Saturday, May 29, 2010

Michael Burry – he’s autistic and a genius and he knows it

Australia runs two or three months behind the rest of the world, and I’ve only recently read the interesting article about Michael Burry in Vanity Fair and become acquainted with his most amazing story. Who is Michael Burry? He is the self-taught investment guru who correctly predicted the 2007 collapse of the subprime mortgage market and made a fortune for himself and the investors in his hedge fund.

I’d never heard of Burry before and I’ve never been a reader of Vanity Fair magazine, but the other day I was shopping at the supermarket in blissful aloneness, and I was loitering around the magazine section of aisle 8 as I do, and out of the corner of my eagle-like eye I spotted the phrase “unknown genius” on the cover of a magazine, and I wondered if that genius might possibly be an autist fit for my list. Sweet serendipity. Why are the words “genius” and “Asperger syndrome” so often found together? Could be because of people like Michael Burry. Dr Burry has already been profiled in two books and has also been interviewed on American 60 Minutes.

Some favourite quotes from the Vanity Fair magazine article excerpt about Michael Burry taken from the recently published book The big short: inside the doomsday machine by Michael Lewis:

“His obsession with personal honesty was a cousin to his obsession with fairness.”

“My nature is not to have friends.”

“He was recognizing patterns no one else was seeing.”

“There is no golf or other hobby to distract me.”

“People who meet me who haven’t read what I wrote – it almost never goes well. Even in high school it was like that – even with teachers.”

“Only someone who has Asperger’s would read a subprime-mortgage-bond prospectus.”

And Burry's explanation for his decision to not disclose his discovery that he has Asperger syndrome to his investors:

"It wasn’t a change. I wasn’t diagnosed with something new. It’s something I’d always had.”

I think it is particularly noteworthy that Mr Burry was professionally misdiagnosed by a psychiatrist, in a situation in which the patient was possibly not there completely of his own choosing, with a faddish but serious mental illness (bipolar) before Burry later found the correct explanation of why he has always been different. This medical misdiagnosis appears to be a case of a shrink failing to tell the difference between a systemizing special interest and mania, an inexcusable blunder in this day and age. And one does have to share Burry’s questioning of how one could be given a diagnosis of bipolar without any presentation of depression. So many psychiatrists are worse than useless.

I believe there is more to be learned about life as an intellectually gifted autist in contemporary society in this book excerpt from a popular magazine (which can be read online - see below) than there is to be found in many books and articles about Asperger syndrome written by clinician experts in the syndrome. It’s all a matter of viewpoint. Clinicians work in clinics, but autistics work everywhere.

About Michael Burry

60 Minutes (2010) Extra: the $8.4 billion bet. 60 Minutes. CBS March 14th 2010.;contentBody

60 Minutes (2010) Extra: Wall Street misfit. 60 Minutes CBS March 14th 2010.;contentBody

Burry, Michael (2010) I saw the crisis coming. Why didn’t the fed? New York Times. April 3rd 2010.

Kroft, Steve, Devine, L. Franklin (producer) and MacDonald, Jennifer (producer) (2010) Inside the collapse. 60 Minutes. CBS March 14th 2010.
video part 1;housing
video part 2;housing

Lewis, Michael (2010) Betting on the blind side. Vanity Fair. Number 596 April 2010. p. 76-81, 121-126.

Lewis, Michael (2010) The big short: inside the doomsday machine. W. W. Norton & Company, 2010.

Pressler, Jessica (2009) Bad news bears: the guys who bet against the bubble and won. New York. November 3rd 2009.

Wikipedia contributors (accessed 2010) Michael Burry.
Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.

Zuckerman, Gregory (2009) The greatest trade ever: the behind-the-scenes story of how John Paulson defied Wall Street and made financial history. Broadway Business, 2009.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Mirror neuron hype proves to be not a reflection of reality

Ha ha friggin' ha! Despite all the ink that has been spilt printing wildly overconfident speculation that autism is caused by bung mirror neurons, another study torpedoing the good ship neurohype has been reported. Please send my condolences to Ramachandran and the Italians.

Mirror neurons seen behaving normally in autism
Ewen Callaway
New Scientist
May 12th 2010

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Watching Deborah Locke watching the detectives

I’ve been watching a documentary on ABCTV titled The Inquisition which is about the Wood Royal Commission in NSW in the 1990s. I might have missed something, but I didn’t notice a mention of one of my Australian autistic heroes, former NSW police detective Deborah Locke (nee Webb). I had thought she had been very much involved in that part of Australian history, but not to worry, as her story has and will be covered in a much more popular bit of Australian television – the top-rating Underbelly: the Golden Mile series on the Nine Network, which is about corruption in Kings Cross during that era. Be sure to watch the episode of this series coming up soon on Sunday May 9th to see Deborah’s important role as a police corruption whistleblower highlighted.

Of course, I’m watching the show to learn more about historical events, but it is hard to not notice that most attractive young actor Firass Dihrani who plays the character John Ibrahim. He has such a cute face, perched on top of a very manly neck, above a really distracting body. What does that neck remind me of? Oh yes, something that I’ve seen on a five dollar note, folded and turned sideways.

Deborah Locke: former NSW detective.

Underbelly: the Golden Mile.
[The character Debbie Webb is actually Deborah Locke]

Author profile of Deborah Locke at Harper Collins Australia

Kym, Ali and Dzelde (2010) Underbelly: the real Debbie Webb. Kym Ali and Dzelde blog. Triple M. May 24th 2010.

[no mention of AS or autism in this interesting commercial radio interview]

Silvester, John and Rule, Andrew (2010) Underbelly: the golden mile. Floradale Productions and Sly Ink, 2010.
[Chapter 8 “Debbie does detectives” p.118-150 is about Deborah Locke]

I’ve written about Deborah Locke here:

Clever, Creative, Controversial: A referenced list of 37 famous living people who have been identified in any way as autistic, to any degree, during any period of their life, including famous people diagnosed with Asperger syndrome (AS)

More items about Deborah Locke:

Biennial Australian Autism Conference
Rydges Lakeside, Canberra
Friday, 1 October - Sunday, 3 October, 2004
[includes an abstract of a talk scheduled to be given by Deborah Locke about working as a policewoman on the autistic spectrum]

Lane, Terry (2003) Fair Cop*. The National Interest. ABC Radio National. September 28th 2003.
[Terry Lane interviews Deborah Locke and Dr Janet Chan]

Locke, Deborah Lee (2003) Watching the detectives. ABC Books for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 2003.
[It looks just like a non-fiction biography/police/crime book, it is catalogued by the National Library of Australia as a non-fiction book (it has a Dewey call number and non-fiction subject headings in it’s Cataloguing-in-Publication data), and it is cataloged and shelved as non-fiction in my local public library, but on the copyright page there is a disclaimer stating that it is a work of fiction based on actual events. If it’s true it’s an amazing story. The trials of parenting a child diagnosed with “severe ADHD, moderate to severe autism and global delay” who was born prematurely are described]

Masters, Chris (2004) Corruption Inc. Four Corners. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 14th June 2004.
[investigative journalism]

Masters, Chris (2004) Training day. Four Corners. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 27th July 2004.
[investigative journalism]

Ramsay, Stephen (2008?) Oops, Wrong Planet.
[a documentary film in which Locke is featured and is described as an aspie]

Whistleblowers Australia. (2004) The Whistle: newsletter of Whistleblowers Australia. No. 36. January 2004.
[photo of Debbie Locke with NSW Police Commissioner Ken Moroney after receiving her Certificate of Merit]

Williams, Robyn (2008) Living with Asperger’s. The Science Show. ABC Radio National. September 13th 2008.
[the soundtrack of the documentary film Oops, Wrong Planet by Stephen Ramsay, in which Locke is featured and described as an aspie]

Opal Whiteley - a reference list

This list of sources of information about Opal Whiteley is now a part of Lili Marlene's two new ebooks about Opal Whiteley, which can be downloaded here from Smashwords:

(last added to May 20th 2010)
Beck, Katherine (2003) Opal: a life of enchantment, mystery and madness. Penguin, 2003.

Bede, Elbert (1954) Fabulous Opal Whiteley: from Oregon logging camp to princess in India. Binfords & Mort, 1954.

Bradburne, E. S. (1962) Opal Whiteley: the unsolved mystery. Putnam, 1962.
[I have not read this book which is apparently a reprint of the diary with a lengthy foreword]
Brown, Julie (2010) Writers on the spectrum: how autism and Asperger syndrome have influenced literary writing. Jessica Kingsley, 2010.
[Writers discussed in this book by a literary academic include Hans Christian Andersen, Henry David Thoreau, Herman Melville, Emily Dickinson, Lewis Carroll, William Butler Yeats, Sherwood Anderson and Opal Whiteley. Whiteley identified as a synesthete and an autist.]
Cross, Germaine A. (2005) Play of colors: the legend of Opal Whiteley. iUniverse, Inc., 2005.

Hoff, Benjamin (1986) The singing creek where the willows grow. Houghton Mifflin, 1986.
[apparently a reprint of the diary with a biography and a foreword]
Horton, Kami (writer, producer) (2010) Oregon experience: Opal Whiteley. Oregon Experience. Oregon Public Broadcasting. broadcast March 1st 2010.
[an interesting TV show biography of Whiteley, Asperger syndrome mentioned]
Lawrence, Elizabeth (2000) Opal Whiteley: the continuing mystery. Thomas Harmsworth Publishing Co, 2000.

McQuiddy, Steve (1997) The fantastic tale of Opal Whiteley. Intangible Publications, 1997.

Opal Whiteley (accessed 2010)
Encyclopedia of world biography.

Taylor, I. (1992) Obituary: Opal Whiteley. Independent. February 24th 1992. p.16.

Whiteley, Opal (1920, 2001) The diary of Opal Whiteley. Intersect Digital Library, 2001.
[first published as articles titled The Story of Opal in the Atlantic Monthly magazine, later that year published as a book in London by G. P. Putnam & Sons, the US edition titled The Story of Opal: The Journal of an Understanding Heart was published by Atlantic Monthly Press.]
Who was Opal? (2010) BBC Radio 4. January 5th 2010.
[includes interviews with people who met Whiteley]
Wikipedia contributors (accessed 2010) Opal Whiteley. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.

Williamson, Stephen (accessed 2010) Opal Whiteley Memorial. (website)
Williamson, Stephen H. (2009) The legend of Opal Whiteley. Cottage Grove Historical Society, c2007-2009.
[Asperger syndrome mentioned]

Wolff, Sula (1995) Loners: the life path of unusual children. Routledge.
[Wittgenstein and Opal Whiteley are both described as schizoid and profiled in Chapter 12 of this book by a child psychiatrist who has been described as one of the founders of British child psychiatry]

The above list was taken from the reference list of this list of mine:

55 famous synaesthetes or possible synesthetes: a list with references.

I love lists.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Most interesting article about autism in New Scientist magazine

Here's an article in a science magazine about autism that takes seriously the proposition that autistic minds can display scientifically measurable advantages over neurotypical minds in a number of different areas. It discusses Michelle Dawson and the type of research that she has been doing with great care and committment for years now. I believe this is the kind of stuff that could only be found in this science magazine. While most journalists and science writers take their cues about how to write and think about autism from the autism-related charities and parent support groups that have a curebie point of view, the people at New Scientist frequently show an awareness that there is another point of view (held by many of the magazine's technically-minded readers) and there is scientific evidence out there that doesn't sit well with the catastrophic view of autism. I hope this article is a sign of things to come. A book could surely be written that covers the fascinating research that is only briefly outlined here, if not by Michelle Dawson, then by someone else.

The advantages of autism
David Wolman
New Scientist
May 4th 2010
Issue number 2758

Monday, May 03, 2010

Two new additions to my list of famous synaesthetes – Jani (January) Schofield (b. 2002) and Opal Whiteley (1897-1992)

Content from the article about Opal Whiteley, Helen Demidenko and Jani Schofield which was once published here has now been integrated into Lili Marlene's new ebook about Opal Whiteley and some other famous and fascinating people, which can be downloaded here from Smashwords: 

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Stop the Press! New novel about Asperger syndrome! What an original idea!

I've just been taking a look at the Amazon page for Jodi Picoult's recent novel House Rules, which features a main character who has Asperger syndrome. I've noticed that some of the most unfavourable reviews of the book are from readers who claim to have Asperger syndrome themselves, and some of the most favourable reviews of the book are from readers who claim to be parents or related to people who have AS. No surprises there.
A great idea for a book and a great idea for a list

What three things do Bobby Fischer, Opal Whiteley, Nancy Spungen, Sid Vicious, Alan Turing and Jani Schofield have in common?