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.
- Set a problem for homework.
- Provide a suggested method for finding a solution of, essentially, "randomly shuffle these numbers until it kinda looks right".
Profit! End up with children who are frustrated and angered by the sight of numbers, and have little to no idea that there are ways in which this sort of problem can be approached, let alone relatively simple and rigorous ways to prove them correct, let alone that the solution raises all sorts of other questions, which can themselves be answered...
The actual problem was "Take the nine numbers 2 to 10, and arrange them in three groups of three so that each group adds to the same number.
The suggested approach was to "write the numbers on pieces of paper, and arrange them into the right groups
No, seriously, the suggested approach was to randomly shuffle the numbers until they (magically) come out in the right order. Personally, I'm wondering if there is a worse possible approach to the problem.
When I sat down with Miss A to approach this, my first question was: so, what is the number they have to add up to?
What you're looking for is
x = a + b + c
= d + e + f
= g + h + i
So the first thing to notice is that
a + b + c + d + e + f + g + h + i = 3x
The sum of 2..10 is 54, so the answer to each group of three must be 54/3 = 18.
So then we need an algorithm to fill in the blanks. Start with the biggest number, so
18 = 10 + b + c
b≠9, because that is already too big. And while 10+8 = 18, that only works if c=0, which isn't an available value. Neither is 1, so b≠7. So by elimination, we have a=10, b=6, c=2. Then do the same with the remaining numbers (d=9, e=5, f=4), and the remaining three must be g, h and i. Luckily, when you check, they are.
There was a secondary part to do the same thing with the set B = [3..11]. And yes, we showed that the algorithm still works. Only now the sum to each group is 21.
Hang on, 21 = 18+3, and we're dealing with groups of three... that can't be a coincidence, can it? It turns out, if you compare the ordered sets, then you see that each number Bx
is just Ax
+1. So if each number has 1 added, then each group must have 3 added to the total for it to work out.
And if we've just solved this problem for the set N2
= [2..10], and for N2+1
, then we've demonstrated that the solution will work for Nx
, where x
is any positive integer. So for the set [1..9], the sum to each group should be 15... and when you check, it is.
But wait... what we've got can be drawn in a grid
If we re-arrange the numbers within each row, then we get
And if you do a bit of matrix manipulation, then you get a Magic Square, where the rows, columns and diagonals all add up to the same magic number.
And we've proved that this pattern
is a Magic Square whether you pick your nine numbers starting from 2, 3, 1, 512, 100473, or whatever. I wonder if it works for other progressions? Say, N55
= [5, 10, 15, ..., 45]? (It does, but proof is an exercise for the reader.) Or for negative integers? What would we have to do to the algorithm to make it work? What about magic squares of order 4, 5, 19? What about...?
Just look at all this number theory we got from a question where the suggested
approach was to "fiddle randomly and hope you trip over the right answer."
I'm sure there's some sort of pedagogical approach which calls for the systematic frustration of children, and the comprehensive murder of any potential joy of mathematics, but for the life of me I can't think what it is.
The Fear is that dawning and lasting realisation that something, somewhere, is horribly wrong. And it's all your fault – if only you could remember what the hell it was
that you have screwed up so badly. There's that yawning sinking feeling in the gut that there's something really important you should be doing right now
, otherwise everything will go to hell, and not only is it your fault that the horrible thing is going to happen, it's also your fault that you can't remember what is wrong, and it's your fault that you can't remember what to do about it, and it's your fault if whatever you do is futile anyway. But even if it's futile, and you know it is, you should be doing it, and you're a horrible person for doing nothing.
So what you have is a lead ball in your gut, impelling you to increasingly desperate and frantic and random action (in the hope that you'll do what you should have been doing all along by accident), or else to lethargy and despondency and despair that there's no point, because even if you knew what to do, it's too late now.
Whatever it is you're supposed to have been doing.
That's the thing: there doesn't have to be anything actually wrong, the feeling that it is is enough. And the intellectual knowledge that you've actually got your bases covered does not help in the slightest, because it's undercut by the feeling, the deep indescribable certainty, that you don't, you just don't know what it is you've missed.
The Fear is that nagging feeling that just on the edge of hearing is the whistling sound of the Other Shoe Dropping from out of orbit, and it's going to land on you, and it's all your fault.
What makes it worse is when you have a long and increasing list of things which you do
know you should be doing, and are increasingly unable to face.
Welcome to the world of chronic episodic nonspecific anxiety
Mim's desktop was getting more and more unreliable. First it started playing sillybuggers on boot by turning the CPU fan full blast and refusing to turn it down unless the box was soft-rebooted. Then it started refusing to turn on unless the button was mashed for a while.
Then, on the Queen's Birthday, it decided to refuse to boot at all until I started futzing with it.
So I went looking for a new power supply. Only to find that while the required model of PS costs a bit over $30 on the internet, no-one in Melbourne has one to sell. The nearest I could find was a $99 case of the right sort, with the power supply included.
And then, this evening, when I opened it up, not only was that PS of a subtly different model, but I couldn't get the old one out without removing the motherboard anyway. So I did a full transplant of the old guts into the new box.
And, sure, I've been doing this sort of thing for twenty years, but there's always a held breath when booting a computer you've done this sort of work to, and a long sigh of relief when it boots.
And a happy little skip when it works better than it used to.
I am typing this on my phone with my left hand, as my right arm is attached to a plasma donation machine.
It's already more fuss than I'm comfortable with, even at once every 6 months frequency, let alone every fortnight.
And that's not including the (slightly) greater risk of side-effects.
I wonder if i will regret this.Edit:
I don't remember feeling this crap after any whole blood donation. And it took two hours out of my day. And it was, if not painful, distinctly uncomfortable.
I don't think I'll be doing that again -- not fortnightly, six-monthly, or at all, TYVM.
Last night, about 19:15-ish
«Heavy Indian accent
: "Hello, my name is Florence, from the Maintenance Department of IT. Your computer is putting up a warning on the Internet from a Virus."Mim
: "Oh, really? What sort of warning?""Florence"
: "A warning about a Virus. We--"Mim
: "Yes, but what is the actual warning? My husband's a System Administrator, you see, so he can--""Florence"
: "-- and we can... I'm sorry, a what?"Mim
: "My husband is right here. He's a System Administrator: that's his job. I'm sure you can explain to him what the warning is."
Mim hands the phone to me.Me
: "Hello? Are you there? I can't hear you. Hello?"
Queue Mim literally
doing a happydance from pure glee.
Postscript: Today Mim got another phone call.Heavy Indian Accent
: "Hello this is Peter from Windows¹ IT and we have alerts from your computer."Mim
: "You guys tried this last night."
 there is
a Windows computer in the house, as it happens. It's not connected to any networking. Nor has it been turned on in about ten months.
They hired some biologists for this, didn't they.
They also hired some linguists.
What does it say that I can watch this, and come out with grammar. (Na'Vi
means "The People", and one of the first things I hear is Na'Vi'a
, which is obviously the vocative case, and I wonder if Na'
is the definite article.)
And yet... maybe they did too good a job. Because I notice patterns. The Na'Vi language is human
... it can be pronounced by a human throat, it contains no alien sounds, no alien combinations, from the sounds of it a fairly normal human grammar. (It doesn't seem as alien as Klingon, or even Sindarin, for that matter.)
And then there are the Na'Vi themselves. There is a pattern with the body pattern: they are hexapedal, quad-ocular, their nostril analogues are where the chest and neck meet. And this is regular. Even the flying creatures have two sets of wings and a pair of legs.
Except the Na'Vi.
Are they mammals? The women have breasts. Or at least fleshy bumps in the right place. They have nostrils in the Earth-normal place. They have four limbs, and no signs of an even vestigial third pair. They gesture with their hands. They cover their groins. They smile and laugh like apes. And they have human teeth when they do.
They're tall blue monkeys.
And yet they have that neural connection tail thing. All I can wonder is if they are ret-connable as genetic constructs in the first place.
Because all the efforts they went to to make it biologically plausible combine with the necessities of making protagonists humanoid enough to empathise with to almost make it worse
than if they hadn't gone to all that trouble.
That's not even going into all the "Corporations would burn the world for a profit", "Savage natives can only be saved by the Great White Hero" competing plots, pissing off the Left and the Right in almost equal measure.
But all that aside, it sure is very, very pretty.
She sent me a $50 voucher from booktopia.com.au.
I went searching for something I'd like, and found a veritable trove of books on Deep Linguistics, many of the really interesting ones starting at $250, and working up (I remember seeing one there with a price in 5 digits!)
But I found a couple of books, and another for Mim, and took advantage of a free delivery promotion as well. And the last has just arrived. I am now, after almost two months wait, the proud owner of Old Irish Paradigms
and Teach Yourself Babylonian
Who would have thought they wouldn't have those in stock?
A question: what the hell should I teach?
I'm down to do Heraldic Consultation, and I've suggested that I could do an Introduction to the Irish and Old English Annals
(ie., what they are, when they're from, what sources were used, when our existing transcriptions are from, what we can learn from them, difficulties in extracting useful data from them, ...), and Write your own name in an appropriate hand
, ie., beginner's calligraphy to bring people up to the level of literacy most of them could have expected in period.
Mim suggests Beginners Knotwork again... but I don't know how much interest there is, and most of what I would be doing is pointing to Aidan Meehan's books, and saying "do what he says."
I could teach Latin, or Old English, or Middle English, or Irish, or an overview of European linguistics, but ... how many people would show, and what would I need to assume of existing knowledge, and how far could I meaningfully get in even a two hour session anyway?
Apropos some comments I made on the Pure Poison blog today, I propose an update for Bierce's seminal work:
DEMAGOGUE, n. – 1. someone in possession of a voice, a soapbox, and an unwillingness to be parted from either.
2. a dog employed by wolves to persuade sheep.
So I've had this idea running through my head recently: taking the images in my head which encode my understanding of mathematics, and either writing the down or (better) animating them.
If nothing else it might provide a useful resource for students who think as visually as I do, or even for those who have difficulty decoding the static drawings and too often stilted and/or formal descriptions which are a plague upon those who have language difficulties. (It would still have a voice-over, but if it were done really well, it might not even need one.)( Here is a rough idea of a script for such an animation...Collapse )
Watching one's workmates hold an electromagnetism meter up to their LCD monitors to see what their EM radiation exposure is, then watching the look on their faces when I point out that each of us has two electromagnets strapped to our heads for most of the day.
Autistics Speaking Day 2011
There are four learned men on a train travelling through Scotland. As they are looking out the window, they see a sheep.
"Ah," says the first man. "Sheep are white in Scotland."
"Some sheep are white in Scotland," corrects the second.
"At least one sheep in Scotland is white," adds the third.
"There exists in Scotland a sheep which is white on this side," says the fourth man, and returns to his book.
Autists tend, as a rule, to be like that fourth man. So when we are trying to distil what the "Austistic Experience" is like, we tend to qualify strongly: I don't know what the "Autistic Experience" is, because I don't know all Autists. Not even 'most' Autists by orders of magnitude. I know a couple of others, I suppose, but I wouldn't call that "many". And anyway, I don't know what their internal experience is. I am able to speak for exactly one Autist -- myself ... some of the time.
And Autists tend to take people at face value. It takes us effort to consider that someone might be lying, or that they might have an agenda which is distorting their evidence, or that they might, despite their air of assured confidence in their own correctness, simply be utterly wrong.
We doubt. But because of a lifetime of being the odd one out, of being the one quiet dissenter in what appears to be a sea of unanimity, we most of all doubt ourselves. There's always that niggling voice in the back of your head whispering "... or maybe it's just you."
Or maybe that's just me.
Combine that with Alexithymia: the inability to articulate -- even to yourself -- your own internal emotional state, and we find ourselves blown about in the breeze. Maybe that article which says that Autists are like psychopaths is true. Maybe all Autists are characterised by uncontrollable rages and incessant stimming. Maybe Autists really don't care about other people.
And yet... I have learned to control my rages, most of the time. I only stim when I'm stressed... so as I notice, anyway. I certainly think
I care about others.
Maybe I don't cope as well as I think I do. Maybe I just think
I care about others, but I don't really. I have logical reasons for why I want to be around my wife and my children, but I also have times where I want even them to just go away and leave me alone for a while. I don't know what "Love" is supposed to feel like; how do I know that I'm not just pretending to "love" them... even to myself?
Or else... maybe this is evidence that I'm not *really* Autistic. Maybe I'm just lazy and undisciplined and stupid, like I spent most of my life thinking I was. Maybe those people on the internet are right, and I am just inventing a condition to explain away my failings. Maybe I'm running away from my own broken self, instead of facing it and fixing it. Maybe if my experience of "love" is so different from how it's described, then I don't really-- No. I can't even finish that thought, not even hypothetically.
Is that evidence for or against the proposition? Which
It's really, really hard to put your own experience to the front, and have the strength of will to assert, even to yourself; "Maybe everyone else is wrong." Especially so when your entire life has been the experience of being the one who is the odd one out, whichever group you are in.
“Before a man speaks it is always safe to assume that he is a fool. After he speaks, it is seldom necessary to assume it.”
--- H. L. Mencken
We fight, our whole lives, against assumptions. We all do: men, women, Autistic, Neurotypical, gay, straight, black, white, everyone
. We are formed by what we are thought to be, by others, and by ourselves. We are expected to be smart or dumb, base or refined, educated or ignorant, cold or emotional. Other people treat us differently based on these assumptions, and we expect more or less of ourselves based on how we match up to our own expectations of ourselves -- our assumptions of what we should
We, all of us, are moulded by society, by those who surround us. For high functioning Autists, this is no less true.
Before diagnosis, this force to conform can cause intolerable stress. There are things which we are expected to do which Autists simply cannot do, or can only do with difficulty. Things which are taken for granted so much as to be invisible until the convention is broken.
People are supposed to like socialising. People are supposed to be able to look one another in the eye, unless they have something to hide. People are supposed to be able to chat in noisy places. People are supposed to react appropriately in a social context. People aren't supposed to freak out in crowds. People aren't supposed to find common and unremarkable sensations to be intolerable. There are all sorts of things you don't realise you assume until that assumption is violated.
And there are assumptions made about those broken assumptions. If you can't hold someone's gaze, you are assumed to be shifty. If you overcompensate and stare, you're assumed to be creepy. If you can't remember what you were supposed to be doing, you're scatterbrained, or undisciplined, or lazy. If you react too oddly, then you're rude.
“We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far.”
--- H.P. Lovecraft
After diagnosis, the stresses are different. First, there is the stress of re-evaluating one's entire life in the light of this new information. It's not a trivial thing to retrofit such a fundamental and powerful addition to one's very self-identity.
But then you start to pay more attention to what people say about Autists and Aspies. You can't help it: you hear the word "autist" and your ears prick up, you join an internet group to see what people are saying. You discover yourself as a citizen of a new world. And with that, you discover that not all the things said about you are nice.
You discover that people are antagonistic to Aspies, because they knew someone who everyone knew was an Aspie, and he was a rude entitled prick. (Well, I'm sorry about that, but I don't think that person is representative... or is he? How would I know?) They are antagonistic to the very idea of Asperger's Syndrome, because it's an excuse to be a rude entitled prick, and it's not even a real condition, it's just bad behaviour, and those spoiled brats wouldn't even be that bad if their mothers and doctors stopped coddling their
tantrums and gave them more beatin-- discipline
. People who get upset with you when you point out that the link between Autism and Vaccines has been proven to be not just wrong but actively fraudulent
, as if it's your fault that they have left their children vulnerable to Rubella. You discover that Autists aren't really people
, they're more like soulless shells
in human form. You discover that you aren't your parents' child, but an empty changeling left behind after the Autism fairy visited and cursed your family. You discover that Autists don't feel emotions
: we're like psychopaths
, but we're the 'good' kind
And, every time, there's the Doubt. But -- I'm not that annoying ... am I? I'm not throwing tantrums because I'm an immature entitled man-child ... am I? I feel emotions so strongly that they can tear apart my soul from the inside ... or do I?
Or is it that those emotions are the proof that I'm not really
Autistic, that when I present myself as such, that I'm lying. I don't really
belong in this community. I don't really
deserve to ask for help from that association. I don't really
merit accommodations, it's not really an explanation.
Maybe I'm just the horrible failure of a human being I always thought I was.
Maybe it's just me.
“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.”
--- Albert Einstein
But then... in these communities, even as I struggle against my own instinct to flee them in shame, as a stranger and an alien and an imposter, I find something vanishing rare and precious: people who are saying the thoughts in my mind.
Even in such benighted places as television, there are characters who I actually understand, and who have their own dignity in their difference.
Mr Spock, Worf, Sheldon Cooper, Temperance Brennan. They all find themselves surrounded by aliens who are doing bizarre things for incomprehensible reasons. Where the incomprehension goes both ways, where the people around them don't understand why
their passions are so important to them, why
they react as they do -- as they must. And these characters must at least pretend to conform. And it is shown -- in Star Trek
, and Big Bang Theory
, and Bones
-- that they are willing to make the effort, but it is
an effort, and it's hard, and exhausting, and sometimes you just need to meditate, or fight holographic enemies, or lose yourself in physics, or run away to Paraguay.
We learn, all of us, every day. Not everything comes naturally, though. Muscles grow tired, and not all start as strong as others. Most of us can pass as normal for a while. But it's bearing a heavy load, and all of us need to put it down and be ourselves at times.
Some of us are lucky enough to have found a place, and found people, where we can do that and still be accepted. Where we can put down the mask for a while and stop doing the over-the-top monkey gesticulations which people seem to expect as feedback: grimaces and rubbery faces, where a simple raised eyebrow and long-held look feels more natural. Where it is understood that we get overwhelmed, and not pushed past our limits. That we do get upset at stuff which seems trivial to other people. We know it's trivial, we don't want to get upset -- not least because we know it upsets those around us -- but we do. Giving us warning of change takes some of the sting, else allowing us to hide away and get good and angry until it's out of our system, or else hide away and cry for no reason we can articulate. Where people remember that we hate the telephone with an abiding passion, and don't make us make calls unless we have to. Where we don't have to talk (I'm highly verbal, but sometimes it takes more effort than it seems worth to force the words out, when I don't have the energy to be other than silent).
I've been blessed in finding such a place, and such people.
I hope that in this, at least, it's not just me.
(My effort from last year.
Not only every project manager in the building shouting their conversations at each other as they pass by my desk, but right behind me is a very loud speakerphone conference going on.
This is why I'm not allowed to keep weapons at my desk.
A week ago today, Miss A was away from school. She, and the other girl in the school Chess Club were representing the school in a Girls Chess Tournament being held at Lauriston.
Now, I want to make it clear that it didn't matter how well the girls played, they had next to no chance whatsoever of winning. There were only two of them, and the scoring was done by teams: the best scoring four
had their scores totalled to determine the winning team, and some teams had seven players to pick from. Even if Miss A and her teammate won every match, they weren't going to win the tournament.
As it was, of seven games, Miss A won one, drew three, and lost three. Which is a creditable result (and probably influenced by her tendency to play very defensively).
I took Miss S in to school on that day, and hung around for the Monday Assembly. There was no mention of the Chess Tournament, or the two girls representing their school -- both of them for the first time.
Later in the week, when the newsletter came around, I searched for even a mention of the tournament. In vain. There were, on the other hand, many columns devoted to football and netball and athletics and collecting tshotshkes from a supermarket to buy more soccerballs and cricket bats.
Mim made a point of telling Miss A's teacher and principal about the tournament, and asking for the two girls to be at least recognised for their efforts.
And at this morning's assembly... oh go on, guess.
The Grade sixes who participated in the Tournament of Minds were called out and recognised. Which is something, at least.
it pisses me off. Once again, those who use their brains are ignored and rejected in favour of boofheads chucking balls around. And more the point, girls who use their brains are ignored and rejected in favour of chucking a ball around in short skirts.
They might say they support intellectual pursuits, but this is given the lie by their actions: all praise, all attention to the jocks. The 3rd division under-10s get a mention for coming 9th place, but you smart kids shouldn't bother looking for recognition until you've got to Nobel levels. Encouragement along the way? Why would that be relevant? It's not like anyone cares.
And even if we do
manage to beat into these people's minds that maybe they'd get more participation in the Chess Club (and more female participation -- right now there are exactly three female members, and two of those are Miss A and Miss S), why do we have to fight
to get the merest nod of barest grudging acknowledgement, when the Netball team(s) and Football team(s) and the rest are lavished with praise and attention and money and support merely for existing?
To look at it another way, when you compare the love lavished upon the ‘jocks’ and the ‘geeks’, I don't think you could actively drive children away from intellectual pursuits (and thereby freeze out those who aren't physically inclined) any better, short of outright punishment. AND EVEN THAT WOULD CONSTITUTE MORE ATTENTION THAN THEY'RE GETTING NOW!
Why is it that the geeks get to build the modern world, and the jocks get to treat running it for their own benefit as their goddamned birthright?