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Making Peace with Autism

9 maggio 2005

Ned Batchelder is a (Python) programmer who has to deal daily with the autism that afflicts his oldest son:

For most people, the degree of examination is a matter of choice, a reflection of your interest in introspection and self-awareness. Most people can adjust their level of self-examination to balance the effort with the reward. With an autistic child, there is little room for laying back and letting things be. “Go with the flow” doesn’t usually apply.

His wife Susan Senator is a writer and activist, who has just published the book Making Peace with Autism: One Family’s Story of Struggle, Discovery, and Unexpected Gifts. Ned is asking his friends, readers, and fellow programmers to help raise his wife’s Google ranking:

Could I ask a favor? Susan’s name makes Google searches difficult. Searching for “Susan Senator” tends to find Senators named Susan, and “Sue Senator” is worse: there are lots of news stories about people suing their senators. Here’s the favor: make a link to Susan Senator to help Google find its way.

It’s an easy favor to grant, and maybe reading Ned and Susan’s experiences will make you stop for a while, and give some thought to many important things we all take for granted in our daily lives.

Reports from the past - The Gibigianna/2

23 agosto 2003

anybody knows what kind of car this is?

The second and last part of our report from the Gibigianna. In the image you can see on your left, a car has been brought on stage. I wonder what kind of car this is (the year is 1928). update: I was fooled by the picture, looking at the .tif scanned from the original, the car is not a real car but a stage replica. Even more impressive. =)

A writing by my aunt on the back of one of the pictures identifies a few of the participants and sets a different location from the one given on the silver ashtray (my grandmother is the 4th from the right standing in the first row)

in Castellazzo di Bollate party at Marchesa Crivelli’s

in the 1st row grandmother, Marichette Valentini, with the mage’s hat Vico Sormani

below the panel on the wall Alberto Sormani, at the far right Donà dalle Rose


It’s 1928 then, and the place is Castellazzo di Bollate not Rovellasca. Rovellasca is a small town near Como, where the Marchesi (marquis) Crivelli had their villa, villa Arconati-Crivelli. The Crivelli where cousins to my grandmother via her mother Beatrice Sormani.

Castellazzo di Bollate is a small town near Milano, where in the XVII century the Conti (counts) Arconati built their splendid villa. As was usual for rich noble families of the time, the villa had an impressive art collection and library, where for a time Leonardo’s Codice Atlantico (now at the Biblioteca Ambrosiana in Milano) was kept. In the villa gardens, one could find fragments of the funerary monument of Gastone di Foix, duke of Nemours and nephew of Louis XII, or the statue of Pompeo at whose feet Caesar was said to be killed.

It is in this impressive settings then that my grandmother’s recorded Gibigianna took place. The panel affixed on the wall in one of the pictures says:

O! What is life?

It’s a gibigianna

who glitters here and there

it’s fate

For those who have missed our previous report, Gibigianna is an old term used in Lombardy meaning either a glitter of light reflected from a mirror or glass, or used as a humorous term for a woman who displays elegance.

That’s all for my first Report from the Past. All the images of the Gibigianna are available in a separate directory (since getting text to wrap around multiple images in a blog page is a tedious, error prone and a bit futile process).

Reports from the past - The Gibigianna/1

23 agosto 2003

my grandmother is the girl in the centre of the picture

Since I’m a bit fed up with programming, but as usual the idea of going to sleep (well, actually of lying in bed with a book, currently the 7th of the 26 in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series) does not look so great, I might as well start putting on my blog my family’s ancient pictures. Ancient because that’s what came out writing in (more or less) American English on a computer, but thinking about it stuff from the early 1900 should be considered old not ancient.

Scanning all the family pictures scattered around my relatives’ homes is an old pet project of mine, one I started last year but never managed to stick to. I hope this will be an incentive towards scanning a few more pictures and letters (especially my paternal grandfather’s sometimes humorous letters from the first World War, a good number of them written to his parents by his attendant on pre-signed — by my grandfather — stationery, or so the family lore says).

I am starting this fragmented slideshow with the gibigianna. It’s a regional (the region being Lombardy, in Italy, where Milan is), pretty disused word meaning

  • a glitter of light reflected from a mirror or glass
  • humorous, for a woman who displays elegance

A beautiful word, isn’t it? It’s a special language where you have a word for a glitter of light reflected from a mirror, whose other meaning has to do with a woman’s ostentatious display of elegance (but then I suspect most languages have beautiful, very special words). Not very politically correct, but it fits perfectly my grandmother’s pictures.

In my grandmother’s case, the gibigianna was a sort of party where young people dressed in costumes and reenacted historical or literal scenes (or so my aunt tells me). My paternal grandmother was the daughter of a noblewoman (who unfortunately does not appear to have been one of the heirs to her family’s huge fortune or at least to part of it), and had relatives among some of Milan’s noble families, and so got to take part to this kind of events.

I have always found these pictures wonderful, and appalling. Imagine a few teenagers (one of the pictures has 20 people in it) that spend a day dressing up in stage-quality costumes, only to reenact historical scenes in their family’s private theater inside their villa. Not only that, but they also have silver ashtrays made for the event.

Full coverage of the Gibigianna coming soon, if I manage not to get distracted by something else, as usual. =)

update: the second and last part of this Report from the Past is now online. All the images of the Gibigianna are available in a separate directory (since getting text wrapping around multiple images in a blog page is a tedious and error prone process).