains etc.), including in the case of Django Unchained, slavery pre-American Civil War, with Tarantino's black comedy style violence adding an extra dimension. An acquired taste, Tarantino's style can entertain as easily as it can appal (especially to those with 'high moral standards'), but for me, Tarantino's first two films, Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction provided an anecdote to the more formulaic 1980s action hero movies. Likewise, the relatively unique experience of seeing a film at Tyneside Cinema, for me, provides an more authentic anecdote to the excess commercialisation of the big chain cinemas.

Stay tuned to Adventures with Autism Works to see how developments unfold throughout 2013.

I am still doing much physical training for the second part of my challenge, to summit Kilimanjaro in October, to raise much-needed funds for Daisy Chain. Visit my sponsorship page at http://www.justgiving.com/Chris-MitchellGNR/ to find out more.

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