Another Spectrum

Personal ramblings and rants of a somewhat twisted mind


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Disabled? I Am Legend!

I have never considered being an Aspie and having chronic migraine disabling any more than the need to wear corrective lenses. While I would love to loose the migraines, 55 years of wearing spectacles is no more an inconvenience than wearing clothes. On the other hand, my differences due to Asperger’s Syndrome are intrinsically part of who I am.

I am not disabled, but society often disables me. Unstrange Mind explains it so well:


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I Am Autism

Although I don’t display many of the “common” characteristics of autism, I know precisely what the author of the following piece experiences.

Married, With Aspergers

You don’t know me.

You see me sit, rocking.
You hear me talk to myself,
Repeating phrases from the TV.
You watch my hands as they flap
And touch. Seemingly random,
My patterns escape your notice.

You don’t know me.

You see me on the edges,
Quiet, listening but not speaking.
You hear my outbursts:
Violent eruptions of sound and motion.
You note my non-compliance
With black marks in your ledgers.

You don’t know me.

You try to change me,
Remake me in your own image.
You teach me that I am broken.
You punish me for being myself.
You make me fearful and anxious,
Afraid to break your rules.
You drive me deep inside myself.

You don’t know me.

You don’t empathize with me.
You don’t learn about me.
You don’t try to understand me.
You fear me, hurt me, hate me.
You don’t love me: if you did,

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Farming butterflies is a dangerous business – it’s official

Currently a bill is making its way through the New Zealand parliament, updating health and safety in the workplace. Michael Woodhouse (Minister of Health and Safety) has signed of on a list of high risk industries. These industries must appoint a health and safety officer if the workers want one. Fair enough, you might say, and I would have thought so too – until the list of high risk industries was published.

As you might expect, mining is on the list, but strangely, laying explosives for building demolition isn’t. Neither is dairy, cattle and sheep farming, which account for a third of all work place injuries and more than 100 deaths over the last five years. On the other hand, worm farming, butterfly farming, lavender growing and managing a mini-golf course have been classified as high risk industries.Why?

Worms and butterflies have a tendency to attack en mass any unsuspecting worker, smothering and devouring their hapless victims. Lavender plants send out tendrils to trip farmers before sucking the life blood out of them. Mini-golfers who play a poor round take their frustration out by wrapping their club around the head of the nearest course attendant. Yeah, right.

So why is butterfly farming considered more dangerous than laying explosives? Statistics. And we all know statistics don’t lie, don’t we? They may not lie, but they don’t always tell the truth in a meaningful way. And this is what appears to have happened in this case. How?

First some background for those not familiar with the situation in Aotearoa New Zealand. Medical treatment is either heavily subsidised or free depending on where the treatment occurs. Hospitals are free, GPs, medical centres, physiotherapists, etc are subsidised. Funding for the treatment of illness and disease is sourced from general taxation and administered by the Health Department.

On the other hand, medical treatment for injuries are paid by the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC). ACC funding comes from three sources. Work place injuries are funded from a fee paid by employers, based on the number of employees and the type of work undertaken. Injuries from motor vehicle accidents are funded from a surcharge on motor vehicle registration fees, and varies depending on the type of vehicle. All other injuries are covered by a fixed rate tax on personal income, which is deducted by the employer and paid to ACC via the Inland Revenue Department.

ACC keeps detailed statistics based on industry and types of work in order to levy appropriate fees from employers. This information was too detailed for the purposes of the legislation, so to simplify the system, data was collected by industry only and the number of categories was reduced. Worm farming, butterfly farming and Lavender growing are grouped under farming – other.  That by itself is bound to cause problems as they are grouped with other types of farming that are far more dangerous, such as crocodile farming. We’ll get to crocodiles shortly.

In compiling the figures someone decided that a population of 4.5 million wasn’t of sufficient size to gather reliable data from, so they decided that as Australia has more than 5 times as many people as New Zealand, they would include data from there as well.

Unfortunately Australia is very different from New Zealand. While NZ has very hilly and mountainous terrain, Australia is flat – very flat. Farms are large and farm transport is likely to be a Land Rover, a pick-up truck or similar vehicle with an enclosed cab. NZ farmers are more likely to get around on a quad bike, even on terrain where quad bikes shouldn’t go. Quad bikes aren’t required to have a roll cage and as a consequence are one of the most common causes of farm related accidents in NZ. By including data for dairy, sheep and cattle farming in Australia, with the NZ data, these industries appear safer than using NZ data alone.

Now we come to the crocodiles. The only place you’ll see a crocodile in NZ is in a museum, stuffed. But in Australia they are farmed, and you guessed it, they are classified as farming – other, as is emu farming. As a result, farming – other becomes a dangerous place to work.

Okay, I’ve explained why those seemingly innocuous farming activities have been classified as high risk, but what about mini-golf? That gentle sport is in the category recreation – other, the same as white water rafting. Need I say more?


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Last meal

I’ve just had my last meal – well until Tuesday evening anyway.

On that day I am due for a colonoscopy, so from this evening I can not consume any food apart from some liquids until after the procedure is completed. I’ve been on a restricted diet for a few days which has limited my diet to rice, products made with white flour, egg, potatoes, fish and chicken. Absolutely no red meat, fruit, vegetables or nuts. Kind of takes the fun out of eating.

Hospitals are stress producing. I seem to end up there once or twice every year. I dislike hospitals due the noise, bright lights, constant activity and the lack a fresh cool breeze. Not the best place for someone hypersensitive to external stimuli. If I don’t have a migraine when I enter hospital, you can guarantee I’ll have have one by the time I leave.

The colonoscopy is causing some emotional stress. Not because of what the results might be, but the thought of what happens during the procedure itself has brought back a very unpleasant memory from way back last century – 1963 to be precise.

As a thirteen year old going on fourteen, I was somewhat of a loner. I had only one school friend, who also did not mix socially with our peers. I didn’t much like contact sports and couldn’t throw a ball as well as the girls, let alone any of the boys. Up until I was eleven, I often spent time talking with the girls at school, but once puberty kicked in, I found it even more difficult socialising with the girls than I did with the boys.

Somewhere about that time, rumours started to spread about my sexuality. I was mostly unaware of this, but it seems there was some controversy amongst my peers as to whether I was a “queer” or a “queen”. I suppose my social awkwardness was the catalyst behind the rumours. At that time Aspergers Syndrome wasn’t recognised and people like me were simply considered antisocial, unsocial, or just odd.

On a somewhat cold autumn day, I was invited to join a game of bullrush. Being invited to join in games was a rare event for me, so even though it is quite physical, I was happy to take part. I had no idea who the boy was, but I guess he was at least two years older than I was.

The game was to take place on a rugby field on the far side of the school grounds, so I followed a group of some twenty or thirty boys to our destination. It never occurred to me that most of the boys were considerably older than I was. The game started, and as was usual. I was never called to make the solo run. What was odd in hindsight that I was never caught during the bullrushes, and eventually I was the only player not “in”.

An unwritten rule of the game was that the more people who were “in” the higher the requirement for being caught. Early in the game, being tagged was all that was necessary, but as the game neared the end, it was necessary to have the runner pinned to the ground.

So, my name was called and I started to make my run, knowing full well that there was no way I could make the 25 yard dash through a group of boys large enough to form two rugby teams. But I was determined not to make it easy for them. Instead of being tackled as I expected, the others were gabbing at my clothes, at first I didn’t realise their intent, but after my jersey was pulled off and they started pulling on my school shorts, I began to realise they might have other plans for me.

I won’t go into full details as to what happened next, suffice to say that I was eventually stripped naked, my lips and cheeks smeared with lipstick. The same lipstick was then used to write sexually derogatory slogans on my chest, and then on my back while I was anally penetrated by several objects.

I don’t know how long the assault lasted, but eventually the school bell rang indicating classes were about to recommence, and I found myself alone and naked. I don’t recall where or how I found my clothes, but I remember creeping into the adjacent reserve of native bush and attempting to remove the lipstick from my face using grass and my underwear. I stayed hidden in the reserve until after school ended and finally when it was almost empty, I found the courage to make my way to the bicycle racks to collect my bike and make my way home.

I never told anyone about the incident. I was too embarrassed and wouldn’t have been able to face the scrutiny that would have occurred if I reported it. I wouldn’t have been able to identify any of my assailants as my facial recognition skills were almost non-existent. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I was finally able to talk to a counsellor about the assault, and even then I left out the most humiliating parts.

It’s an event that I have mostly been able to suppress the memory of, but the forthcoming colonoscopy has brought it flooding back. Quite irrational I know. A few medical staff in a hospital facility is so very different from a pack of savage youths at the back of a school field. But as the same same piece of anatomy is involved in both, the two are becoming interwoven in my mind as the day of the examination approaches.


For those who don’t know the game of bullrush:

How to play:

One person is “in” and stands in the middle of the field and calls out a name.
The person named has to try to run to the other side of the field without getting tackled.
If they get tackled they are in and another person’s name is called.
If they get to the other side they yell “Bullrush”, and everyone runs.
The game continues until everyone is in.
The last person “in” is the winner.