Saturday, December 31, 2011


Well, after crossing every T and dotting every i, David finally submitted the last of this year's fellowship applications-- the DOE SCGF. It was nice that their software was designed to double-check the app for the applicant, to prevent his accidentally forgetting something important.

After he finished, I had the privilege of reading Dave's essays he included on the app, and was surprised to see what a great writer he's become-- not just about science, but about his personal life, too.  Good luck, Dave!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas gifts

This year for the first time, David shopped independently, without any help from anyone, (except to use my credit card). Online shopping is a great invention for autistic people, isn't it?

A person reveals a lot about himself or herself in the choice of gifts he purchases, as well as letting us know specifically how well we are truly understood by those who claim to love us. So, I was curious to see what Dave would buy for me; to see how well he understands me. Wow! David M. Nisson has really been paying attention to what his ol' mom is all about. He bought me Kisses from Katie:

Katie Davis is a remarkable young woman, blessed with all the goodies of an American 1% life, and abandoning it all to follow in the footsteps of Mother Teresa of Calcutta. A Christian mom after my own heart...

Also wrapped under the tree (his first independent wrapping job) was Steven Solomon's Water. I'm barely past the introductory chapters of these books, but already I can see that both are exactly in line with my environmental, humanistic, and spiritual values, and I always find it interesting and reassuring to see the different ways that those with whom I share values use their gifts and talents. Good shopping job, Dave!

So, the best gift of all this year was the reminder that I'm so very, very fortunate to have been chosen by God to be the parent of the best human being I know- my son, David Nisson.

Monday, December 26, 2011

What is Person-Centered Planning?

Here is a link to an article on how the state of California uses "Person-Centered Planning" to help families of disabled children plan for the best future possible, and for helping the families of disabled adults maintain their quality of life:

How will the 20% trigger cuts affect this objective of caring for the person more than for the state's pocketbook?

Merry Christmas, readers!!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Artists in our lives

So, in keeping with the "occupy", pro-99% theme this Christmas, we've done as much small-business shopping as we can afford, which includes patronising our favorite artists:

our cousin, Alan, who designs the world's best jewelry:

(I guess, technically, Alan's a "cousin-in-law", as he's married to Dave's & my actual cousin, Heather.)

And then there's my sweet friend, Melody, who loves animals and makes them the dominant theme in her work:

So, before buying Auntie Gerdie that mass-manufactured knick-nack from a greedy corporation, how about shopping from a local, home-based artist instead?

Happy holidays!!

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Monday, November 14, 2011

Physics Conference at SLAC

November 11 and 12 was the California section meeting of the professional organization David is a member of, APS physics. While he has attended a previous APS section meeting, this was the first time Dave was among those who gave PowerPoint presentations of their research results. His colleagues have informed us that he did well, given this was Dave's first talk. Left to right in the first photo are UC Davis graduate students Brian Neal, John Crocker, and David M. Nisson.
The fact is that watching David give that talk was surprisingly emotional for me. The last time I found myself fighting tears of joy at David's happiness and success was the day in June 2010 that he walked across the UC Davis auditorium stage in his cap and gown. I assumed that the next time I'd have that same feeling would be when he earns his doctorate, but I was wrong. As David spoke, I found myself swallowing hard to keep from embarrassing myself with tears of pride and joy. My autistic son, (whom some authorities told me might never speak a complete sentence properly), gave an informative presentation on his research in condensed matter physics
Dave has definitely disproved his childhood doubters...

A week later the editor of the UC Davis Physics department online newsletter, Ms. Cindy Lewis, ran David's summation of the event:

Shouts out to the Traveling Team Physics, including Grad Student David Nisson, who recently attended and presented at (his first) 2011 California APS Section meeting. David shares his experience with us below.
“The 2011 California APS Section meeting was a great experience for me. My favorite part was giving my very first presentation. It was exciting to have a venue to present my first results on a study... Members of the audience told me that they enjoyed my presentation. There was a wide variety of topics in the parallel sessions. It was interesting to hear the results of other people working on condensed matter physics, including not only experiments but theoretical predictions. The plenary sessions were also very informative, including one about a new kind of measurement being used on high-temperature superconductors.”

“Of the 242 attendees of the 2011 CA-APS section meeting, 17 graduate students, researchers, and faculty represented UC Davis. The conference, which took place on  November 11 and 12 at SLAC, was well-organized by a team that included Thanh Ky Ly, Hendrik Ohldag, and Mary Moseley, among others. In addition to plenary talks, parallel sessions, and interesting panel discussion, the students' “Meet Your Rock Star” luncheon and a delicious dinner, where speaker Burton Richter of SLAC gave an eye-opening talk about the realities of energy policy, there were plenty of opportunities to simply meet new people and chat. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and no doubt some helpful collaborations were born.”

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


So, it's All Saints Day, 2011, and we're deciding between mass at our home parish of Saint Francis of Assisi in Sacramento:
or Catholic Newman on campus at UC Davis:

Also, tomorrow is all souls day, a day when we remember in prayer those who've journeyed on from this life...

Although they passed a few years ago, especially foremost in our prayers this year are: my dad (Dave's grandpa) Peter-Fenn Samuelson; Dave's and my great-aunt Julia Mackedon; Dave's and my great-aunt Lily Samuelson, and "Auntie Mary", the aunt of David's beloved godmother, Lauren Brietenbeucher. More recently,(and quite sadly because he was young), our friend Steven Nicholls passed on last year.

May they rest in peace.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The conference we had to miss

Well, our friends at Dave's Bay Area support group, AASCEND:

AASCEND  have informed us that their conference, Entitled "Success on the Spectrum" went great!  As with so many other of their terrific events, we had to miss it due to our busy physics schedule, but we're happy they had a productive, fun time together.

Best wishes to all our friends at AASCEND, and we look forward to getting together with them over the winter break.

UCD Support/Social Group

So, the latest news is that David has finally had time to attend the meetings of the Autism Support and Social Group at UC Davis. Yay! It meets at a bad time for us, so we haven't had time to go, but we finally get time this term and Dave attended while I hung out in the hallway. He really enjoyed himself, and we're happy to announce we'll head back again.

The facilitator for this group is sensitive, caring Susan Bacalman of the UC Davis MIND Institute:       

Monday, October 10, 2011

Who I'm Reading Right Now...

With all my creativity going into Dave-related projects, I've lost my own writing "steam". So, until things slow down again (spring 2012), I'm only reading while I wait for David outside his classrooms and lab.

I have my wonderful Dutch-moved-to-Canada friend, Grace, to thank for telling me about formerly secular romance writer-turned-Feminist Christian writer, Francine Rivers. Ms Rivers is no poet-- her strengths lie in weaving a twisty-turny plot, which is just what I need to take the occasional break from my "to do" list.

I just finished Redeeming Love, set "The Old West", but addressing the very modern issue of "human trafficking".

A reminder that my own life's little problems are little indeed.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Flying, and upcoming fellowship applications

Well, Dave and I had a great experience flying to and from Denver.  Dave sure has come a long way (figuratively, and literally) and can now consider himself "a frequent flyer". Next big flight is Dallas-Forth Worth Airport, where we will visit nearby Lake Grapevine:

Congratulations, David!

Also, he passed the preliminary examination. Yay!

So now Dave's taking a regular class, attending seminars and colloquia, doing research, and applying for fellowships.


Sunday, September 18, 2011

Preliminary Exam and New Fellowship App's

The  UC Davis Physics Graduate  Program requires courses, two comprehensive examinations, research, and a dissertation. 

The two examinations are the "preliminary" exam, and the "qualifying" exam. Dave took the first half of the preliminary last fall, and passed (phew!). This summer, in addition to his laboratory work, he has been studying for the second half of the preliminary exam. He and his graduate school classmates took it this last Friday (September 16), and he feels great about it. Again, "phew", (only not as big a relief as it will be when he gets the actual score). Dave usually judges correctly on these things, though, and it's a good sign that he left no problem unanswered.

Also, I just learned that Dave is one of only a few people on earth doing his particular research topic, which is what one wants ideally for a Ph.D. topic. But, wow!  How many of us "regular folks" can say that we are bona fide, real-life pioneers? How exciting!

In other news, classes resume this Thursday. Also, Dave's applying for a new fellowship to replace his current Cota-Robles, which expires in June 2012.  By the way, here is a bio of that wonderful Professor Eugene Cota-Robles, whom the fellowship honors:

And, of course, Dave's website:

Peace and all good!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

We're Back!!

Yay!! I had some technical difficulties with the blog posting procedure, so it's been a while.

What a great summer. David has learned a lot, worked hard on his physics, and had some fun, too. He wasn't scared a bit on the flight to and from San Diego. Proof that "taking baby steps" works...We're looking forward to longer flights in preparation for those big trips to his physics conferences.

In the meantime, in November, David will be presenting his recent research results at relatively nearby SLAC (Stanford Linear Accelerator Center).

It's nice that they are making the comfortable Stanford Guest House available to attendees of the conference. I always need an extra-good night's sleep before Dave's big events.

Thanks for reading!!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Summer Work

Well, summer's here, so David and his physics colleagues are busier than ever at the lab. As always, I'm nearby to assist David with keeping on schedule, taking stretching breaks, lunch time, etc. I'm so glad that David is able to do science as he always dreamed.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

First Flight Recap

On July 20, 2010, I posted David's and my plan of attack to assure him an anxiety-reduced first flight. Some aspects of the plan we stuck with; others we abandoned. Here is what we did:

1. We visited the Sacramento Airport (SMF) and watched planes land and take off.

2. This was followed by reading about, and discussing, the physics and mechanics of air travel.

3. David practiced flight simulation online.

4. David then rode in a flight simulator at the Aerospace Museum of California, which replicates the experience of bad turbulence. (I rode in it too. It was fun!)

5. We phoned our nearby general aviation airport and arranged for a pilot to simply taxi David around in his Cessna, without actually taking off. The pilot was wonderful; he dispelled David's anxiety by calmly explaining the significance of sounds and flashing lights as they arose.

6. We purchased Sony Sound Isolating Headphones from Best Buy. These worked fine.

7. We made David's first flight just a little commuter trip from SFO to SMF, totaling a mere twenty minutes in the air, not including taxi.

8. We paid extra for the quick check-in through security.

9. When we made our reservations by phone, we INFORMED THE AIRLINE about David's autism, for which they were grateful.

We then did the same when we arrived at security. At the word "autism", TSA provided us our own security agent to accompany David and me through security, double checking that we had not absentmindedly left keys in our pockets, or water in our carry on baggage. How much of this was standard for autistic flyers, and how much was because I'd paid the extra fee, I don't know.

Finally, when we checked in at the airline itself (United Express), we double-checked that the flight crew had been informed of a disabled person's presence. All staff were friendly, and had David and I board before the "neuro-typical" passengers, so as to reduce the emotional stress that bumping elbows, etc, can create.

10. We got to the airport in plenty of time to use the restroom right before boarding, and to enjoy watching the tarmac dramas.

This plan worked for us. "Take what you want, and leave the rest". ~Peace and all good~

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


Yay! David's first flight went great! In fact, we both enjoyed it so much, (and David was so relaxed), that we're going to skip the round-trip to SFO-and-back that we planned, and will move on to the next step-- visiting friends in Southern California.

Peace and all good

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

First Flight

Well, we've got reservations to fly from SFO to SMF on May 15. After that, we make the same trip round-trip. Then (o'jala), we'll fly on weekends further and further each time, until it's "no big deal" to zoom off to the other end of Planet Earth for physics conferences. (Of course, flying's not exactly the greenest form of travel, is it?)

Monday, April 11, 2011

New Directions

David has had a happy and successful year so far. He's done well in his classes, and looks forward to spending the summer devoted full-time to research.

He's progressing well in his preparation for flying. Last week, we visited Mr. Dick Tak at Sacramento's Executive Airport, who allowed us to taxi with him in his Cessna. Dave was perfectly fine. So, it's time, folks! The next step is flying. Here we go!

In the meantime, I'm still reading while David is in class or the laboratory. Recent reads have included Michon Mackedon's well-researched and highly entertaining Bombast: Spinning Atoms in the Desert. Also Freeman Walker by David Allen Cates. I've done some writing, too.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Lifeskill update-- flying

A lot of autistic people have a difficult time growing accustomed to flight travel, so I've designed a program to help David ease into it. We're starting by just watching planes land and take off at the local airport, and having David study statistics, so that he can see how much safer flying is than driving.

Next, we'll get into a small Cessna at a local airport.

23rd Birthday!

Happy twenty-third birthday to Dave! David's birthday coincides with Saint Patrick's Day, but this year we had to celebrate on a different day because March 17 fell right in the middle of Dave's final exams.

In the photos above, you can see David at Old Spaghetti Factory with friends Diane and Greg (lower photo). In the top photo, you can see a very close close-up of Dave's face, and then from left to right are Maddy, Tim, Ed, Norman, Graciela and Brandon. A fine feast and happiness were shared by all that evening. Peace...

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Hasn't it been nice recently? Here's a photo of Dave with Pleasants Ridge behind him, in the nearby Coast Range Mountains. We love hiking, so Northern California is the perfect home for us!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Lab

Well, the holidays sure passed quickly, didn't they. Happy New Year.

So now, David has time in his schedule to get serious about his laboratory work. This is tricky, because David's autism makes him a different sort of scientist to work with than the other group members. While he can focus quite well on math, physics troubleshooting, data analysis, and writing, he has trouble focusing on verbally-delivered information. Fortunately, the members of his research group are open-minded and welcoming toward David. I'm sure we'll work things out.