Another Spectrum

Personal ramblings and rants of a somewhat twisted mind


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I am atheism

I am atheism.
I’m visible in your children, but if I can help it, I am invisible to you until it’s too late.
I know where you live.
And guess what? I live there too.
I hover around all of you.
I know no colour barrier, no religion, no morality, no currency.
I speak your language fluently.
And with every voice I take away, I acquire yet another language.
I work very quickly.
I work faster than paediatric aids, cancer, and diabetes combined
And if you’re happily married, I will make sure that your marriage fails.
Your money will fall into my hands, and I will bankrupt you for my own self-gain.
I don’t sleep, so I make sure you don’t either.
I will make it virtually impossible for your family to easily attend a temple, birthday party, or public park without a struggle, without embarrassment, without pain.
You have no cure for me.
Your scientists don’t have the resources, and I relish their desperation. Your neighbours are happier to pretend that I don’t exist—of course, until it’s their child.
I am atheism. I have no interest in right or wrong. I derive great pleasure out of your loneliness.
I will fight to take away your hope. I will plot to rob you of your children and your dreams. I will make sure that every day you wake up you will cry, wondering who will take care of my child after I die?
And the truth is, I am still winning, and you are scared. And you should be.
I am atheism. You ignored me. That was a mistake.
And to atheism I say:
I am a father, a mother, a grandparent, a brother, a sister.
We will spend every waking hour trying to weaken you.
We don’t need sleep because we will not rest until you do.
Family can be much stronger than atheism ever anticipated, and we will not be intimidated by you, nor will the love and strength of my community.
I am a parent riding toward you, and you can push me off this horse time and time again, but I will get up, climb back on, and ride on with the message.
Atheism, you forget who we are. You forget who you are dealing with. You forget the spirit of mothers, and daughters, and fathers and sons.
We are Qatar. We are the United Kingdom. We are the United States. We are China. We are Argentina. We are Russia. We are the Eurpoean Union. We are the United Nations.
We are coming together in all climates. We call on all faiths. We search with technology and voodoo and prayer and herbs and genetic studies and a growing awareness you never anticipated.
We have had challenges, but we are the best when overcoming them. We speak the only language that matters: love for our children.
Our capacity to love is greater than your capacity to overwhelm.
Atheism is naïve. You are alone. We are a community of warriors. We have a voice.
You think because some of our children cannot speak, we cannot hear them? That is atheism’s weakness.
You think that because my child lives behind a wall, I am afraid to knock it down with my bare hands?
You have not properly been introduced to this community of parents and grandparents, of siblings and friends and schoolteachers and therapists and pediatricians and scientists.
Atheism, if you are not scared, you should be.
When you came for my child, you forgot: you came for me.
Atheism, are you listening?


Are you an atheist? Did the message above appal you? I hope it did.

Are you religious? Did the message above appal you? I hope it did.

In some regions of the world, atheists are victims of the attitudes displayed in the transcript above, and many of the religious in those regions would support the sentiments it contains, even if they would be reluctant to voice them openly. Fortunately I live in a region where all forms of religion and non-religion are accepted and valued. Atheism along with the world’s major religions are regarded in a positive light by around 90% of the population.

That’s about all I’m going to say about atheism and religion in this post as it is not really about religion (or lack of it) at all.

Huh? I hear you say? Truly it’s not. The transcript above has been very slightly modified from the original by replacing one word with the word atheism. I could have changed a few additional words the make it more consistent, but I think the message is very clear as it is, and that is that atheism is a very bad thing indeed.

While I concede that the harm manifest in the transcript will not be recognised by some fundamentalists of any religious flavour, I think the rest of us, religious or not, can see it. In some parts of the world, the transcript might be considered hate speech and the speakers sanctioned accordingly.

Most people like me will recognise the transcript, and know what word originally stood in place of atheism. We know it is hateful and harmful. People like me experience the result of the demonising of our person-hood that voices such as the ones in the original transcript cause – every day.

Can you imagine what it would be like to be subjected to not just disapproval or hatred, but intense compliance-based training to ensure every action, every deed, every word that you utter or write makes you indistinguishable from others in a devout religious community? Many like me don’t need to imagine. We’ve lived it.

Although the analogy of atheism is not perfect, if it’s made you uncomfortable or angry,  or given you food for thought, then I’ve succeeded. If you don’t know what the original word is in the transcript that I replaced with atheism, I’ll help you out. It’s another word starting with “A“. The transcript is of an advertisement put out by an organisation that supposedly has our best interests at heart, but fails to consult us or allow us to take a part in its activities, and makes others fear and hate what we are. No matter where we are in the world, we cannot escape the attitudes expressed in the transcript.

The original word in the transcript that I replaced with atheism is autism, and the advertisement is I Am Autism put out by Autism Speaks. I’m not going to put a link to the video, but if you want to see it in all its horror, search YouTube for “I Am Autism commercial by Autism Speaks”.

It does not speak for me!

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Being transgender is a mental disorder!

In most liberal democracies being transgender is not considered a mental disorder. For example, in Aotearoa New Zealand we are able to self identify as M, F, or X (Male, Female, or indeterminate/unspecified) and have driver’s licence, passport etc issued accordingly, and our anti-discrimination law provides the full protection regardless of how we self identify.

So I was somewhat surprised today to discover that a country that I’ve always considered to be liberal and tolerant still officially classifies being transgender as a mental disorder. That country is Finland

An email came across my desk from Amnesty International NZ which included the following:

He was just a child when he was first told he had to be sterilised.
Sakris Kupila has never identified as a woman, the gender marker assigned to him at birth. Yet the 21-year-old medical student must endure daily embarrassment because his identity documents say he is female. In Finland, the law requires that he be diagnosed with a “mental disorder” and sterilised before he can legally change his gender identity, a violation of his human rights.

For Sakris, the choice is clear. He opposes this cruel and humiliating treatment and is bravely defending the rights of transgender people by fighting to end the law. Despite the threats and hostility, Sakris won’t stop until the fight is over.

A quick search of the Internet seems to support that email. There even appears to be restrictions on “gender appropriate” names. However many of the same Web sites, also state that reconstructive surgery is also required in NZ. This is not accurate: medical treatment, (no mention of surgery) is required only if you wish to apply to the Family Court to have your gender changed on your birth certificate. And the Family Court seems to be taking an incrementally liberal view of what medical treatment actually entails. Accepting what one finds on the internet is fraught with dangers

Birth certificates are a public record in the same way as marriage certificates, death certificates and name change records. Personally I don’t see a need to change the gender recorded on a birth certificate if one chooses to identify differently, as that was what one’s gender was perceived to be at the time of birth, but I appreciate others will hold opposing views. Perhaps when gender is no longer considered binary, and one is free to move along a spectrum without judgement then legal requirement to place everyone into often poorly fitting boxes will disappear.

One immediate solution to the issue of gender identity would be to not record a gender on birth certificates. Personally, I’d be in favour of that. In this day and age why is it needed? What purpose does it serve? Perhaps someone can enlighten me on why gender needs to be recorded but not eye colour or a finger print or a dna print for example.

As an aside, I’m curious about what ‘gender appropriate’ names are. Is there some official list of male  and female names? What happens when someone wants to invent a new name or wants to use a foreign name? What’s wrong with being able to choose any name one wants? Admittedly, in Aotearoa New Zealand there are restrictions: names must consist of the letters A through Z and must not contain numerals or punctuation (with the exception of the hyphen). So while I can’t register V8 I could register V-eight. I can’t register 愛莉, but I could register Airi. If I felt so inclined, I could register late for breakfast, or Judy Is Beautiful, or even I am an arse-hole.

 

 

 


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30th anniversary of Needle exchange program

One of the country’s most successful public health initiatives, the needle exchange program has become a network of hundreds of outlets. The first exchange outlets began operating in 1987 following legislation earlier that year that legalised the practice. The early adoption of the exchange program is one reason why AIDS/HIV is low within the intravenous drug using community in Aotearoa New Zealand compared to similar countries elsewhere. Thousands of lives have been saved by the program.
//players.brightcove.net/963482464001/HJiGOMree_default/index.html?videoId=5682891395001


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Murphy has a lot to answer for

When I was a an I.T. Engineer, one of my clients had the family name of Murphy. Whenever something went wrong, she would comment that her uncle had a lot to answer for. She was of course referring to Murphy’s Law. She knew several hundred of variations of the law and she could apply a specific variation for practically any circumstance:

  • The faster you need a hard-copy, the more people will be using the only office printer.
  • no matter how idiot proof you make a program, the boss will employ a bigger idiot.
  • Debugging is at least twice as hard as writing the program in the first place.
    So if your code is as clever as you can possibly make it, then by definition you’re not smart enough to debug it.
  • The odds of toast landing butter side down is directly proportional to the cost of the carpet.
  • Parts that are difficult to install will freely fall out on their own.

Why mention Murphy’s law? The weather has been unseasonably hot and stable for more than a month, but after yesterday’s Too Hot! rant post, the weather has changed. Strong blustery winds and 15°C (59°F) temperature, and it rained heavily overnight. Murphy most definitely has a lot to answer for!


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Too Hot!

Since returning from our holiday in Japan a little over a month ago, I’m beginning to wonder if somehow we’ve moved into a parallel dimension.

The people look and behave the same, places look the same, even the politicians seem the same (although the government has changed). What is different is the weather. It’s not New Zealand weather as I know it.

Aotearoa New Zealand is well know for its temperate climate. Not too cold in winter. Not too hot in summer. The average daily maximum temperature in December in my home town is 20°C (68℉), But not one day this month has the maximum daily temperature been below 24°C (75°F). I started writing the piece late morning and already the thermometer is at 23 24 25°C (77°F) outside and climbing. According to my weather station, the maximum temperature so far this month has been 34°.3C (93.7°F)!

Perhaps if you reside on or near a continental land mass, you’re wondering what the fuss is all about but weather in Aotearoa New Zealand can change unexpectedly, and newcomers to NZ frequently get caught out. Sustained high or low temperatures feel oppressive when one lives where daily temperature variations can be as large as seasonal variations, and it’s not unusual to experience four seasons in one day.

And I suspect being an Aspie doesn’t help the situation. For me, anything below 15°C (59°C) is cold, and a trigger for the symptoms of Raynaud syndrome. Anything above 23°C (76°F) and I begin to sweat profusely, and within a relatively short time I’m saturated. As I’m unable to use any antiperspirants (hypersensitive skin), the result isn’t pretty.

When hot, I find clothing extremely uncomfortable – especially typical NZ male attire. I’ve resorted to wearing a yukata in an attempt to make life more bearable. It definitely helps.

The MetService (meteorological bureau) informs us that this summer is going to be exceptionally hot, dry and windy. Already many regions have seen new seasonal records set and it’s barely mid December! Ocean temperature in many places is 2°C warmer than normal for this time of year and toxic algal bloom is affecting the gathering of kaimoana (seafood) in some areas. Not good.

There’s another issue  I have with the summer season: hay-fever. It’s started somewhat earlier this year than normal. Typically it doesn’t start until mid to late December, but this year it started in mid November. For me it lasts continuously for around two months. Let’s hope that this year will be the same – over in mid January instead of the usual late February.

If you get the impression I’m not fond of summer, you’d be right. Roll on Autumn!


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Strolling through a winter summer wonderland

For the 90% of the world’s population who live north of the equator, Christmas carols such as Jungle Bells and Strolling through a Winter Wonderland have some meaning, even if it doesn’t actually snow. At least in comes in the cold season. Like minorities everywhere, the 10% of us who live in the southern hemisphere are denied our rights: Our right to celebrate a seasonally appropriate festive season.

I say it’s time to take a stand! No more Christmas cards with snow and holy! No more songs about white Christmases! Down with them all.

Here’s something a little more appropriate:


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Stupidity knows no bounds

No, I’m not referring to Trump, although he could be used as another example. I’m referring to myself. I’m kicking myself in hindsight and calling myself a bloody idiot.

So what did I do that was stupid? I drove to a local fast food outlet to pick up dinner for the wife and myself on Friday evening. No, I’m not referring to the consumption of fast food occasionally as stupid, nor to the fact that I drove instead of walking. I chose to leave home when it was potentially unsafe for me to do so, and I chose to drive at a time when I posed a danger to myself and others.

We all know that alcohol impairs one’s ability to drive safely, and most of us won’t drive after drinking, either because we don’t want to put ourselves and others in harm’s way, or because of the repercussions that will be heaped on us if we get caught.

(Drink Dive ad from 2007)

What many people aren’t aware of is that a migraine can seriously affect one’s ability to drive safely. Even fewer people realise that driving can be impaired up to three days before a migraine headache occurs.

Not every migraineur is impaired this way, but for some, cognition is impaired before the headache stage: during the prodrome and aura stages. I fall into that category.

Migraine goes through four possible stages: prodrome; aura; attack/headache; postdrome. Not every stage occurs in every migraine attack. For those unfamiliar with the stages, a very brief description follows:

Prodrome: Begins hours to days before the attack stage. Experienced by about 60% of sufferers. Symptoms can include: mood changes such as depression, irritability or euphoria; food cravings; sensitivity to light , sounds and smells; fatigue and yawning; frequent urination; muscle tightness.

Aura: Typically lasts for up to an hour, but in rare case can last considerably longer. Experienced by one in 5 migraineurs. Symptoms can include: visual disturbances such as zigzag lines, stars/strips/spots, scintillation, blind spots, and tunnel vision; Numbness; loss of motor skills; confusion; Alice in Wonderland syndrome; loss of spacial perception; vertigo; memory loss; visual and auditory illusions; aphaia; disorientation.

Headache: Typically lasts hours to days. Occasionally migraines can occur without this stage. Symptoms include: severe throbbing headache, sensitivity to light, sound and smells; nausea; vomiting.

Postdrome: Typically lasts hours to days. Symptoms include a “hungover” feeling; symptoms similar to the prodrome stage.

They may appear to be 4 distinct stages, but in my case, the transitions can take hours and there’s considerable overlap of symptoms. I’m unable to distinguish between the prodrome and aura stages unless the visual clues kick in, and sometimes I recognise the prodrome and aura stages only in hindsight. And that is where my stupidity arose. The clues that I was in the prodrome stage of a migraine were staring me in the face, but I failed to notice them.

I am very mindful of the potential hazards that I might be confronted with during a migraine, and I tend to err on the side of caution. While I can accept a higher level of risk for myself that results from my migraine symptoms, I’m not prepared to place that risk on others. Before I undertake any activity I normally take some time to consider the possibility that a migraine might be just around the corner, or even if a silent migraine has already arrived. Except Friday.

I drove while visually impaired and initially didn’t realise that I was. To make matters worse, when I realised that my vision was impaired, I drove home – an executive decision I should not have made.

So how did all this play out? The first clue surfaced on Wednesday. We decided to have sausages for lunch and I offered to drive to the supermarket to pick some up. That was the first clue. “How so?” you may ask. Well, I’ll tell you.

We have no idea what are the triggers for my migraines are, except for one: the red tone lighting frequently found over the meat section in supermarkets. It takes less than a minute under those lights before I start to feel light headed and within a few minutes I am completely disoriented to the point where I can’t find my way to the checkouts or exit. In fact I exhibit symptoms that can be confused with a stroke. When we first discovered this phenomenon, I first I thought it might have been a psychological reaction to seeing all the meat, but when we realised that it was related to specific shops, but not others, we eventually were able to pin it down to the lighting.

These days I avoid supermarket meat sections like the plague, and in stores where the meat section runs along the side of the shop at right angles to the isles, I avoid going to the ends of the isles, and keep my eyes diverted away from the meat. So what possessed me to even offer to pick up the sausages? And why didn’t the wife pick up on it? She knows what happens  when the lighting triggers an attack even better than I do. She has to manage me while I’m kind of spaced out and not totally aware of the situation. Clue missed.

At the supermarket I had already picked up the sausages before it dawned on me what I done. To say that I was concerned is an understatement. I was by myself and if the lighting triggered an attack, I could be in an ambulance and on the way to hospital with no choice in the matter. It’s happened before. Several times.

What I should have done when I realised my mistake was phone the wife or another nearby family member about what had happened and for them to come and get me. I didn’t. I hastily paid for my purchases and sat in the car waiting for the worst to happen. That was a stupid thing to do. If an attack had come on, I might have decided to drive, but I would not have had a clue where I was going. I wouldn’t have known where home was. Clue missed

I waited for nearly ten minutes before concluding I was lucky on this occasion, so I drove home. It was there that I realised that I had made a poor choice of sausages. One pack was Angus beef. No problem there, but the other pack was venison and herbs. To the wife, venison equals Bambi. Because of her sensitivity over this, I never bring home food containing venison. Clue missed.

At 2 am on Thursday morning I got up and made myself a couple of sandwiches. I haven’t done that since my twenties. I felt really hungry. I never feel hungry except before the onset of a migraine. It never occurred to me that this might be one of those occasions. Clue missed.

Later on Thursday I drove into town on some errands. I drove for the fun of it. Heavy acceleration and braking. Feeling the tyres grip under fast cornering. It was exhilarating. I don’t drive like that. Well not for the last 45 years. Clue missed.

I chatted with every one I met and enjoyed it. I have no idea if it was reciprocated. I didn’t care. Normally I converse as little as possible with persons I’m unfamiliar with. Experience has taught me to be cautious as I’m completely unable to read body language and only the most basic of facial expressions. I usually can’t read between the lines. I’ve learnt the hard way to carefully measure what I say and how I say it. But not on Thursday. Clue missed.

I went to bed four hours earlier than usual. I was unable to stay awake. Clue missed

In the very early hours of Friday morning I got up and made myself some sandwiches. Second night in a row. Clue missed again.

On Friday I worked on a number of Websites, but I frequently forgot HTML and CSS coding I use regularly and had to resort to cheat-sheets. I frequently found myself editing the wrong files. Clues missed.

Late Friday afternoon, I found that words were disappearing off the screen, or lines of code started undulating in front of my eyes. I knew I had to stop. I put it down to eye strain. Clue missed.

I this point I should have been fully aware that I was well into the aura stage. The sunlight was very bright, the shadows very dark. The face of the wall clock was blank. We discussed what to have for dinner. I kept tripping over words. I Couldn’t think of the words Turkish kebabs. We “agreed” on KFC. Clues missed.

There’s a deep dip where our driveway meets the street and I normally cross it at an angle to avoid the front air dam scraping the road. Except then. Oops. Clue missed.

I drove to the kebab shop. Wrong place. Headed for KFC. Clue missed.

At KFC the illuminated menu above the counter had pictures but most of the words kept shimmering in and out of view. And I couldn’t remember what we had “agreed” to purchase. It was then that it finally dawned on me that I was in the aura stage of a migraine and that I should get home as soon as possible. Decided to telephone the wife to confirm what I was supposed to order. No phone. I never go out without my phone. Decided to order what the wife probably wanted, No problem ordering the Hot Wings, but I could not think of the name for a Zinger Burger. Finally I resorted to describing what it was.

By the time the order was ready, everything before my eyes was shimmering, and my peripheral vision was all but gone. I should not have driven home. I could no longer see the speedo and other dashboard instruments and still it didn’t occur to me that I should not drive. I can remember thinking I must hurry home before it got worse. So I did hurry. How stupid can one get?

If someone had stepped out into the road in front of me, (a) I probably wouldn’t have seen them, (b) I would probably not have known how to avoid them if I did see them, and (c) even if I did, my reaction time would have been too slow. As it was I didn’t see a vehicle approaching from my right at one intersection until I started to move into it. In fact I’m very lucky to have made it back home in one piece.

Today I’ve been re-evaluating all the procedures the wife and I have developed over the last decade or so to prevent exactly what happened yesterday. It had been working very well up until now. I still don’t understand why so many clues were missed. I am very angry at myself and to a lesser extent my wife. Was it a one off slip of our guard, or have we become complacent because it has been working so well? Or are we both are loosing the ability to recognise the signs.

I really don’t want to hand in the keys for driving just yet. My mother drove until she was ninety and I’d like to think I can do the same. But yesterday has given me a scare.