Another Spectrum

Personal ramblings and rants of a somewhat twisted mind


4 Comments

Not so easy

Knowing that vaccination status certificates (vaccine passports) will be needed in little over a week, if I wanted to continue with the freedoms I currently enjoy, I decided that it was time to obtain mine. The exercise proved to be surprising frustrating, even more so when helping The Wife get hers. Here’s my experience. I wonder how many others will simply give up.

First question: where do I apply for the passport? The fact that they are available is one thing, knowing where to get it is another. The logical thing to do is google for it, so I typed get covid vaccination certificate into my browser, and lo and behold there were multiple links – news items about the certificates and instruction on how to obtain proof of vaccinations – for Australian, UK and US residents. Pertinent links for NZ residents were limited to news items only, none of which included the necessary link.

Some of the NZ related articles mentioned the term My Covid Record so I typed that into the browser. Yep, the first link listed was to My Covid Record | Ministry of Health NZ. Success. Following that link takes you to a page where you can log into, or sign up for, a My Health Account from where you can request your My Vaccine Pass (hereafter abbreviated to MVP) for use within Aotearoa or your International Travel Vaccination Certificate for use outside our borders.

At the top of the webpage an ominous message:

We’re experiencing a higher volume of traffic than usual. If you experience problems accessing My Covid Record, try again later.

Thankfully this didn’t prove to be too much of a problem, although some pages took a little while to load.

Question: do I already have a My Health account? I have a Manage My Health account where I can access my medical records, make medical appointments, renew prescriptions etc. I wonder it they’re the same? Nope. Click the Sign up link:

Click continue:

RealMe is an identity that can be linked to many central, regional and local government/authority websites. I’m reluctant to use it for all as the consequences resulting from RealMe being compromised are too horrible to contemplate. I use it for one government department only. Not everyone has a RealMe account, especially older folk including The Wife. The process of obtaining one is lengthy due to the need to prove your identity. I chose to sign up with email as the wife would need to use that option.

Ok. I see a problem: Many of our friends share a common email address between spouses/partners, usually one that is provided by their ISP. I appreciate those from a younger generation will probably have multiple email accounts, but it’s less likely for Baby Boomers. Sure most will have a mobile phone, and if it’s Android powered, probably have a gmail address associated with it, but the odds are they never use that address and don’t check their mail on their phone. Instead they’ll use their desktop or laptop machine for email and probably most internet activities. I’ll return to email addresses when it comes to installing the MVP onto the phone.

The wife and I have our own email addresses – I have many: several hosted on my own mail servers, several with Gmail, one with Outlook.com and a few others scattered around various providers that are kept only for historical reasons. It was the this point that we made the the first “tactical” mistake. We chose to use our personal (not Gmail) addresses, and I suspect this might be a hurdle some folk will be unable to jump over.

For folk who share an email address, it will be necessary for one of them to obtain a new address before they can progress further as the email address is the logon ID.

After entering an email address and clicking Send verification, a six digit code is sent to that address. Problem number two: The Spam filtering system I employ on my mail servers includes the ability to hold mail from specified geographical locations in quarantine for a specified period of time and rescan them before being released. This allows the system to detect new Spam patterns in real time between the original scan and the second scan. A number of ISPs do the same.

The greatest source of Spam on my servers is the good ol’ USA and mail from there is delayed 30 minutes before being re-scanned and delivered if still clean. Guess where the Health department sends its confirmation messages from. Yep, the USA. No, I don’t know why. I’m familiar with releasing email from quarantine before the 2nd scan, but I wonder If other people are. The Wife isn’t. When the email finally arrives, it warns you that the validation code must be entered within the next 20 minutes.

What it fails to do is inform you that the countdown started from the moment you clicked the Send verification link, not from when you received the email – another hurdle many people will be unable to jump over. How many folk are going to wonder why the validation code they were sent doesn’t work and after many attempts give up in frustration? This would have been an issue for The Wife, but fortunately I was there to help her out.

With the validation code accepted, we were each able to sign up for an account using our driver’s licence. Other options were passport, recent birth certificate or citizenship certificate. Once we were logged in, the system automatically linked us to our respective NHI (National Health ID) and verified that we have had two Pfizer shots. So far so good. At this point we were given the opportunity to have the MVP emailed to us.

Another hurdle in the making. I was cautious about how this might work, so we decided to experiment with mine before attempting The Wife’s. The web page had prefilled the email address with the one I had used during the validation process, so I simply used that.

The My Vaccine Pass received via email

The resulting email included a PDF attachment that can be printed out, and the body of the email includes links that can be used to install the MVP on your phone. We both have Android phones so I do not know what the experience is like for users of Apple Wallet. Here’s how we fared.

The Android link adds the MVP to Google Pay, and of course cannot be installed from a Windows or Linux machine. It means that the link must be transferred to the phone. In my case that was simple as I get my email on both all my devices. So I opened the email on the phone and installed from there. It installed successfully with just a couple of clicks and offered to place an app button on the phone home page, which I accepted. Job done on my phone. Now for The Wife’s

The wife had not set up her phone to receive mail from her personal account, and as far as she was concerned that was the only email account she had. I could have added the email account to her phone, but she had forgotten the mail account password. Not to be deterred, I reasoned she must have created a Gmail account when she first set up her phone. Yep, the Gmail account listed hundreds of emails, all unread.

So returning to her desktop computer I entered her Gmail address for receiving the message with PDF and installation links. Sure enough, within seconds, the email arrived (I had whitelisted the Ministry of Health email address so that it wouldn’t be delayed in quarantine), and confidently knowing the job was almost done clicked the Google Pay link. After agreeing to install the MVP I expected it to be plain sailing. WRONG!

I was advised that the MVP could not be installed until the software was updated. It didn’t say what software, so I assumed it meant the Android operating system. Nope that was up to date. So I tried installing the MVP again. Same result. Time to consult the oracle known as Google. No information forthcoming, so I consulted the lesser oracle known as Bing, with the same result. Duckduckgo, Ecosia, Yahoo! and Yandex weren’t any more enlightening. Nor was a hunt through the Ministry of Health Website.

Finally it hit me. Perhap Google Pay wasn’t installed on The Wife’s phone. Into Google Play and a search for Google Pay revealed that indeed it was not installed. Problem solved I thought (incorrectly) and proceeded to install the app. Once more I tried to instal the MVP only to have a request to confirm installation via fingerprint ID. If The Wife had set up fingerprint ID, she couldn’t remember, and even after trying every finger on both hands we were no further ahead.

At the first fingerprint ID failure there’s an option to use the screen lock PIN instead, so I suggested she try that. She did and after a few seconds…

The fingerprint prompt returned! After repeating the same process several times, she was ready to give up. I persuaded her that she should set up fingerprint ID.

It appears she had set it up originally but however she did it, it was no longer recognised. The Wife has very small hands and her phone is large – a 6.5 inch screen and she attempted to set the fingerprint ID with the index finger of the right hand while holding the phone in her left.

That was never going to work, but with a considerable amount of coaching from me, we managed to find a way for her to hold the phone in one hand allowing the index finger to make contact with the touchpad on the rear of the phone. Finally she was able to create a fingerprint ID that actually worked reliably.

Back to installing the MVP. This time she sailed through the fingerprint ID and finally reached the point where she was offered the option to install the app on the Home page, which she accepted. Except it didn’t appear on the Home page. Nor was it listed in the App drawer. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try and try again. She did, with the same result. No sign of the MVP anywhere.

Finally, in frustration, she handed the phone to me to “fix”. To cut an even longer story slightly shorter, it turned out her Home page consisted of eight horizontally scrolling screens, most of which were empty. The eighth page contained the MVP. Finally, after moving it to the default Home Page screen and removing the unused screens, The Wife is ready for 2 December!

The Wife’s computer skills are about average for a Baby Boomer, perhaps a little better than average. On her desktop machine she’s regularly on Facebook, and Pinterest. Her browser typically has ten or more tabs open at any time, most of our purchases are done online by her, and she’s likely to have a number of applications open besides the web browser and email client.

She’s less comfortable with the phone. At our age the small screen and font aren’t kind on the eyes, and fingers seem to be too big for the virtual keyboard, making it less than enjoyable. For The Wife, it’s main use is for scanning Covid QR codes at places of business via the Covid Tracer App, for video chatting with family via WhatsApp, and for use in case of emergencies.

She could not have installed MVP without my help, and I have absolutely no doubt that she’s not an exception. Given that amongst her friends, she’s viewed as someone “knowledgeable with computers”, there’s a great many people in the same situation.

Most people already have the Covid Tracer App installed on their phone. I thought it would have been logical to update that app to include the MVP. That app already records the NHI ID , although that’s optional. It would avoid the need to open two apps every time we enter a place of business. I do wonder how much consumer testing is done before this type of app is released to the public. My guess is that if there is any testing, it does not include Baby Boomers or older. Although our demographic isn’t quite as large as it one was, we nonetheless are still a significant proportion of the population.


2 Comments

If you’re not a touch typist…

Although I use a computer for several hours every day, I have never learnt to touch type. I’m mostly a four-finger typist, and I still need to look at the keyboard every few keystrokes to keep myself orientated.

I don’t know who invented the dark coloured keyboard, but whoever did should be taken out and shot. White/cream/beige keyboards were the norm until the early years of this millenium, and are so much easier to read in poor light, but now they are are as rare as hens’ teeth.

As I have aged, my gripe with dark keyboards has increased, so much so that my son gave me a backlit keyboard last Christmas. Problem solved I thought to myself as I gratefully thanked the son for the considerate gift.

My tired old eyes struggle with this keyboard

But it was not to be. I’m not sure if all backlit keyboards are the same in this regard: The lettering on this particular keyboard was clearly visible only when the eyes were directly above the key – not the most comfortable of positions. Otherwise they were more difficult to see than the standard white lettering on black keys.

I persevered for months, but finally has to acknowledge that the keyboard and I would never be on friendly terms, and it was time to part company. But what could I replace it with?

I searched online for several weeks before I found what I was looking for. It was love at first sight! I ordered it on the spot and just one day later I was was tearing at the packaging like a child at Christmas.

We’ve been together for two weeks now, and I know it has been a match made in heaven. It might not be the most attractive keyboard ever made. One person has commented that it’s ugly and more than a little garish. But it has done wonders to my soul, not to mention my eyesight, and as they say, beauty is only skin deep.

Even when the only illumination is from the computer screen, the keys are still very readable. The lettering is four time larger than found on a typical keyboard, and you could almost say that the keys glow. They are radiant.

I’m in love with this keyboard!


3 Comments

Improving with age

Like good wine, I’m improving with age. For instance:

  • Mindfulness: Whenever I bend down or squat to retrieve something at or near ground level, I make a conscious sweep of the area to see what else I might be able to do while in that position.
  • Descending stairs: Once upon a time I used to descend stairs one step at a time. I’ve recently discovered bouncing down stairs one your behind is faster. I have to admit this skill is I don’t intentionally use due to the discomfort it causes, and I still start the descent with the intention of doing it one step at a time. But nevertheless, I often find I’m at the foot of the stairs earlier than expected.
  • Hearing: With my hearing aid turned on, I hear every sound. And I mean every sound, whether I want to or not. In particular the rustling of paper or plastic, and water from a tap or loo flushing sound like a jet airliner taking off.
  • Taste: I can now eat super spicy food that one I couldn’t tolerate. Now I can actually get to perspire profusely, turn bright read, and partially loose my voice and still enjoy a super hot Thai, Indonesian or Indian dish.
  • Forgetfulness: This is a skill that I have always been rather good at, especially with faces and names. But nowadays, I’m capable of forgetting almost anything.
  • Temperature sensitivity: when I was young, I was scarcely aware of changes in temperature. So much so that I more or less wore the same attire and footwear all year round. My improved sensitivity means that even a few degrees variance sees me looking to change my attire.
  • Awareness if pavement/footpath irregularity: Until I hit sixty, it was extremely unusual for me to notice uneven surfaces. I could even step over a curb and be almost unaware that I had. Now I notice almost every surface irregularity. The irregularity alarm (a sudden lurch forward to regain balance) is now triggered several time a day.
  • Understanding time: when I was young, I was under the mistaken impression that days were too short and years too long. Nowadays, I realise that days are much longer, and years are really very, very short.
  • Maturity: I used to associate growing up with growing old. Now I understand that they are unrelated. I wonder if I’ll ever truly grow up?
  • Wisdom: If only I had some of the wisdom I possess now when I was much younger…


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

Brain farts

I’m now at the age where very occasionally I have momentary lapses of memory. Whether one calls them senior moments or brain farts doesn’t really matter, but usually they are moments I can laugh at, even at the time they occur.

I haven’t got to the stage where I might end up (as in this clip) “I had hair growing out real thick but Lord it was too stiff to comb”, because I still have no need for either. You’ll have to watch the video clip to find out what Golf Brooks is referring to. But who knows what the future may hold…


3 Comments

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.