Another Spectrum

Personal ramblings and rants of a somewhat twisted mind


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American Exceptionalism?

What is it with a minority of Americans (it is a minority, right?) who genuinely believe the American constitution is as perfect and as flawless as they believe the Bible to be, and that everyone outside of its borders desire to live the “American Dream”, if not in America, then a close replica of it elsewhere.

One could be forgiven for thinking these Exceptionalists believed the constitution was conceived by God and that any criticism of it is tantamount to blasphemy and/or heresy. They believe that America is the greatest country on earth, and as a nation can do no wrong. I’ll concede that America is, for the time being, the most powerful country on earth, but as to being the greatest, I think not, and if it ever was, not for a long while.

What reminded me of all this is an opinion piece titled The True Legacy of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. In the article, KrisAnne Hall suggests that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg could possibly be a singular point that can cause the destruction of America. Wow! I mean, WOW!

So, you may ask, what is it that makes Justice Ginsburg such a threat to America? Apparently she doesn’t bow down and worship the constitution in a manner that the writer believes is mandatory for all Americans and especially its jurists. Ginsburg stated on Egyptian TV in 2012 that if she were to write a new constitution for Egypt she would not model it on the American one. Oh the sacrilege! Oh the profanity! She actually suggested that it would be better to be aided by all the constitutional writings that have gone on since the end of World War II!

To the Exceptionists, the constitution is perfect and nothing can surpass it, even 200 years later. One could ask if it was perfect in every way, why has it had so many amendments over the years? But seriously, do they really think that in the 200 years since it was so brilliantly drafted, that other intellectuals, academics, and politicians could not come up with something that was as good, if not better? Acknowledging that probability is not to denigrate the American constitution, but simply to acknowledge that others can be just as wise as the American founding fathers were and build on what has been learnt in the past.

The writer questions Justice Ginsburg’s knowledge of the American constitution, but I wonder if the writer should question her own knowledge. She states that nation is founded upon the principles that “All men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”. That may or may not be true, but it’s not stated in the constitution.

The writer claims the the founding fathers wrote in  set a “sunset” for the institution of slavery as evidence that they believed all men were equal. Actually they didn’t. They set in a sunset clause for the importation of slaves. Quite a different matter altogether. The writer also reminds Ginsburg that the Declaration of Independence states “ALL” men are created equal. True, but again that’s not in the original constitution. Even as late as 1896 the Supreme Court ruled that racial segregation was not unconstitutional. And Jim Crow laws were not successfully challenged in the courts until the 1960s.

As well as the sunset clause allowing the slave trade to continue for the time being, the acceptance of slavery can be seen in the Enumeration Clause and the The Fugitive Slave Clause. Did the founding father want an end to the institution of slavery? Some of them certainly did, but once again it’s not explicit in the constitution.

But hey, what do I know. I live in one of less than a handful of nations that do not have a codified constitution, and what laws we do have limiting and regulating the powers of government are most certainly not set in stone, yet we enjoy greater freedoms than Americans. What I won’t find is anyone declaring a jurist unpatriotic (I don’t think Kiwis ever use that term), unfit for office, or a traitor if their opinion of our constitution didn’t agree with theirs.

Hey Exceptionalists, be you American, national, religious, or otherwise, pull your heads out of the sand and look around. You might notice the world passing you by.

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Gendercide: A hellish campaign by the Evil One??

This morning I came across an interesting article titled: APA issues first-ever guidelines for practice with men and boys. I’ll quote the first few paragraphs:

For the first time ever, APA is releasing guidelines to help psychologists work with men and boys.

At first blush, this may seem unnecessary. For decades, psychology focused on men (particularly white men), to the exclusion of all others. And men still dominate professionally and politically: As of 2018, 95.2 percent of chief operating officers at Fortune 500 companies were men. According to a 2017 analysis by Fortune, in 16 of the top companies, 80 percent of all high-ranking executives were male. Meanwhile, the 115th Congress, which began in 2017, was 81 percent male.

But something is amiss for men as well. Men commit 90 percent of homicides in the United States and represent 77 percent of homicide victims. They’re the demographic group most at risk of being victimized by violent crime. They are 3.5 times more likely than women to die by suicide, and their life expectancy is 4.9 years shorter than women’s. Boys are far more likely to be diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder than girls, and they face harsher punishments in school—especially boys of color.

APA’s new Guidelines for Psychological Practice With Boys and Men strive to recognize and address these problems in boys and men while remaining sensitive to the field’s androcentric past. Thirteen years in the making, they draw on more than 40 years of research showing that traditional masculinity is psychologically harmful and that socializing boys to suppress their emotions causes damage that echoes both inwardly and outwardly.

The article is worth a read.

As one who took much longer than most to understand that one’s biological sex places a heavy “social obligation” on one to act out a specific gender role, I agree that traditional masculinity is psychologically harmful. Some of the methods of “correction” I experienced were brutal, and although I’ve disclosed one example, I’m still not ready to disclose others. As one who all my life has had to act masculine instead of simply being masculine (whatever that really is) I think I’ve been very fortunate to have come out of it relatively unscathed. Perhaps I was fortunate in that I grew up in a whānau where gender roles were not set in concrete, and boundaries of what was “appropriate behaviour” were set wide. Unfortunately the wider society was not so accommodating.

While I’m not entirely comfortable about the APA’s stance on autism, I am more in agreement on their stance on gender. If you care to read the entire guideline, it can be found in PDF format at APA GUIDELINES for the Psychological Practice with Boys and Men.

I can understand that some people may disagree with the guidelines, especially if their privileged status is at stake, but some go well beyond that. In fact, according to G.C. Dilsaver, the guidelines are part of the “most demonic war in the history of the world” which he terms “gendercide“. He claims “be certain, the conductor of this hellish campaign is no other than the Evil One himself.” That tells me more than I need to know about him, but I did do a search online for more details and discovered previously unknown terms such as “Christian psychology” and “Psychomoralitics”. If you want to understand his thinking you can browse selected essays and videos of Dr G. C. Dilsaver at your leisure.

Personally I believe his views are dangerous, what do you think?


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Hacked router follow up

I was hoping for an interesting episode this morning following yesterday’s fake Spark call regarding a hacked router. It was rather a let down.

The call didn’t come until 10:30 am – an hour late. The caller seemed to be unaware of yesterday’s call, while I stuck to role playing a continuation from yesterday. I kept interrupting their prepared script to tell the caller that I was fully aware that why they were calling and could they just cut to where they could fix it. Eventually I got put through to the “national router specialist” who would help me. As he started through his script, I continued to interrupting to virtually repeat what he was about to say. This would totally confused him and he would start off from the beginning again each time I fell silent. I’m sure his ability to understand what I was saying was almost zero, but hey, I’m an elderly guy with a strong Kiwi accent and I played the role of a bloke that is rather short of patience. He struggled for around 15 minutes to make headway, but it was blindingly obvious that he was not able to deviate from his prepared script. I reminded him that someone from Spark called yesterday, which he denied, so I asked how I knew what he was going to say before he said it. Then he hung up.

I’m sure they’ll call again in a few weeks. and I’ll try to play a more patient personality. Today’s effort only wasted little more than fifteen minutes of their time. I do hope it was sufficient to keep at least one person out of their grasp.


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Oh no! My router’s been hacked!

Or so says a Spark (my telco and Internet provider) technician who phoned me a short while ago. I’ve had several phone calls a day over the last week from a variety of South Island phone numbers, but invariably, either the caller hung up as I answered, or did within a few seconds. Today one of those callers made a successful connection. The call went like this:

Tech: hello sir. I am [name unrecognisable] from Spark technical support.
Me: Hello. What can I do for you?
Tech: We are calling you because there is a problem with your router. Do you understand?
Me: I understand what you are saying. Why do you think it has a problem?
Tech: I’ll show you. Look at the lights on your router. Are any of them blinking?
Me: Just a minute while I go look. It’s in the next room. Hang on a mo. [pause of around 30 seconds] Yes, several lights are flashing.
Tech: Can you tell me which ones are blinking?
Me: Hang on a bit will you, I didn’t note down which ones. I’ll just grab a a pen and paper and be back in a jiffy. [Quietly] Now where’s a pen that works? [short pause, then louder] Got them, Back in a second. [40 seconds of silence] Are you there? The lights that are flashing are Internet, W L A N, L A N 2, L A N 3 and L A N 4.
Tech: OK sir. Do you know what the WLAN light is for?
Me: Please, tell me.
Tech: WLAN stands for “Wireless Local Area Network”. Someone is using your wireless connection without your permission. That blinking light is an alarm saying that the wireless network has been hacked.
Me: Oh dear. How do I fix that?
Tech: That’s why we’ve called sir. I’ll just transfer you over to one of our router specialists who will lead you through some simple steps to solve the problem. Just wait a minute while I transfer you.
[30 second pause]
Tech2: Hello sir, I’m Gerald [or perhaps Gerard?] from the Spark specialist support team. Do you understand why we have called you?
Me: I think it’s because someone is using my wireless router without my permission.
Tech2: That’s right. But I’m here to help you fix that. Someone has hacked the router so that they can do all sorts of things without you knowing about it, and that flashing light is a warning. You should have reported it you know. It will only take a moment to fix if you follow my instructions. Can we go ahead and do that now?
Me: Sure.
Tech2: As you may understand, a router is digital appliance, and as it doesn’t have its own screen or keyboard, we need to communicate with it by using another device such as a computer or laptop. Do you have one of those?
Me: Yes I have a computer.
Tech2: Good Turn it on please.
Me: Just a minute. [Another 30 second pause] Ok it’s on.
Tech2: That’s great. Is it a Mac of a Windows computer?
Me: How do I tell?
Tech2: There should be a brand name or logo on the computer. Can you tell me what it is sir?
Me: It says “Dell”.
Tech2: It’s probably a Windows Computer, but just to be sure, do you see a button with “CTRL” nearest yo you on the extreme left of the keyboard?
Me: Yes.
Tech2: Does the button to the right of it have a Microsoft Windows logo on it?
Me: What does the logo look like?
Tech2: It looks like a wind with four panes of glass.
Me: Yeah. It does look a bit like a window.
Tech2: That confirms it’s a Windows computer. So this is what I want you to do: Hold down that Windows button and hit “R”.
Me: Done that.
Tech2: Did a window pop up?
Me: Yes.
Tech2: OK. Now type in C for Charlie, M for mother, D for Doctor.
[pause while I type s.l.o.w.l.y.]
Me: Done that.
Tech2: now hit Enter and tell me what you see.
Me: Exactly the same as what was there before I pressed Enter.
Tech2: Can you tell me what you had typed?
Me: C for Charlie, M for Mike, D for Delta.
Tech2 [with some hesitation]: Um… That’s right. [pause] And you say nothing happened when you hit enter?
Me: Well, I didn’t exactly hit it, but I did press it firmly.
Tech2: I see. It looks like the hackers have done more than hack you router. We’re going to have to get into this more deeply. But don’t worry, we’ll put an end to those hackers, although we will have to do a bit more at our end first.
Me: I see. What do I do now?
Tech2: We’ll make some preparations, then would it be OK to call you back between 9 and 9:30 tomorrow morning?
Me: Sure, I’ll make sure I’m here.
Tech2: That’s great. I’ll call you back between 9 and 9:30. Goodbye, sir.
Me: Goodbye.

I’m looking forward to tomorrow. What they don’t know:

  • For 35 years, I was an engineer for a major international I.T. Company, and for most of that time specialised in networked systems in the banking and retail sector.
  • Our home network consists of Linux and Android devices only (plus a Kindle). There isn’t a Windows device in sight, and hasn’t been for more than 10 years.
  • I know they are scammers.

If I’m in the mood, I like to string these pricks along for as long as possible. The last few times, I haven’t been, so I’ve asked them to quote my Spark account number, and of course they were unable to do that. I invite them to call me back when they have it, but for obvious reasons they never do.

In (Not) Windows Support Desk I relayed a similar incident, although this time I look forward to my role play as a less than savvy senior Internet user. After all, they are role playing at being support personnel, so it seems only fit and proper that I play an appropriate role for them. I am impressed with their apparent courtesy. Being addressed as “Sir” all the time, might be flattering to some people, but I know it’s simply because they have no idea what my name is. I wonder what term they’ll use when they eventually discover I’m playing with them.

I’m not confident that they will call back tomorrow morning, but I really hope they do. The longer I keep them tied up, the less opportunity that have of doing real harm to someone else. It’ll be my good deed for the day.


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What’s wrong with Quakers?

Almost 13 hours into the new year. Yeah, I know some of you haven’t got around to starting 2019 yet, but we Kiwis like to get in early 🙂

I stumbled upon the question in the title of this post on  Quora the other day. One answer I particularly liked was this one from Mitch Davis, a Quaker from Australia. It sums up Quaker philosophy quite nicely in my opinion (but see the last line of the quote).

Quakers are wrong because we don’t believe in an absolute right. What’s right for you may be wrong for me, or what was right for me five years ago maybe wrong for me today. And vice versa. I’m fine with you being wrong as much as I hope you’re fine with me being wrong.

We’re all on journeys. Different journeys. And at different places along our journey. What is expected of Quakers is that we continually search for and develop our own personal truth which is consistent with our conscience, as it is at this moment. In practise this works quite well, because we appreciate and take delight in others having different opinions. Makes the world more interesting.

(Old saying: “four Quakers, five opinions”)

Anyway, if you’re still in 2018, make the most of it because it won’t be around much longer!


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Aging sucks

“I didn’t mind getting old when I was young. It’s the being old now that’s getting to me.” – John Scalzi Old Man’s War, 2005

I agree with Scalzi. Well, in the mornings anyway. Once upon a time I could spring out of bed, but these days it’s a monumental effort to do anything but breathe, and even that takes some effort. My head pounds as though I had a great time imbibing to excess the night before, and when I finally get to my feet, the best I can do is shuffle, dragging my feet a few centimetres at a time across the floor. Every joint hurts when it is moved. I really do look like a very old man – much older than my actual chronological age.

No doubt this is due the the effect of aging, combined with being on the autism spectrum, suffering from chronic migraine, and the co-morbidity of these two conditions of numerous other ailments, ranging from Raynaud syndrome and restless legs syndrome to Neuroinflammation and other immune disorders. In the developed world, the life expectancy of people on the autism spectrum is around 20 years less than for neurotypicals, so I’m grateful to have exceeded that by around 10 years.

Some time late morning these symptoms start to disappear, most by themselves, and some, such as the migraine headache, by medication. And by early afternoon I feel as fit as I did at fifty. By early evening, I feel like a twenty year old (well, as best as I can recall being twenty), and come midnight, I find the world as amazing as I did as a child, although at that time of night, there’s no one to share it with.

That “reverse aging” during the day (along with and abnormal circadian rhythm) probably goes a long way to explain why I’m reluctant to go to bed at night, especially with the knowledge that when I do wake up, it will be as an old man again.

However as some unknown authors once quipped, “Do not regret growing older. It is a privilege denied to many”, and “Growing old isn’t so bad when you consider the alternative”, I’ll suffer the mornings so long as I can enjoy the rest of the day.

If, what Gayla Reid wrote in All the Seas of the World is true –  “Old folks live on memory, young folk live on hope” – then I am still very young! It’s time to go and explore what’s left of 2018.


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Christmas is over for another year

Christmas Day has ended and we’re an hour into Boxing Day (well, in Aotearoa New Zealand, at least), and I’m thinking “Thank goodness it’s over for another year!” As I get older, I find family events such as Christmas are getting more exhausting, although no less enjoyable. Both migraine and being on the autism spectrum seem to be affecting my ability to cope with sensory over-stimulation more and more as I get older. For those who understand the spoon theory, I have fewer spoons than I had even 5 years ago, that I can use to pass as being “normal”.

This year was somewhat different than in previous years for several reasons. We hosted neither lunch nor tea (That’s dinner/evening meal to non-Kiwis) this year. Instead the whānau gathered at our daughter’s home for lunch, less than 10 minutes drive from our place.

Unfortunately, my wife has been a bit crook (Kiwi slang for being ill) over the last few days, so the ham is still sitting in the fridge, unglazed and uncooked. And everyone’s favourite trifle is yet to be assembled. Last night we were unsure if she would be well enough to join in the festivities, but this morning she felt well enough to brave the noise and commotion that normally accompanies such events.

Lunch was a typical Kiwi Christmas do, with a variety of hot and cold meats, plenty of salads made from seasonal vegetables and fruit, cold soups, and a few hot dishes for those who really want it. As usual, most of us ate more than we should, but hey, it’s only once a year.

Dessert was also typically Kiwi except that the pavlova was deconstructed, as one younger member of the whānau dislikes whipped cream that usually tops it. The pav was accompanied by panatone, fresh berries and melon, brandy snaps, fruit mince tarts, plenty of whipped cream and assorted other goodies I can’t recall offhand.

The weather had been deteriorating all morning, and just as lunch finished, the sound of thunder could be heard in the distance. As the exchanging of gifts commenced, we could hear the thunder getting ever nearer, while the sky became so dark that it was necessary to turn on the lights. Before long, flashes of lightning would light up the room followed by ever more loud crashes of thunder. As the gift exchanging was drawing to a close (it’s a long drawn out affair), a particularly bright flash of lightning was immediately followed by the lights flickering out and instead of a clap of thunder, we heard what can only be described as very loud static.

An hour later, and still no electrical power. Many of us were longing for a cuppa, but of course there was no way to heat the water without electricity. I checked the website of the local lines company (thank goodness the mobile phone network was still up) and discovered that over three and a half thousand households in the our town (population 14,000) were without power.

Many other towns in the region were similarly affected, so obviously the electrical storm was  widespread. It seems that such events are becoming more common, I daresay due to the effects of climate change.

The wife and I called it a day at around 4pm and drive home through a very heavy downpour. As the car came to a stop under the carport, the concrete flooring, dry a few seconds earlier, was suddenly inundated by a torrent of several centimetres of water that began cascading down the steeply sloped pathway. I had to back the car out into the open (where the rain was still coming down in buckets), so that the wife could safely exit it without water rushing over her shoes.

There was also the strange spectacle of little fountains jetting up between some of the joints in the concrete driveway. None of them were very high, perhaps only 20 centimetres at most, but there were dozens of them, and it did look impressive. Not sure it’s caused any damage underneath the concrete, but as there is little in the way of silt on top, I’m hoping for the best. Time will tell.

So that’s my Christmas for 2018. As I write this, some of my readers will only just be getting up and the sun is yet to appear above the horizon, so to you I wish your Christmas day goes at least as well as as mine!

 


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Eleven out of twenty years

Over the last two decades, a woman has held the top political role in Aotearoa New Zealand for eleven of those 20 years. It would be nice to think that we have gender equality, but although it’s getting closer, we are by no means there yet.

Earlier this year, the UN Women National Committee Aotearoa brought together Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and former Prime Minister Helen Clark for a recorded discussion on a number of feminist issues. This is part of their #Trailblazing125 series of advice from prominent Kiwi women in recognition of 125 years of women’s suffrage in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Helen (yes, we refer to our leaders by their first name) has had a big influence on the mindset of many people irrespective of whether or not you agreed with her politics. It was because of her, that people like Jacinda grew up not considering that gender might be a barrier to the top political job in this country.

It seems to me that what is holding women back (in the NZ context) is not the barriers imposed on them by others, but a lack of confidence in their own ability. There is still something in the way women are conditioned by society whereby they are less likely to put themselves forward for a role than is the case for men. Hopefully that attitude is no longer encouraged.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and former Prime Minister Helen Clark talk gender equality


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Contrasting styles

I stumbled upon this Guardian video clip a short while ago, showing excerpts from speeches at the UN General Assembly by Donald Trump and Jacinda Ardern. It contrasts Trump’s America first with Ardern’s global cooperation and kindness. I think it neatly sums up the difference between the American and New Zealand styles of leadership:


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Māori Action songs

Way back in the 1950s, learning, and participating in aspects of Māori culture and history was part of the curriculum of the primary school I attended. At that time, this was not so common, so I feel blessed that from an early age I understood that Māori culture was a rich part of the cultural heritage of Aotearoa New Zealand instead of something belonging to a pre-European stone age people that no longer had any relevance.

Unfortunately, even today, we find some Kiwis of non-Māori descent who see no value in the indigenous culture of this land, and object to Te Reo (the Māori language) being part of the education curriculum, and Māori culture as something outside what they consider “New Zealand culture”. In other words it has no place in a modern society. I hope I am correct in observing a decline in this type of thinking.

As some 95% of my reader are not from Aotearoa New Zealand, I want to occasionally blog about the indigenous culture that makes this country special, and is having an increasing influence within our society. I have posted a few articles relating to aspects of Māori culture and values in the past, particularly where they have some influence on myself or the wider population, including:
I am a mono-linguist (12 September 2018)
A Creation Myth (17 March 2018)
River gains personhood (24 July, 2017)
Treaty of Waitangi 101 (20 October 2015)
Animism is the established religion of Aotearoa New Zealand. Really? (15 October, 2015)
Our new flag? (1 September 2015)
Farewell Haka (6 August 2015)
Songs that move me (20 March 2015)

Until a back injury forced a early retirement, my father was a physical education adviser for what was then the Department of Education. One of his roles was “on the job” physical education training for primary school teachers, which meant we often saw him only on weekends. He was very passionate about developing a love for activity that challenged both the mind and body. With this in mind, he encouraged both folk dancing and Māori action songs alongside team sports, swimming, athletics and playground games that did not require direct adult supervision.

Māori action songs were traditionally an art form and used to improve various skills. For example, poi action songs improved strength and suppleness of the wrists. For women, this improved skills in weaving and basket making, while for men, it improved their skills in wielding weapons used in hand to hand combat. Rākau games and action songs improved hand/eye coordination.

Rākau are wooden sticks, typically between 40 cm and 60 cm in length ( approximately1.5 ft to 2 ft), while a poi is a weight attached to a string that is then swung in rhythmic patterns. Traditionally poi were made from harakeke (flax) and raupō (bulrush), but today can be made of almost any material.

As a performing art today, both poi and rākau are performed mostly by women. In play, many schools encourage rākau games for both genders and for both Māori and Pākehā alike. To a large extent, my father was responsible for their popularity in the Taranaki and Whanganui regions during the second half of the 20th century.

As a child, I had less coordination than most of my peers, probably related to my undiagnosed autism, and while I found the poi and rākau challenging, I found them enjoyable. I’m convinced that I am not as clumsy as I would have been had it not been for these and similar activities.

Although the video clip below is relatively recent, the chaos is similar to how I remember the activity as a child. Notice the use of rolled up magazines instead of wooden sticks. When learning, they are less painful ! The second video clip illustrates a somewhat more polished performance, followed by the poi.

There are two forms of the poi: the long and the short. The string on the long poi is the distance from finger tip to shoulder, and for the short poi it’s the distance from finger tip to wrist. They are both just as difficult to master, and I never did get the hang of twirling contra-rotating long poi in one hand. The next clips illustrate the short and long forms respectively. Enjoy