“Now you may find it inconceivable or at the very least a bit unlikely that the relative position of the planets and the stars could have a special, deep significance or meaning that exclusively applies to only you, but let me give you my assurance that these forecasts and predictions are all based on solid, scientific, documented evidence, so you would have to be some kind of moron not to realize that every single one of them is absolutely true.”
– Weird Al Yankovic
The Science of Autism
One thing about biking is that it gives you plenty of time to think. As I was going through today’s ride, I was listening to music and decided to put up the lyrics that resonated with me the most. I picked “That’s Your Horoscope For Today” by Weird Al for a few reasons, not the least of which being that “Go All the Way” by The Raspberries didn’t seem fitting.
I’m completing this trip as a means to raise money for autism research through The Flutie Foundation and it just so happens that autism is the one disorder I currently spend most of my time researching at the University of Iowa. The lyrics I chose are about horoscopes but they speak to the idea that people will believe pretty much anything and they put blinders on to avoid having to deal with facts that go against those beliefs.
When it comes to autism, that particular belief system shared by many is the idea of a causal link. Autism is a heterogeneous disorder that has at least one gene per chromosome currently associated with it. Because of that, it’s highly unlikely we’ll ever find a common cause or link for autism.
However, the major (and by major I mean most outlandish/idiotic) belief is that vaccines somehow cause autism in children. People have a tenuous grasp on the idea of correlation vs causation. This belief was recorded in a since redacted study originally published in 1997 in The Lancet that has yet to be replicated in the 20 years since. Despite the fact that no verifiable evidence exists to link autism and vaccines, people continue on their crusade, somehow ignoring the fact about how serious Polio was.
I am often reminded of a quote from an article that I read in Advanced Neuroscience while I was completing my bachelor’s at SUNY Plattsburgh that listed all of the different treatments that people put their children through in order to help them with their autism. These range from hyperbaric chambers to chelation treatment. I don’t remember the exact quote so I’ll paraphrase the idea. Basically, the person was lamenting about how terrible a disorder autism is and how much of a struggle it would be for parents with autistic children as they watch the children suffer, wanting to do anything and everything to help them. In their haste to save their child, they throw out a life preserver in the form of all of these treatments. However, you can’t save your child from drowning if you throw them a lead life preserver.
I encourage everyone to watch John Oliver’s video on vaccines and autism. I implore people to not believe things purely based on faith or because some celebrity said so. Remain skeptical, always ask questions, find out operational definitions, and look at the actual data rather than popular opinion.
Day 1 was supposed to be the easiest day for several reasons: fresh legs, a familiar route, and adrenaline for the first day of the trip. However, my overall pace wasn’t what I’d hoped for and I think I’ll need to start a little faster in the mornings for the rest of the days. My stomach bothered me all day as well, throwing off my eating schedule because I would feel hungry and queasy at the same time. I hope this goes away for tomorrow.
Mentally, this ride took a bigger toll than I expected with the low pace and bad stomach. I found my thoughts also drifting from my normal 5-mile chunks, instead focusing on the number of days and miles I have left in the whole trip. The total is daunting, to say the least.
Tomorrow should be ok in that I have practice with multiple 100+ mile days; it’s Day 3 that has me worried.
I’m at a restaurant now (I’m posting this several hours after Joe actually wrote it, just FYI), about to stuff my face and then head back to my AirBnB for a quick six-hour sleep before getting back to it tomorrow morning.
Editor’s Note: Better Safe Than Sorry
Emma here. I feel compelled to share that we took a few extra measures for this ride to ensure that Joe stays as safe as possible, of course, but in the event of an accident, we also wanted him to be prepared.
So as mentioned way back in the favorite pieces of tech post, Joe always sends me–and sometimes a few family and/or friends, depending on the ride–a link to his live GPS map using the RoadID app (left). This app and its branded ID bracelet (right) have done an incredible job to improve my own anxiety around Joe’s rides. I never want to tell him he can’t go where he wants and do what he wants because he’s a grown-ass man, but as a grown-ass woman married to and expecting a child with said man, I am entitled to overflowing anxiety. So being able to know where he is and that he literally wears my phone number on his sleeve in case of an accident helps me to sleep while he’s away like this.
While a bracelet with emergency info is incredibly useful, it means absolutely nothing if Joe Sixpack doesn’t know to look for it, so I made my husband a very simple phone wallpaper –I basically just screencapped a Facebook post draft with a red background–with a simple message so that if a first-responder went to his phone for information, they’d know to check his bracelet as well.
In addition, and much less tech-y, Joe also makes sure to text regularly. He has at least three rest stops planned for each day of his journey so at the very least, I know I can expect to hear from him at those times. And again, with the help of the RoadID app, I can see exactly how far away he is from the next stop.
The other benefit of these check-ins is that I am able to update his Twitter @cycologyphd with his progress reports so his friends, family, and followers can ride along. I also post his photos to Instagram @doctorofcycology.