Another Spectrum

Personal ramblings and rants of a somewhat twisted mind


Leave a comment

There is No Autism Epidemic

Autism isn’t on the rise, but there may be reasons people believe that myth. A look at how autistic people have been changing the world for centuries. Read More

Source: There is No Autism Epidemic (2 minute read)


1 Comment

Pavlova and Pōhutukawa

Two words synonymous with the Christmas season and summer in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Pavlova

If you’re not a Kiwi or an Aussie, you probably think if a pavlova (if you think of it at all) as a meringue dessert topped with whipped cream and berry fruit. And you could be forgiven for thinking that.

In fact I have been served such a thing in overseas restaurants and even on a cruise ship renown for the culinary skills of its chefs, all incorrectly described as pavlova. They were not. They were, as I described above, just meringues topped with whipped cream and strawberries.

So what’s the difference between a meringue and a pavlova? I think of a meringue as being either crispy throughout, or being a softer, slightly moist texture when used as a topping such as on a lemon meringue pie.

Meringues

What I have been served as a pavlova outside of Aotearoa New Zealand or Australia, is more or less a larger version of a meringue as shown on the left above, smothered with whipped cream and strawberries and sometimes kiwifruit. That, a pavlova does not make!

These are not pavlovas!

On the other hand, a pavlova has a very thin crispy exterior only a few millimetres thick, and a soft, moist, fluffy interior, so soft that it collapses when gently squeezed between tongue and the roof of the mouth. It’s so fragile that it can’t be picked up with your fingers. Without the crispy exterior, any fruit placed on top of the pavlova would sink right through it. In fact the whipped cream spread over the top is more dense than the interior of a good pavlova. A good pavlova often looks like it’s about to collapse with the crust cracking once it is decorated.

Real pavlovas

Here ends my lesson on distinguishing the difference between a real pavlova and a fake one,

Pōhutukawa

The pōhutukawa is sometimes referred to as the New Zealand Christmas tree, as in some parts of the country it flowers at Christmas. Like much of the NZ flora and fauna, its population in the wild is decreasing due to predation by introduced species – in the case, the common brushtail possum from Australia. The possum, with its voracious appetite for green leaves, buds and young shoots, eats many of these trees to death.

Fortunately, the pōhutukawa’s spectacular displays of crimson flowers make them a desirable plant in larger gardens, and they are now distributed well beyond the region they naturally flourish in. With careful pruning, they can be kept to under four metres high.

The Pōhutukawa

One particular pōhutukawa tree has a special place in Māori mythology. On Cape Rienga at the northern tip of Aotearoa New Zealand, an ancient Pōhutukawa clings to the side of a cliff and overhangs the ocean below. It’s estimated to be around 800 – 850 years old and would have been a relative youngster, perhaps no more than a hundred years old, when humans first set foot on this land. The tree is special in that it is the departing place of the deceased on their way to the legendary home of their ancestors – Hawaiiki-A-Nui.

According to myth, the spirits of the deceased travel along the coast until they reach this particular pōhutukawa. They enter the underworld by sliding down its roots and into the sea. Then they travel out to Three Kings Island, where they climb a peak to bid a final farewell to Aotearoa before commencing their long journey to Hawaiiki-A-Nui.

I’m aware of one other myth regarding the pōhutukawa. According to legend, the crimson flowers represent the blood of the warrior Tāwhaki. He fell to earth while attempting to find heaven to seek help in avenging the death of his father.

A growing trend among Pākehā (non-Māori New Zealanders) is the adoption of the Māori tradition of planting a pōhutukawa as a living memorial to the dead.


2 Comments

The little things in life…

Sometimes the little things that one takes for granted can suddenly become huge issues.

Take for example my credit card. I’ve had a Visa card for decades, with the same number. I knew that number by heart, and it had a unique quirk: the number was such that it made an easily remembered pattern when typing it out on a 10-key keypad. In fact I memorised the pattern long before I remembered the actual number. Once every five years, I had to remember a new 3-digit CCV code, which I also had to update for online accounts, of which I have quite a number, but apart from that I gave the convenience of my credit card little thought.

All that has changed. My bank, in its wisdom, has decided to switch allegiance from Visa to Master Card and has issued me with a new credit card WITH A DIFFERENT NUMBER! If we can switch between telcos and keep the same phone number, why on earth can’t we do the same with credit cards?

To make matters worse, I can find no meaningful keyboard pattern to help me memorise that damn number. Hell, it took me more than a decade to learn the old one when I was younger than middle aged. Now that I’ve passed 70 and my memory isn’t as sharp as it was, how long will it be before I’ll remember the new one. I suspect I’ll be pushing up daisies, before that happens, in which case it’s not worth the effort of even trying to learn it.

On a brighter note, last week I revisited Countdown Supermarket during their “quiet time” and surprise, surprise! The pink/red lighting over the meat section had been turned off. Absolutely wonderful. It’s been so long since I was last able to browse the range of meat on offer, that I had almost forgotten what was available. And to be able to walk down an aisle towards the rear of the store without the need to avert my gaze is a pleasure I’m going to long remember!


5 Comments

Quiet Shopping – the verdict.

The wife and I arrived at Countdown a few minutes after 2:30, and the difference was noticeable immediately. You enter the store through the fruit and vegetable section and there all the ceiling lights were off and the only illumination was that that came through the front windows and lights from the chiller cabinets around the perimeter of the section. Immediately, I was aware that there was no background music, and the checkouts were silent – no beeps at all. The chillers were still noisy and the noise of the refrigeration units in the nearby deli ahd specialty foods could still be clearly heard, but over all it wasn’t unpleasant.

Throughout the rest of the store, the strip lighting down the centre of each aisle had each alternate fluorescent tube switched off. It was still a little on the bright side for myself, but the wife found it most pleasant. One aisle had all the strip lighting turned off and the only illumination was from the adjacent aisles. This was perfect for me, but perhaps inadequate for some.

Unfortunately the warm pink/red illumination over the meat chillers seemed even more prominent with the lower level of lighting and it meant that I had to be extra careful where I directed my gaze when heading in their direction. As the meats take up half the rear of the store, if I was by myself, I would need to traverse the store in a series of loops instead of a simple up one aisle, down the next. Something like up aisle 6, down aisle 1, up aisle 7 down aisle 2, up aisle 8, down aisle 3 etc. However, I realise that in all probability, I’m the only person that’s affected by this type of lighting, and can’t expect Countdown to be aware of this condition.

On the whole I enjoyed the experience, and will make it a habit of shopping there at that time. I’m not sure if the checkout operators enjoyed it so much. The scanner beeps were so quiet, that they often had to check the till screen to be sure that an item had been scanned. The volume could have been turned up just a tad to make their work a little easier.

wheretobuy_logo5Congratulations Countdown. Your effort is most appreciated by this reviewer. You are now my favourite supermarket in Feilding!


4 Comments

Quiet shopping

Sweet as! [Kiwi expression for “awesome!”]

Well, at least I hope so. Visiting the supermarket has seldom been pleasant for me. At worst it can be a migraine inducing and/or dissociative identity (autistic shutdown?) inducing experience that I would not wish on anyone.

In this town of Feilding, there are two supermarkets, and until recently New World was my Supermarket of choice. I avoided Countdown whenever possible, and it would take the considerable charms and persuasion, and occasional threats from the wife to get me to accompany her there. I never entered by myself.

However the world moves one whether one likes it or not.

New World moved to new bigger, brighter, but for me, most definitely not better premises. The acoustics are appalling, the lighting way too bright, and they’ve laid out the store in a similar manner to their opposition with the meat section along one wall at right angles to the isles.

I don’t know what it’s like in other parts of the world, but here, most supermarkets use warm red tone illumination to make meat products look more appealing. Unfortunately that lighting does trigger migraine attacks for me. And as it’s at the end of half the aisles in the store, I have to be very careful where I direct my view as I move along an aisle towards the rear of the store where the meat shelving is.

Why the “Sweet as!” at the beginning of this piece? Well, Countdown has just announced that as from this week all their supermarkets will have a quiet period each week specifically for folk with sensory issues: reduced lighting, reduced air conditioning, no background music, no public announcements (except in case of emergencies), the volume of the “beeps” generated by checkout scanners and registers will be reduced, no restocking of shelves unless absolutely necessary.

It’s only going to be for an hour each Wednesday between 2:30 PM and 3:30 PM but you can sure that I’ll be there. In fact I’m quite looking forward to it. I might even have some time to browse instead of the usual mad rush in and out.


2 Comments

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.


1 Comment

Extinction Rebellion

I have mixed feelings about the Extinction Rebellion movement. Not because I disagree with their cause – I support it one hundred percent, including the urgency expressed – but because I’m concerned that some of their tactics might do more to alienate them from the general public than to bring them on board.

I have no objection if the movement crosses swords with authority – In fact I don’t think there’s any other option, but unless the public has more sympathy with the Extinction Rebellion cause than they do with authority, and the irritation they personally experience from the disruptions the movement is intent on implementing, then I’m afraid that nothing will change.

Politicians, are sensitive to what they perceive as being majority voices and significant minorities, but are unlikely to listen, let alone act, if they sense the public is not behind the movement. This is particularly true where politicians are elected through an FPP (First Past the Post) procedure.

That being said, what are the alternatives? To be honest, I haven’t reached a conclusion. What I do believe is that the longer the public delay in pressuring out leaders to legislate for a carbon neutral society, the more draconian the legislation and the more authoritarian the authorities will need to be when the do act.

Over on her blog, Clare has published a series on Extinction Rebellion, and in her most recent post – Extinction Rebellion III, she quotes from the UK Quaker Advices and Queries. Specifically:

  • Remember your responsibilities as a citizen for the conduct of local, national, and international affairs. Do not shrink from the time and effort your involvement may demand.
  • Respect the laws of the state but let your first loyalty be to God’s purposes. If you feel impelled by strong conviction to break the law, search your conscience deeply.
  • We do not own the world, and its riches are not ours to dispose of at will. Show a loving consideration for all creatures, and seek to maintain the beauty and variety of the world. Work to ensure that our increasing power over nature is used responsibly, with reverence for life.

The three points have inspired me to re-appraise, where I stand on the environment and I realise my contribution towards a carbon neutral regime is little more than tokenism, and I need to take a more affirmative stance.

Advices and Queries of Quakers of Aotearoa –  Te Hāhi Tūhauwiri contains similar advice:

E7: Are you careful that your use of financial resources is in accordance with our values of integrity, peace, equality, simplicity, and concern for other people and for the environment?

I have put most of my effort in relation to the environment into careful use, but I realise this is really not enough by itself. I need to do more.

E8: Do not be content to accept society as it is. Seek to discover the causes of social unrest, injustice, poverty and fear. Bear witness to the humanity of all people. Try to discern the new growing points in society.
Are you alert to practices here and throughout the world that discriminate against people on the basis of who or what they are or because of their beliefs? Do you work for a social, constitutional and economic order which will allow each person to develop fully and cooperation by all?

Young people of today have a genuine fear for their future, not unlike the fear that many of my generation in the 1960s and 1970s had with regards to nuclear proliferation. Except that whereas our fear was of those in power doing something (launching a nuclear war), that of the youth today is fear of those in power not doing something (preventing a climate change catastrophe).

E14: We need to respect, revere and cooperate with other life systems on our planet. The earth’s diverse riches are not ours to exploit. Seek reverence for life and a sense of wonder at God’s continuing presence in all of creation.
Do you work to conserve the earth’s beauty and resources, both now and in the future, for the many people who depend on this planet and the many other species that share it?

The more extreme effects of climate change are unlikely to affect me. I’ll be gone before they kick in. But it is during what’s left of my life that the the seeds to an irreversible climate runaway will be set. Surely I have a responsibility to help set in motion steps that will reverse the harm my generation and earlier generations have caused and are continuing to cause.

E10: Remember your responsibility as citizens of Aotearoa for the government of our country and for its relations with other countries, particularly our neighbours in the South Pacific.
How can we help our nation to promote international peace, justice and care for the earth?

Our country already has in place legislation requiring a move to carbon neutrality, but there is little incentive for government and industry to reach the targets in an orderly and progressive manner. It’s also apparent that the targets are set too far in the future in light of recent evidence of accelerating climate change. This is an area where I can do more in joining with others to raise the awareness of the urgency of acting now. Which brings me to:

E4: Obey the laws of the state, except when they conflict with your inner conviction. Work to amend laws that you consider unjust. If you feel called to civil disobedience, seek the guidance and support of your Meeting. Be prepared to accept the consequences cheerfully.

Is it time for me to get off the fence regarding the Extinction Rebellion movement and join their ranks, or encourage the use of their tactics? What can I do proactively to promote the concerns expressed by the movement?

For me, blogging is about the comfortable limit to social interaction. Talking to strangers joining crowds, being noticed, is way outside my comfort zone. When I joined in the vigil outside the local mosque on the Friday after the Christchurch shootings, it was a silent and solemn affair. Solidarity with the Muslim community was expressed simply by being there. In a crowd of several thousand I spoke with no-one, and made eye contact with no-one. That made it bearable. How can I be an effective voice when it comes to expressing urgency over climate change when I’m so non-social? Perhaps I should simply be mindful of the words of George fox who stated in 1656:

Be patterns, be examples in all countries, places, islands, nations, wherever you come, that your carriage and life may preach among all sorts of people, and to them; then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in every one.

But is that enough? No doubt this concern (about climate change) is going to haunt me until I have determined what role I can play.


7 Comments

Autumn already?

Apparently. My phone popped up a little diary message this morning telling me that today is the Autumn Equinox. I snorted coffee out of my nose when I read that bit of information (that’ll teach me to not use the phone during breakfast). Autumn already? And here I was looking forward to the warm weather of summer.

While I appreciate that the creators of Google Calendar believe that today is the Autumn Equinox, they are very much mistaken, and I will be writing to them to point out their error. Today is the Spring Equinox. If you think otherwise, you are wrong!


Leave a comment

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