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2nd-Nov-2015 07:41 am - Autistics Speaking 2015
What is the difference between a cage and a sanctuary?
Autistics Speaking 2015 Participant

There have been a couple of cases recently of schools deciding that the best way to cope with an autist is to restrain them.

One was a primary school. They built a cage. A literal steel cage. In a storage room, where the only two lighting levels were blinding or black, because it was floodlit with the sort of fluorescent searchlight glare that OH&S people tell us is compulsory, and no windows. In a touch of probably unknowing irony, it was painted blue.

This cage was explicitly for the benefit of an autistic student, so that they could lock him in there when he had a tantrum. "For his own safety, and the safety of others", of course.

Of course.

Of course it is obvious that they didn't ask an autist, because then they might have learned that a meltdown is not the same thing as a tantrum, that a meltdown is caused by something, and that what an autist needs to come down from a meltdown is quiet, calm, dark solitude. Well, solitude that child would have, if not privacy. Dark that child would have, if they remembered to turn off the lights, and if "pitch blackness" counts. Quiet would be achieved, because any screams would be muffled.

If they had been looking for a better way to make a bad experience immeasurably worse, it's difficult to see how.

Then, more recently, there was a "box" at a ... well, let's not call it a "school". I doubt anything was taught there. More of a daycare center for autistic adults. (Not that such things aren't themselves needed.) And there, also, was a box.

In this case it was slapped together with 2x4s and plywood, instead of case welded powder-coated steel. And the outside was decorated by the autists themselves. And they had been asked to bring in egg-cartons from home to line the inside.

Now, this one is harder. Because it might be something to lock an unruly autist into, ... but. It might have been a place for an autist to retreat into. Because: quiet, dark, private, enclosed.

Everyone was outraged. There were fulminations on the front pages, and abject apologies from the organisation, and calls for investigation. No-one seemed to consider that it might have been something for the autists' benefit.

I started asking around, and actually got some answers. (From ASAN AuNZ, who did not have to answer the questions of some random from off the street, but they did, to their credit.) And they sent me more photos than had been published.

The box was unlined. That could just mean it was unfinished. But it was clearly crude and unrefined. Of course, that meant also that it was relatively flimsy, and could not contain anyone who really wanted out. But more damning, it was against the windows, and open to the windows. There was little darkness in there, and thanks to the open gaps, little to no muffling. (But then, again, if the autist inside could hear everything outside, so could everyone outside hear the autist were they so minded.) And there were close-ups of a thing on the outside of the door which I was assured was a place for a lock. I couldn't see how it was possible to put a lock on it, but I was assured that that's what it was.

I remain dubious about the intentions of the staff who built that box. I still think it not impossible that they were really, if ham-fistedly, trying to build a retreat box, where an autist could have a semblance of privacy and quiet in which to calm down. Or, everyone else is right, and it was a ham-fisted attempt to build a box in which to punish or restrain an autist who was playing up.

I do believe the press release of the organisation involved, when they said that whatever its purpose, it wasn't fit for it. They dismantled it and threw it away when they found out about it, and everyone who was involved will probably be punished... or at least given a stern talking-to.

But... We autists do need a place to retreat. When at work, we are increasingly being sat, along with everyone else, in overbright, noisy, confusing, full of distraction and detail and movement, every movement public to everyone, open plan office spaces. Every moment in glare, with someone literally watching over your shoulder, with the conversation of a hundred people unmuffled in your ear, with people moving in your line of sight all the time in the corner of your eye. And there is no respite. They may have "cool down" spaces where you can take your laptop (good luck if you are assigned a desktop), but they're designed for NTs, and are still bright and public and loud and distracting. They may have meeting rooms you can book for private work (pity about the whole laptop thing), but good luck booking them over the Project managers' interminable meetings about minutiae and trivia. There is no escape from when you arrive, to when you go home. No escape from the light or the noise or the incessant burble or the movement or the feeling of a predator behind you or the people people people always expecting you to deal with them socially on their terms and immediately.

So the lack of a place to retreat is also a problem. And autists aren't included in the design stage, or the OH&S stage, or, really, the consultation stage. My requirements aren't arbitrary, they are medically necessary. But when I raise them, I am dismissed with platitudes and boilerplate and repeated assertions that this space is designed to be best practice and ergonomic and all sorts of other lies and bullshit.

These spaces are, I'm going to be charitable here and say "unwittingly", designed to exclude autists and make us feel unwelcome and uncomfortable. It's the equivalent of setting up a Mosquito, playing high pitched sounds that adults can't hear, but teenagers can feel on the edge of sensation like the echo of teeth being pulled.

And I work in IT. You'd think IT would take better care of its autists. (Who am I kidding, no organisation gives a toss about its IT department until they can't read their email any more.)

So there is a need for retreats, for sanctuaries, for a place to go to keep the world out, to take a breath before you plunge back into the dazzling glare of a world built for other people but not you.

It's important, though, too, that this place be appropriate, be fit for purpose, and, above all, be voluntary.

What is the difference between a cage and a sanctuary?

It's on which side of the door is the lock.

(We're scheduled to move into the new building by the end of the year.)

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1st-Nov-2014 10:55 pm - To Whom Am I Speaking?
Autistics Speaking Day, 2014.

When I write about Autism, who am I writing to?

[My Special Interest is linguistics, so already I have gotten distracted over how that sentence should, in theory, be "to whom am I writing", because dative. But the dative is dropped when the preposition is split in English, because it's fossilised, and no longer productive. And there's nothing wrong with that, that's just how English works. And then I got distracted for a moment about the "because noun" construction, and how useful it is at summarising an entire field of study into one word, and how it expresses the idea of "there are lots of reasons for this, but this margin is too narrow for them, and they are left as an exercise for the reader", and then I thought that what that construction really does is act as shorthand for "there are reasons, and if I start enumerating them, I won't have any time for anything else." And then I thought that this aside could probably have been expressed as "I got distracted by the first sentence, because linguistics."]

Anyway, am I talking to other Autism Advocates? Because if I am, I'm talking to people who already know what I'm about to say. As soon as I mentioned a Special Interest in the above aside, they knew that I had to fight my way back to the point from it. So I don't think I'm talking to them, because I have nothing to say which they haven't experienced.

Am I talking to Parents of Autists? That's hard. I hope I am, and I hope they're listening. I've see parents, however, who don't care what I have to say on the matter. Parents in Autism Speaks, or Age of Autism, who are the only people who could possibly ever speak for their children, because any autistic person who is articulate enough to propound an opinion is by definition not autistic enough to represent their child, and anyone who is as thoroughly afflicted is, by definition, unable to articulate an opinion. Don't we hear the continual grief at never hearing the words "I love you"? I mean, I could get angry that they wilfully ignore the people who try to tell them the behaviours which mean "I love you", but they're too busy looking for the correct form that they reject the message. i could get angry at that, but I'm usually too angry that they tend also to support anti-vaccination and chelation and systematic psychological torment in the name of "treatment". The Judge Rotenberg Center for the Torture of Autists still exists, and its operators have not been sent to the Hague in chains. Parents of Autists who don't listen to Autists don't anger me for that alone. And the Parents of Autists who do listen to us have my respect. It can't be easy learning that your child is autistic, and seeking out a whole other culture and seeking to learn from them is amazingly hard: trust us when we say that we understand this, because we do that every time we walk out the door in the morning. So I'm not talking to the "you're too functional to be autistic" parents, because they're already shouting me down, and I'm not talking to the parents who seek out Autists and ask them what to do, because I don't need to talk to them: they're already listening.

Am I talking to Allists? Neurotypicals? People Without Autism? Because it seems sometimes that I could wear a sign and walk the streets of the city, screaming in people's faces, and they still wouldn't give a shit about what I say. The media generally seems to have four stories about Autism: 1) Doctors have found a (cause|potential cure) for Autism. (Spoiler: no, they haven't.) 2) Parent of an Autistic child is lauded for their bravery and hard work and success with a revolutionary new treatment for autism. (Which isn't to say that they haven't put in a lot of work, and come across something which works for them and maybe others, and it's not a bed of roses... but we never hear from the child.) 3) Tragic death/injury/assault/humiliation of an Autist, not only but far too often at the hands of their own parents. (And almost every. Single. Time. the Autism is used as a mitigating factor: that the child was autistic is used to make the crime not as bad, that it's understandable for the parent to have done this, and if you don't believe me, look up the Issy Stapleton case.) 4) Temple Grandin or John Elder Robison. I don't hear the voices on TV or the Radio of any Autists outside fiction who aren't these two. Not to begrudge them a voice, but if the number of Autists out there really is one in eighty-eight, you'd thing the news and lifestyle shows could at least pretend to find one of us to ask when there's news about us. But my experience so far is that Autism is a fascinating subject, but actual Autists aren't worth considering. Sometimes I feel like the woman in labour in Monty Python's Meaning of Life: "What do I do?" "Nothing, dear, you're not qualified!"

Am I speaking to my co-workers? Some of them are really cool about it all: they couldn't care if I can make a phone call, so long as the work gets done. Some co-workers, on the other hand, keep asking me to do things like they're nothing hard at all, like go to meetings, and phone strangers on a daily basis, and remember something they just told me but which hasn't been written down, and I keep having to say "I'm autistic, remember?" I shouldn't have to keep saying it. I shouldn't have to keep defending my failures with that. And what I hate most about it is that I have promised myself that my autism will only ever be an explanation, not an excuse. But whenever I'm forced to remind the same person, again, that I'm autistic, it feels more and more like an excuse. Him forgetting that I might have difficulties raises the same demons I battled inside my own head for decades, the same feelings of inadequacy and uselessness, and that there was no excuse, except that I was a lazy failure. Autism gave me a reason, and a weapon to beat those demons down: I'm allowed to not be good at those things. I'm supposed to not be good at them. I'm allowed to find them stressful and anxiety inducing and distressing and painful. I'm allowed to want to avoid them, and I should be allowed to whenever it's feasible. But when those difficulties are ignored, or treated like an annoying quirk, rather than something which can render me useless for days, then those demons sneak out and return to gnawing at my soul. But as I do have to keep reminding those co-workers, I don't think I'm talking to them, because they're not going to change their treatment of me anyway.

So, by the process of elimination, I think I've identified who I am talking to. ["To whom I am talking." Sorry. Reflex.]

You out there, who think you are Autistic, but aren't sure. Who are worried that everything you read about Autism sounds more and more like you're own life history, but have been convinced by Rain Man and Autism Speaks that you can't be Autistic. For everyone who is still trying to come to terms with your diagnosis, whether it was delivered this morning, or a decade ago. To children, teenagers, adults. To everyone who feels like they're the only person in the world dealing with this. I'm talking to you.

And what I'm saying is this: you aren't alone. You feel alone, but we all do. To an extent that comes with the condition. (I don't know whether that's a necessary part of being on the Spectrum, or a simple result of growing up isolated from anyone who really understands you.) But I beg you to read Autistics Speaking Day posts, all of them you can bear, and to realise that you are learning something from each one: not what it is like to be Autistic, but how each one is familiar. Each post will feel like an old memory; you may gain new insights, but they're insights into yourself. And the more you feel that twist in your stomach as you read someone else's words describing your own experience, as you're never seen it laid out before, the more you should know that you are one of us; that you have found your people. That you belong.

To you, I say: welcome. Hang around. You are under no obligation to say anything, but neither are you obliged to remain silent. Speak up as and when you are comfortable doing so. But I beg you to at least listen to your peers. Because it helps immeasurably just to know that they're there. And we understand.
18th-Nov-2013 04:16 pm - Tir gan teanga: rap as Gaeilge.
Sílim go mbeadh sé seo breá le Bar-Barra... is dócha.

Tá sé ceoltoir as an tSiombaib é, agus tá cuid focail na n-amhrán atá:
"Is gaeilgeoir mé, tá Gaeilge mo chroí..."

(Ní dóigh liom go beidh ar maith leat an ceol: tá sé duine ó an tSiombaib leis a chuid Gaeilge air, atá a bhí mé tú a éisteacht é.)

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Overload is a feature of autism, to the point were I would talk about how my autism interacts with my circumstance, but there is so much going on that I find myself unable to extract any particular thing to discuss: the forest is so big, I can't describe any trees.

So instead of talking about that, let me talk about television.

There are autists on TV, even if their attributes are usually inconsistent and subject to plausible deniability by the show's writers. That is: it doesn't matter how obvious that the traits are, the writers will deny that the character is anything of the sort. Presumably so that they can explain away any mistakes they make.

Still, there is Sheldon Cooper, and Temperance Brennan, and Data, and (I'm told) Abed Nadir.

Characters in historical features, however, are more difficult to nail down. Not least because the assumption seems to be that, in accordance with Age of Autism dogma, there weren't any autists before the 20th century.

Which is, of course, ridiculous.

Historical autists who could feign normality, or were in circumstances where they could function, were just folks who were odd. Autists who could not function were "idiots", and typically ignored in the records. If they lived that long.

There's a good argument that Fitzwilliam Darcy was on the spectrum, given how he was described as acting stiffly and formally, and abnormally so even by the standards of the time, but hiding behind his demeanour a rare kindness and sensitivity.

Sherlock Holmes, for different reasons, as well.

But as far as it goes, that would seem to be that, unless you include the archetypal absent-minded professor. And even that is typically a trope in its own right, and with only tangential connection to autistic traits as is typically presented.

And then there is Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries, series 2, episode 8: "The Blood of Juana the Mad".

Spoilers and potential triggers ahead

Beatrice Mason is a student of medicine in the 1920s. When we first see her, she is not the only female in the class — indeed, the teacher of the dissection class is a woman — but the three women present are outnumbered by the men. When the sheet is pulled from the cadaver, supposed to be a woman in her thirties, and it is revealed to be an older man with a slit throat, Beatrice is the one who names him as Professor Katz. Her expression is one of surprise, rather than shock or despair.

Later we see the investigation enter Professor Katz' office, and it turns out that Beatrice was his research assistant. She gets distressed that strange people are invading the office. She gets even more distressed when a valuable mediaeval manuscript is missing from the safe.

Her reaction is to rush out to the empty corridor, and rest her forehead against a pillar. When Phryne (the heroine of the series) goes out, Beatrice says that she finds groups of people difficult to be around.

Later, when Beatrice is questioned, she reveals that she effectively lives in her office after she was kicked out of her rooming house after she was blamed for a fire. As a woman, she wasn't allowed to live in any of the residential colleges. She is very matter of fact about this.

Later we learn other things about Beatrice. She may not show it, but she says that she is sad that Professor Katz is gone. She only eats jam sandwiches. She hates it when people touch her books without gloves. When she says in response to an offer of a place to stay, that she "will consider it", she means exactly that, it's not a euphemism for "no". She looks distracted, but while looking around she picks up important details as quickly as does Phryne herself.

And she provides the vital clues to solving the mystery when not only has she transcribed the missing manuscript, not only had she found the hidden code, but when her transcription was stolen, it turns out that she had made separate transcriptions of the code alone.

Her difficulties are not played down: she is drugged because someone gives her a jar of spiked jam. She is lured to a boy's room by simply being invited. "It was polite to go. It's important to be polite." She is constantly being insulted, teased and excluded, and appears unaware, although she does describe knowing full well what's going on. Mostly.

Never once is the word "autism" uttered. It would be an anachronism if it were: Kanner's paper was still twenty years in the future. And yet, for those who know what they're looking at, there can be no question that that's what she is. It's not a tragedy, it's not played for laughs, it's not a source of superhuman powers, and it's not a quirk without consequence.

It's possible for the depiction of autism on television to be done right.

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25th-Oct-2013 09:25 pm - Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries
The Blood of Juana the Mad

So... a researcher who obsesses over a mediaeval manuscript, who is autistic, and works at the University of Melbourne.


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19th-Feb-2013 10:20 pm - Birthdays
I seem to have misplaced a decade somewhere.

It's Miss A's tenth birthday today. how did that happen?

BRB, checking down the back of the couch...

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14th-Jan-2013 04:33 pm - 12th Night, as I remember it.
It turned out that the Cockatrice drawing I knocked off in a couple of hours appeared on the front cover of the Cockatrice publication. People have said that they like it, which is gratifying.

After a week of not quite panicking, things more or less worked for 12th night, heraldically speaking.

I ran Henri and Beatrice's last court, handing off to [personal profile] actreal for Teffania's Laurel ceremony, and only almost ruining it in the introduction.

The final court also included, amongst lots and lots of Cyphers, a Cockatrice, Prometheus, a couple of Silver Pegasi and a White Scarf, [personal profile] felinophile being admitted as a Pelican.

The final court segued straight into the investiture ceremony, which I also did the shouting for.

After lunch, the first court of Felix and Eva, handled by [personal profile] actreal. This was all about the Royal Household, and no awards (requiring entry into Canon Lore) were given.

After tourneys and other such entertainments, first court of the evening was run by Sorle, who passed off to the B&B Stormhold who allowed me to pass my Office of Goutte d'Eau off to [personal profile] pearl, who very shortly thereafter was also admitted as a Laurel.

Paul Mortar was granted a Golden Tear, there was another Cockatrice, a Star and Lily, and Dante the newly appointed Deputy Goutte d'Eau was granted an Award of Arms.

And [personal profile] actreal was made a Court Baron.

The chest I made at Mistress Antonia's workshop did not win the Arts and Sciences competition, but it was very handy to carry our feasting gear -- and it fits almost perfectly into the boot of Mim's car.

People said nice things about my shouting, including that they were entertained when I pronounced people's names as they were meant to be, not as they might be read out naively.

Sunday was at a site a long way away. [personal profile] actreal was not there, so I did the courts, and Sorle did his shouting duty at the tourney. One of the items of business was that the previous evening the children had chosen a king and queen by the finding of a bean in a cake. Miss A was the queen of the children. They came up in court to ask permission to hold a children's court, which was graciously granted (their Majesties seemed taken by the idea), and their majesties ran the King and Queen of the Children through a quick oath to Do The Right Thing, and granted them tokens. (Which was not expected or planned, but was a lovely touch.) Miss A in particular had a strong clear voice in court and her petition and answers were note-perfect.

During the day there was wandering, and talking, and Being Hit On The Head Lessons, and the Children's Court (they appointed their own lords and ladies of the court, and a herald, and gave out awards and prizes, and waved banners, and generally demonstrated that the College of Heralds and the various aspects of nobility will be in good hands when it comes their time.

I heralded the final court, which had a Golden Tear (for the Steward), a Star and Lily, several gifts and offers of fealty, and one huge glaring stuff-up on my part when the court was closed, we had had cheers for the King and Queen, and I then declared three cheers for "the Barons and Baronesses, the Peers, and the populace of Stormhold".

I didn't even realise I'd said that (at the top of my lungs) until the Kraé Glassians all looked at me horrified, gave confused cheers (knowing what I meant), and then informed me what I'd said.

Autopilot can be a bitch.

And there's documentary evidence of the coronation.

And Sorle Canon was right there, so all the CHAF forms went straight to him then and there, and it's already up on Canon Lore.

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5th-Jan-2013 09:42 pm - Cockatrice
cockatrice by catsidhe
cockatrice, a photo by catsidhe on Flickr.

Something I drew.

1st-Jan-2013 12:02 am - 2013
May this one be better than the last.

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3rd-Dec-2012 08:09 am - William Marshall Tourney and Feast
I got sunburned on my shoulders, where my splendidly embroidered new tunic doesn't cover.

My new period boots worked wonderfully well, although the wrappings chafed my calves quite painfully.

The kids were mostly well behaved, except for an incident involving a river and a lost shoe.

The company was exceeding pleasant.

Mim and I were made companions of the Silver Drakkar. This was a huge surprise and honour (not least the unscripted acclamation), but it does explain why the Baron told me that Rocket had volunteered for the closing court, which came as news to Rocket himself. There was only one token, but when Mim went to Bash, she was given Baron Sven's own token, an even higher honour again.

I have opened applications for my replacement, with an announcement at court and a post on Stormlist. I would send the message to the Chronicler, but I don't know if Stormscroll would be out early enough. I got an approving message from a herald who liked the way I worded the post.

I interview for my own job tomorrow.

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A note to far too many organisations who have websites which are meant to deliver a service: Your website is overcomplicated, baroque, brittle, and absolutely unusable. You are paying your web devs to piss people off and chase them away. You are declaring that the disabled can just fuck right off because you would rather stab yourself in the head than make something accessible to them. You are what is wrong with the internet.

Telstra, I'm not just looking at you, I'm setting fire to you with my eyes. I wanted to see what mobile phones are available on my current plan... ideally which ones are available at $0 extra cost. That shouldn't be a hard thing to ask for. Not only did I used to be able to do it, it used to be easy.

Now, however...

First, you have made it extremely difficult to even find where my plan is described. I have to know the genus, family, and species of plan before I can compare instances. And I can't compare across plan genuses. And the web page just tells me that "phones are available", but there is nowhere, nowhere where I can find out which ones.

And when I was trying to look, the website popped up some javascript abomination or other to get my feedback. Which was intrusive, complicated, and didn't work. And then I went to give some feedback on my browsing experience, and you've made it so insanely complicated and baroque that I can't even figure out how to do that! I started off annoyed, then deeply annoyed, and then angry, at which point I wanted to give some pointed feedback. But the process of trying to figure out how to give feedback escalated my feelings to wanting to abuse you and all your web developers and user interface architects, to wanting to fill in the feedback form (wherever the hell it is) with a couple of megabytes of insults, cursewords and wishes for your horrible deaths, and then the desire to hunt you down with my feedback literally written on a sharp stake and giving you some "pointed feedback" in a very visceral and non-metaphoric manner.

The thing is, this sort of thing isn't that hard. It's not trivial, but it's a solved problem. You have had this functionality in the past, and you systematically stripped it out because ... because reasons? Because you literally hate us and want us to suffer? Because you are going out of your way to make it impossible to choose the sort of sensible plan I've had for decades and push me onto something which isn't as functional for only twice the price?

What you're doing is very clearly trying to look clever. And the thing about looking clever is that people or organisations who actually are clever don't need to work that hard to look it. Corollary: the harder you're trying to look clever, the more likely it is that you simply aren't. Corollary to the corollary: your website shows you up as a bunch of blithering fools, desperately signing up to the latest buzzword du jour in the frantic hope that you'll be taken seriously this time, all the time alienating the people who would want to use your service, and not fooling any of the ones who need to be convinced, except for the ones whose custom you don't want, but obviously deserve.

Summary: go stick your heads in a fucking pig, the whole fucking lot of you. Your obvious contempt for those who would dare attempt to become your customers on their terms is returned.

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I don't really think of myself as "disabled".

Even when I got the diagnosis of Asperger's. I mean, Asperger's is an Autism Spectrum Disorder, and Autism is classified as a disability, but this is how I've always been, so I don't feel any more "disabled" after the diagnosis than I did before.

Sure, there are things I can't do as well as most people, but usually I can work around them. "Please email that info to me, because I have already forgotten it." "Please, only one person talk at a time, otherwise I can't hear anyone." "Say again?" "I don't understand."

But then sometimes the walls fall down.

Last week was very difficult, but it could have been much worse.

The Tuesday before last, and the Friday before that, I had the visual halo of a migraine after going to the gym. This was disturbing – to say the least – so my wife, Mim, made an appointment for me at the doctor's.

And on the Wednesday evening – the evening before the appointment – my car's engine changed from running rough to tapping as I drove home from filling the tank. When I checked, the oil was basically dry.

So on Thursday morning Mim drove me to the doctor's appointment, where he told me I was probably dehydrated, and that I needed blood tests for everything. I was at high risk for Diabetes, high cholesterol, Lymph dysfunction, all sorts of things.

After the appointment, we went shopping and got a bottle of oil, and I filled the engine when we got home. I drove around the block, but the tapping didn't go away, so Mim called a mechanic, and we drove over for him to look at the car. It turned out that the tapping was fixable, the car needed a service (which I knew), and I had severely over-filled the engine, and was at risk of blowing the gaskets. We booked it in for a service the following Monday. Which meant that I would have to figure out the new train ticketing system to get to and from work.

On Saturday, Mim took me to get phlebotomised, which was relatively painless, even if it did delay my morning coffee by a couple of hours.

On Monday, she followed me to the mechanic's, and took me in to work. She gave her phone number, so that the mechanic would talk to her about the works required, and her mother drove the car home for us. Then Mim came and collected me from work. She also booked the followup doctor's appointment when I got notification that my results were in.

I'm not diabetic, by the way. (big sigh of relief.)

But that long tale, even with the happy endings (car is fixed, bloodwork looks normal, further gym sessions have been migraine-free), brought something else to light.

I could not have done any of it on my own.

Mim had long since found a medical clinic for us to go to, and had the number to hand. Mim knew the mechanic, and had his number to hand. Mim had organised half a dozen people in an intricate dance of planning over a week, over and above the usual juggling involved with being a mother of two. Mim neither froze nor panicked when plans changed and unexpected emergencies popped up. Mim could make phone calls without having to force herself to.

If it were not for Mim, I would have had to pick a doctor randomly out of the phone book, not having any idea where to go. At this point I would have been paralysed by the choice between dozens of unknowns, and very likely given it up as Too Hard.

I would have had to pick a garage out of the phone book, again, randomly. Again, paralysed by a choice between unknowns, again likely to have given it up, or at least put it off and put it off and put it off...

I would have been unable to ask for help, leading me to be stressed out by learning how to buy a train ticket in the new system. (Although that there is now a need to learn how to buy a train ticket is another rant, for another time.)

Even if I had been able to chose a doctor or mechanic, I would have been paralysed at the act of picking up the telephone and talking to them: an absolutely excruciating experience at the best of times, and the best of times is not when I'm worried about my health and my car and everything is failing at once and I need to cold call strangers and make snap decisions and complicated (for me) planning on the run.

With Mim looking out for me, everything turned out OK, and relatively without fuss, and quickly.

Without Mim, I would still be stressing about finding a doctor, and prevaricating about actually organising to go, and putting off dealing with the car, and catching public transport in the heat and the rain, and avoiding the gym because I didn't know what was causing the migraines, and generally freaking out. Every point would have been a mountain to overcome, where most people see gentle hills at worst. And that's if Mim were to have only been on holiday last week. Without her at all in my life then I wouldn't be living where I do, likely wouldn't have the friends or social interaction that I do, wouldn't eat as well as I do.

Whenever I've made a step towards independence in the past, it was only possible because friends and family have helped me. A school friend helped me move out of my father's house, and in with him. And then helped me arrange a flat of my own. Where I lived off takeaway, and never used the kitchen, and washed my clothes far less often than I should have, and was in the early stages of scurvy before other friends noticed and gave me a prod. And those friends helped me move in to their share house, and through them I met Mim.

I owe my independence to the help of others. I don't think I would have been capable of any of it without their help.

And it was luck that led me to them: it was because my father saw an ad for the entrance exam for a selective entry state school, and he took me to take that test, and I passed, and I chose Japanese instead of French or German, and I repeated year ten, and I joined the Stage Crew. If any of those things had not happened then I wouldn't have met any of these people, and I would not be where I am now.

I simply could not have done it without their help.

And so, by this luck, this series of strokes of luck, I am privileged. I am privileged in that while I have Asperger's, I don't have to think of myself as disabled.

Because other people have helped me in those things which I cannot handle on my own, simple and normal things which most people take for granted, like arranging a place to live, and eating, and seeing a doctor, and getting the car serviced, and dealing with minor crises, and so I am saved from most of those things which could so easily go so very wrong.

I love Mim. She is my wife, and my friend, and the mother of my children, and besides all that, the person who enables me to function as if I were normal. I cannot express how grateful I am to be so lucky.

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22nd-Oct-2012 04:05 pm - Forget Sheldon, Bones knows Aspie.
Bones, season 8 episode 2: "The Partners in the Divorce"

Over the years Temperance Brennan's Asperger's (as near Word of God as we're likely to get [0]) has varied from subtle eccentricities to verging on caricature, but in the episode which showed here last night, "The Partners in the Divorce", they damn near nailed the core of the condition.

The plot is ostensibly about the investigation into the murder of a man whose body was found burning in a 44 gallon drum under a bridge. But that's incidental to the personal interactions going on. And the biggest one is between Booth and Brennan, dealing with recent events.

The context is that Brennan has just returned from three months on the run from the law, trying to clear her name after being framed for a murder. (She, of course, arranges for this to happen.) But in the meantime, she and Booth have been separated, and Booth has neither seen nor heard from Brennan or their baby, which Brennan took with her on the run.

When we first see them in this episode, Brennan is cooking breakfast, and we can see that Booth is trying to hide how upset he is. Brennan is cooking breakfast, usually Booth's job.

When they get to the crime scene, Booth is further upset when he steps in brain matter and his shoe is bagged as evidence, and snaps when Brennan starts giving orders relating to police procedure. He angrily starts giving orders relating to forensic procedures, and hops off. Brennan knows that he's upset, but has only the vaguest idea why.

As the case progresses, and they discover that they're investigating a Divorce Lawyer, she further upsets Booth (a Catholic) with her statements that marriages often end in divorce, and it's a good thing they aren't married.

Things get more and more tense, with Brennan aware that something is wrong, but unable to figure out what it is. When people hint at the reason, she rejects it as a stupid reason: she gives Booth the credit of being as logical as she is. But still, they are snapping at each other, both getting more and more upset at each other, and themselves.

The turning point is when Booth talks to Brennan in her lab, and they are calm and rational about things, they give each other a peck, and Booth leaves. Brennan is relieved that things are calming down (which is the interpretation I gave the interaction as well), until her intern asks what's wrong. When Brennan asks why, the intern says that whenever his parents are that polite to each other, it means things are about to explode.

And that's the moment when she realises that he could be pretending to be calm, and that she needs help to figure out what's going on.

Later that night she arrives home late. Booth is drinking. He asks her why she's late, primed to see something to get angry at, but this is defused when she says she was meeting with Sweets the psychologist, asking him for help to learn what she should do. And she says so with "There's something wrong with me."

That was what made the episode for me. It was the recognition that Aspies get into trouble because we can tell (sometimes) that someone's upset, but not be able to tell what they're upset at, and we get caught when someone else tells us that things are "fine", we can't tell that that's a lie. And when we realise what's going on, it's us with the malfunctioning systems. It's our fault that the other person's upset, because if we were better at being functioning human beings, we would have been able to tell that they were upset, and figured out at what, and known how to fix it.

It was the look on Brennan's face when she realised how little she knew about what was going on around her, and how close she was to everything unravelling around her, and her largely oblivious. Because that's a feeling I've had myself.

Is this what it's like to relate to a character on TV?

[0] http://www.nj.com/entertainment/tv/index.ssf/2010/02/how_tv_shows_try_or_choose_not.html:
"If we were on cable, we would have said from the beginning that Brennan has Asperger’s," Hanson says. "Instead, it being a network, we decided not to label a main character, for good or for bad. But those elements are in there."

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I would like to find the person who thought that blocking all northbound traffic through the Haymarket Roundabout was an acceptable, let alone a good, idea, and ask the felching crack-smoking microcephalic deskbound project manager of an excuse for an anthropod exactly when he became a fucking brain donor.

And the same for every single person who didn't kill this stunningly fucking stupid idea stone dead as ridiculous on its face.

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9th-Oct-2012 02:15 pm - How's your 16C French?
Belle qui tiens ma vie, a pavane written by Thoinot Arbeau (a pseudonym for Jehan Tabourot) and published in Orchésographie in 1589.

The translation is my own, and any who know French better than I do (not difficult) are welcome, indeed, encouraged to submit corrections.

Belle qui tiens ma vieBeauty who holds my life
Captive dans tes yeux,Captive in your eyes.
Qui m'as l'ame ravieWho made my soul happy
D'un soubz-ris gracieux,With a gracious smile.
Viens tost me secourirCome soon to help me
Ou me fauldra mourir.Or I must surely die.
Pourquoy fuis tu mignardeWhy do you flee, dainty one
Si je suis pres de toy,If I am near to you
Quand tes yeulx je regardeWhen I look into your eyes
Je me perds dedans moyI lose myself within
Car tes perfectionsFor your perfections
Changent mes actions.Change my actions.
Tes beautéz et ta graceYour beauty and your grace
Et tes divins propos.And your divine words
Ont eschauffé la glaceAre hot ice
Qui me geloit les os,Which freezes my bones
Et ont remply mon cœurAnd have filled my heart
D'une amoureuse ardeur.With a loving heat
Mon ame souloit estreMy soul is wont to be
Libre de passions,Free of passions
Mais amour s'est faict maistreBut love is the true master
De mes affections,Of my affections
Et à mis soubs sa loyPut underneath its law
Et mon cœur et ma foy.Both my heart and my faith
Approche donc ma belleApproach then my lovely
Approche toy mon bien,Approach you, my dear
Ne me sois plus rebelleI will rebel no more
Puis que mon cœur est tien,Therefore my heart is yours
Pour mon mal appaiser,To ease my pain
Donne moy un baiser.Give me a kiss
Je meurs mon AngeletteI die, my little Angel
Je meurs en te baisant,I die as you kiss,
Ta bouche tant doucetteYour mouth so sweet
Va mon bien ravissantIt has ravished me well
A ce coup mes espritzTo blow my wits
Sont tous d'amour espris.They are all smitten by love
Plustost on verra l'OndeRather we see the Wave
Contre mont reculerAgainst the mountain break
Et plustost l'œil du mondeAnd rather the eye of the world
Cessera de brusler,Ceases to burn
Que l'amour qui m'époinctThat the love that stings me
Decroisse d'un seul poinct.Decreases from a single prick

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Seriously, what the hell is wrong with BSM Remedy when the client, which is a glorified web page and must be accessed through a browser (although to be fair, the previous version's dedicated client was, in essence, a glorified and fundamentally broken web browser with pretentions of adequacy), uses almost as much memory as an entire running VMware instance of WinXP?

BSM Remedy: levelling the playing field by making simple jobs as hard to do as complicated ones, and complicated ones impossible.

BSM Remedy: because the person designing the system has no idea what you do, and it shows.

BSM Remedy: because there's nothing like an ITIL-compliant job tracking tool; and this is, indeed, nothing like one.

BSM Remedy: because if the person who designed your implementation knew what they were doing, they'd be doing something important instead of designing your implementation.

BSM Remedy: management hates you and wants you to suffer.

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10th-Sep-2012 01:45 pm - Postscript
And mention BSM Remedy or the "smart" url completion algorithms of Chrome or Firefox at the risk of sending me completely over the edge into a snarling weeping fit of frustration and rage.

I'm holding onto control by my badly manicured fingernails as it is.

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10th-Sep-2012 01:36 pm(no subject)
Do not ask me any questions. Do not engage me in conversation, unless you wish it to be very short and the last word being "... off." Do not talk to me. Do not look at me. Do not wave your hand in front of my face unless you do not want to keep it. Do not touch me. Do not stand in my way. Do not walk very slowly in my way. Do not step into my way. Just generally get the hell away from me. Do not talk loudly or make noises, especially sudden ones. Do not ask "what's wrong", because the answer would be "everything", if I were capable of speaking it. Do not set me a task for anything requiring any sort of planning of presence of mind. Do not request anything requiring patience or calm.

Just ... don't.

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What the politician said:
"Fines such as these for publishing blatant untruths or misleading news reports, or temporary suspensions of the right to publish or broadcast, would lead to a major improvement in the accuracy and fairness of our media."
(My emphasis.)

Which seems clear enough: if you lie, if you say something blatantly untrue, if you make shit up or don't bother checking, then you should be punished for it. That's not "Oops, we spelled this witness' name wrong", or "we were honestly misinformed," that's talking about Andrew Bolt-ian levels of disingenuity and agitprop.

How was this reported?

MP wants journalists fined for mistakes.


But thank you, nameless ABC journo, for proving his point. I have no doubt all the other sources will be similarly misquoting and mischaracterising Steve Gibbons MP from now on in, and squealing that they're the aggrieved parties the whole time they're shamelessly pretending he said something he didn't.

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24th-Jul-2012 02:45 pm - Word Salad!
Wordpress comment spam I found today:
Ripe install yet , I was wanting to copulate if you could correspond a litte solon on this substance? I’d be rattling thankful if you could clarify a small bit statesman. Impart you!

I think "I'd be rattling thankful" will have to enter my vocabulary.

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20th-Jul-2012 09:48 pm - An open letter to Gerry Harvey
Dear Mr Harvey, the board and management of Harvey Norman, and whichever Oxygen Thief Advertising company who thought this was a good idea,

On behalf of Computer Professionals everywhere, may I invite you all to go fuck yourselves.

No love,


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Churches have the right to publicly opine on matters of public policy. Even when such opinions happen to have startling alignment with certain political parties' platforms.

But here's an idea: when a religion starts actively campaigning for one party or another, they lose the right to be recognised as a tax-exempt entity. Squared if they're doing it by lying.

You want to play partisan politics? You get to pay tax on your property and income, like the rest of us.

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17th-Jul-2012 01:17 pm - Pretending to care is hard.
For the love of Rational Thought, can't you even pretend like you give a fuck?

(The second link was unavailable as I wrote this post, because the ABC.net.au was down, but it is nothing more or less than a collection of people's tweets and facebook posts about what Christopher Pyne said in his appearance on the ABC last night. Roughly grouped into Pro and Con. It's back now.)


Editors of every news portal on Earth, please memorise this before I have to come round there.

(Note: News.ltd productions are exempt from this requirement, because reporting that people talk about articles about opinions about stuff is still an improvement on all the other crap they print.)

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5th-Jul-2012 10:24 pm - Argh, ouch.
The Eustachian tube on the right side of my head has become irritated.

I can feel it; I can feel it inside my head. It feels like a toothache from the back of my sinus to the back of my throat, and an ache in my neck.

It hurts, and there's nothing I can do about it.

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1st-Jul-2012 09:24 pm - What we did on the weekend
Primary achievement: still not dead.

Looked at the weather reports and decided not to go to the tournament on Saturday. Mostly because all of us were still coughing and drugged up. We got to the tourney site in time to help pack up, and to the feast site to help set up.

There was an Arts and Sciences competition, which featured painting a portrait in Italian style. I was handed the task of painting a portrait of Her Majesty. I had a couple of handicaps in this: I had white, blue, red, green and yellow paints, and the darkest mix I could get was a dark purple; they were somewhat gloopier in consistency than I am used to; I had to finish the last few details by candlelight; the table kept getting bumped by curious children; and I have face blindness, so I was painting a portrait from memory of a face which I could not picture to save my life.

I think the painting took about half an hour... maybe 45 minutes, go to whoa.

Miss A was snarking about how much she wanted to be a member of the Mouse Guard, and it was gratifying to see the look on her face when she and Miss S were summoned in court and given their Mouse Guard pouches.

Mim and I were somewhat more surprised when the girls' first duty was to bring us in front of Their Majesties, where Mim was awarded the Star and Lily (for her Guild), and I was made a member of the Order of the Cockatrice (for Linguistics, especially as applied to Heraldic Commentary and Consultation).

Friða also was hunted down and forced to join the Order of the Cockatrice. And at that there was general acclaim and much rejoicing.

When the Arts and Sciences was announced, it turns out that my portrait won, despite having no resemblance to Her Majesty whatsoever. Her Majesty even requested the portrait. The portrait which my girls and the elder daughter of B&B Kraé Glas painted of His Majesty was also given to him. He was very gracious.

Sara's Pelican ceremony was grand and dignified, and the hall was completely silent, except for the sounds of a very bored and tired toddler, but no-one held it against her or her family.

Today was simply too miserable, and we are all still too unwell, to have considered going to Bash, even if it weren't cancelled because of precisely that bad weather.

And although I'm still not recovered, and probably still sicker than anyone else in the house, the doctor's certificate has run out, so I'm back at work tomorrow to see if I can stick it out.

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