Another Spectrum

Personal ramblings and rants of a somewhat twisted mind


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Aging and autism

Today the wife and I visited The Feilding Craft Market. I look forward to such events, but always with some trepidation. And as I age, the trepidation becomes more pronounced. I’ve always understood the risk of such events triggering a migraine – being indoors, they’re where:

  • it’s noisy –  the noises and voices of hundreds of people wafting in and out of range, swirling together, becoming single strands and then breaking apart into a myriad of sounds before disappearing again into the hubbub. Sort of like an audio fireworks display in close up. It takes a huge amount of concentration to identify one sound from another.

    Is that someone talking? To me? A stall holder starts a conversation with me and the words of a passing mother to her child become entangled into the sentences, rendering the stall holder’s message unintelligible. Which words belong to who? I force a smile and move on. Was I rude. I don’t look back.

  • the lighting is uncomfortable – at least at first. after a while it becomes unpleasant, and eventually almost unbearable. The colour of the artificial lighting is wrong. It’s too white. The shadows are wrong. Their edges too sharp. Objects project more than one shadow. Textures and surfaces become exaggerated in the light, more pronounced somehow and become unpleasant. Perhaps a bit like how some people react to fingernails being scraped across a chalkboard. I squint in a vain effort to lessen the effect of the assault.

  • the air is thick and stifling – I can feel it as I drag it in and out of my lungs. It’s heavy. The smells of human bodies mingle with soaps, aroma oils, leather, wood, salami, coffee, herbs and spices. One moment in pleasant combinations, the next in combination that induce sensations of nausea. A woman passes with perfume so sickly sweet, and the food products in the stall in front of me turn from appealing to disgusting in an instant. I move on quickly as knot forms in my stomach.

  • it’s full of chaos and movement – People in a constant state of movement, avoiding each other with apparent ease, except with me, where we both end up doing a semi synchronised dance before one or other of us manages to get sufficiently out of step to allow a passing maneuver. Even worse is trying to overtake someone moving in the same direction but at a slower pace. I swear overtaking on a busy highway is less stressful and can be accomplished quicker and with less effort.

    Each and every movement is a distraction. I keep loosing my place as I attempt to read an information poster. Movement in my peripheral vision constantly causes my eyes to turn towards it. I look back as the poster. Where was I? Half way down? Never mind, the distraction has caused me to forget not only where I was but what I have already read. Start from the beginning again. No idea why I wanted to read it anyway. I move on as the stall holder approaches.

  • I loose the wife – again and again. Some people might say the place is a sea of faces. To me it’s a sea of eyes and noses, mouths, chins and hair. Which combination belongs to the wife? She’s 35 cm (14 inches) shorter than I am, so can eliminate most, but of course she’s usually hidden behind someone else. I see a hand waving above the sea of hair. It’s attached to a sleeve of the right colour, so it’s probably her. United again – at least for a few stalls.

  • there’s no personal space – While I recognise that my personal space might be slightly considerably larger than most, it seems that everyone else is willing to forgo theirs at such events. I’m not. I stop to watch a demonstration. Someone moves in beside me. Their arm occasionally brushes against mine. Far too close. Then I sense someone close behind. Definitely closer than 60 cm (2 feet). Time for a quick escape.

I managed to hold it together. I even cracked a few jokes with the last stall holders as they packaged up the dozen craft beers the wife decided to buy on the way out. I’d practiced a few jokes specifically for circumstances that would likely occur at such an event, and apart for the one that I had to ad-lib slightly and ended by being tongue-tied, they appeared to have the intended effect.

One aspect of aging that is become more apparent is that stamina becomes less abundant. While I suspect events such as the craft market have always been just as stressful, my ability to endure them has become less. – particularly over the last few years. The almost two hours we spent there was absolutely exhausting, and I think if the wife had wanted to spend longer there, I would have had to leave her there by herself.

When we arrived home, the tremors began, my hands shaking violently as I struggled to pick up snack and a drink. I felt very light headed and it took an extreme conscious effort to complete the steps necessary make myself an espresso coffee. The coffee beans go into the grinder, not the cup. The machine won’t heat up unless it’s switched on. You get the picture.

Very quickly I felt very tired and decided to lie down for a short time while the bread maker kneaded the dough. I woke up almost six hours later and the dough had expanded to the limits of space available in the bread maker. What’s good is that the sleep aborted a pending migraine. What’s not so good is that it won’t do anything good for my sleep pattern, such as it is, nor for the quality of the bread that has just been baked.

For five decades I had assumed that everyone experienced crowded environments in much the same way as I do, but that for some reason other people were less affected by the experience. Somehow they managed to overlook or ignore the discomfort that I believed they too experienced.

Since my autism diagnosis, I have gradually come to the realisation, that most people experience such events very differently than I do. They don’t find crowded spaces disorienting. They enjoy the social interaction. The sights, sounds, smells and bustle are stimulating and enjoyable, not overwhelming and torturous. We might live in the same physical world, but the way I experience it in its entirety is very different. This is especially so when we consider the social environment that, as human beings, we all must share.

The medical profession consider autism a disorder, and perhaps it is, but I and a majority of autistics perceive it as a difference, and in time I hope we, in the neuro-diverse community, are proved right. After all, only fifty years ago, homosexuality was considered a disorder by the medical profession, and some sections of society still consider what comes naturally to most people is wrong for gays.

What is becoming clear to me is that many autistic traits that most neurotypical people perceive as deficits are perfectly normal in light of how autistic people experience the environment around us. In a social order designed by and specifically for the autistic community, a great many neurotypical traits would also appear to be deficits.

In societies such as that we have evolved in Aotearoa New Zealand, cultures have to some extent integrated, but more importantly they have become intermingled, retaining their distinctiveness, while becoming part of a larger whole. This provides a more vibrant, rich and diverse society where we learn to appreciate not only our similarities but also our differences.

It’s true that in order to make it work for all, the dominant Pākehā culture must make significant adjustments, and we are moving along that path, although not as fast as it should. Some find it very uncomfortable. Likewise I’m looking for adjustments within the dominant neurotypical culture to allow not only the neuro-divergent community to exist (and there are powerful influences trying to eliminate it), but to encourage it to prosper. In the end we’ll all be richer for it.

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Words and actions have ‘immeasurable consequences’

Below are the UN general assembly Speeches by the president of the United States of America, and the Prime Minister of Aotearoa New Zealand. Do they even live on the same planet?

Jacinda’s speech in English starts at 1m 5s if you wish to skip her formal greeting in te Reo Māori, but out of respect for our culture, please don’t.


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There’s nothing more I need add:

The United Nations’ (UN) International Day of Peace has been celebrated on September 21 each year (since 1981)to recognize the efforts of those who have worked hard to end conflict and promote peace. This year many people’s and nations marked the day with nationwide appeals to governments to see climate change as a major existential […]

via Quaker Contributions to building a Culture of Peace in an Unpeaceful world — Kevin’s Peace Musings


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Auckland to be renamed Orcland

Just Kidding.

But Auckland will be the home of  orcs, hobbits and many more LOTR (Lord of the Rings) races over the coming months, and perhaps years. Amazon Studios has chosen Auckland in Aotearoa New Zealand to be the production location for its multi-billion dollar Television series based on the Lord of the Rings.

The series is anticipated to be the most expensive TV series ever produced and will explore new story lines that precede The Fellowship of the Ring. It will bring thousands of jobs to the local film and entertainment sector. Although this country has been home to a number of major film productions, the small size of the local industry means that making a living in the film and television sector can be somewhat precarious – a boom and bust scenario. If the first year proves successful, it could make the lives of those in the film industry here just a little more secure than it has been.

Pre-production has been under way for a number of months and filming is expected to begin next year. Like all major screen productions it will be eligible for the standard NZ tax breaks available here. That means somewhere around NZ$100 of the hard earned taxes I pay, and every other Kiwi pays will go to Google so that the world can see this country in all its fantastic beauty.

Unless an Internet provider includes a free subscription to Amazon Prime Video (my current provider includes Netflix as part of its Internet package), it’s unlikely that I’ll get to see the series. Which is a shame, as I am a fan of fantasy and sci-fi stories.

As an aside, Kiwis pronounce Auckland and Orcland the same. Does the same apply in your part of the world?


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Is Jonathan Franzen wrong?

Having observed neurotypical (non-autistic) behaviour for than more than half a century, as much as I hope Jonathan Franzen is wrong, it’s an option we should discuss. I feel that while we can probably develop the technology to avert a Mad Max like apocalyptic world, I’m yet to be convinced the the combined will of humanity will form in time to effect real change. By the same token, it’s unlikely that we can work together to effectively manage a transition to “the inevitable”, especially when many of the climate change deniers are in positions of power.

Quakers, social justice and revolution

There has been a lot of criticism of Jonathan Franzen’s recent article in the New Yorker, “What if We Stopped Pretending the Climate Apocalypse Can Be Stopped? The climate apocalypse is coming. To prepare for it, we need to admit that we can’t prevent it”. Some of that criticism relates to choosing, specifically, a 2 degree Centigrade rise in atmospheric temperature as a limit we should not cross if runaway heating of the planet is to be avoided. No one seems to argue, though, that there is a threshold of warming beyond which runaway heating will occur.

Another interesting criticism relates to Franzen being an old white male, who is privileged to have his work published when people of color and/or women’s writings are not selected.

Then there is the criticism that he is not a scientist.

Not everyone thought Frazen’s arguments were completely off base. In an article…

View original post 555 more words


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The beginning of history

Why is it that so many people believe their understanding of history to be accurate and fixed for all time, rather than being an interpretation of events based on social attitudes that are in a constant state of flux. Even when the “facts” aren’t in dispute, one’s understanding of history will vary depending on many factors.

One simple and obvious example would be the Crusades, long thought of by the Christian West as a noble and honourable campaign and by the Muslim East as  being a murderous and barbaric one. The recognition in the West that the crusades were neither noble nor honourable is not because the “facts” have changed but because we have a different understanding of the significance of those facts.

During my primary school education in the 1950s I was fortunate in that for two years I was taught by a teacher who had a keen interest in North Taranaki history (the region where I lived at the time), and especially in the period of its early European settlement through to what are now know as the New Zealand wars, but in the 1950s were known as the Māori wars (you can smell the colonial bias from the very name).

Unlike the prevailing attitude of the time, which was that colonialisation brought civilisation and enlightenment to the indigenous Māori, by force if necessary, the teacher presented us with a Māori perspective. Although I now realise that the presentation of that perspective was highly idealised, especially when it came to the motives and morality of the Māori on one hand and the Pākehā settlers on the other, what he taught us was more in line with the prevailing understanding held by historians today than that of  (Pākehā) historians and public opinion in the 1950s.

The reason for bringing up the topic at all is because the government has decided that the teaching of New Zealand history is to be made a core part of the primary and secondary school curriculum – long overdue in my opinion. Up until now the teaching of New Zealand history has been entirely optional, usually not covered at all, and when it was, it was from a colonial perspective, and the teaching of pre-European history was conspicuous by its absence.

Of course, the decision to teach NZ history brings up the question of what to teach. Already arguments have begun, some of it rather acrimonious. I’m quite confident that we’re unlikely to reach a consensus. My take is similar to the one taken by Matthew  Wright in his article Why history must be taught in New Zealand schools:

[I]f we’re to understand New Zealand’s history, we also need to teach how history works – how we think about it, and why it’s always going to be a discussion, broadly shifting with the generations.

I think this is true of all history, not just that of Aotearoa New Zealand.


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The Debate over an Autism Cure (7 min read)

Autism is not the problem. Hate, ignorance, and stubborn resistance to reflection, education, and self-improvement are the problems

I see the debate over a cure for autism similar to that with regards to a cure for homosexuality in the mid to late 20th century. Personally, I see no reason why I need to be “cured”. Sure autism does cause some difficulties for me – my hyper sensitivity to external stimuli and my hypo-awareness of nuances of language and non-verbal forms of communication. But I am who I am because of the way I process and interpret the world around me.

The following article is by patrickmagpie published over at THE ASPERGIAN. Unlike Autism Speaks, which does not speak for me, the article does speak for me, and is well worth the read…

Few things cause more feverish reactions in the autism community than talk of a cure. While the majority of autistic people hate the C word, some cling to the idea of a cure as if it’s their only hope. Meanwhile, parents of autistic children are often the most vocal about finding a cure for autism.…

Source: The Debate over an Autism Cure7 min read


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Spring has sprung

Apparently.

Yesterday (Sunday 1st of September) marked two (insignificant) milestones in the yearly calendar of Aotearoa New Zealand:

  1. The first day of spring
  2. Fathers day

I hardly noticed either.

What I have noticed is a sudden dearth of ads recommending  everything from male grooming products through to luxury cars as suitable gifts for one’s father.


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Pastafarian rights

That’s not a spelling mistake. I really do mean Pastafarian. For want of something better to do (my concentration has been off recently), I was wandering about on the internet and stumbled upon the U.S. State Department web site, and out of curiosity, looked up what that esteemed department had to say about Aotearoa New Zealand.

Most was kind of boring but some snippets did stand out. This one into their 2018 report on religious freedom in NZ made me smile:

In March an Auckland secondary school student stated that his school did not allow him to wear a spaghetti colander for his school identity photograph, contrary to his religious beliefs.  The student is a member of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, otherwise known as Pastafarianism, which is a legally recognized religion in the country.  The student stated that he contacted the HRC over the incident but had accepted the school’s decision for the time being.

HRC is an abbreviation for Human Rights Commission, an independent authority that reports to Parliament, not the government. So all you Flying Spaghetti Monster worshipers, if you are looking for somewhere where your religion is recognised (one school excepted) then this is possibly an ideal spot.

By the way, did you realise that in 2001, approximately 1.5% of the New Zealand population claimed their religion as Jedi? That’s the highest per capita population of Jedi in the world. It’s been falling steadily ever since. Which is a shame. I much prefer “May the force be with you” than “God bless”. It has a more dramatic ring to it, don’t you think?


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All Blacks retain the Bledisloe Cup

The Bledisloe Cup is a rugby union competition between the All Blacks (New Zealand national team) and the Wallabies (Australian national team). The All Blacks have held the cup since 2002, but in the first game in the series last week, the Wallabies soundly beat the All Blacks The competition became a hot topic of conversation in Australia, in the hopeful belief that they might be able to take the cup for the first time in 17 years.

Such was not to be. Perhaps it was the passion in the haka that fired up the All Blacks (or intimidated the Aussies):

No matter. We won 36 – 0