Another Spectrum

Personal ramblings and rants of a somewhat twisted mind


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Is the world order is being ripped to shreds?

In 1844 Manuscripts, Karl Marx said communism is radical humanism, and we need to use machines to create a situation where we do as little work as possible thus freeing ourselves from necessity – individual human freedom is the goal.

On her Nine to Noon slot this morning, Kathryn Ryan talked with Paul Mason about his new book Clear Bright Future: A Radical Defence of the Human Being where he argues it’s not too late to stem the chaos and disorder that appears to be on the rise worldwide.

Mason says the world order is being ripped to shreds by an alliance of ethnic nationalists, women-haters and authoritarian leaders who are harnessing the power of machines and algorithms to do it.

In a wide ranging interview, the two discuss the rise and rise of leaders such as Trump, Putin, Erdoğan and Jinping; the influence of right wing neo liberalism and our acquiescence to its manipulation of information in the belief that it is the bastion of free speech, and even more importantly, freedom of thought; similarities to, and differences from, the rise of right wing ideologies in the decades prior to WW2 and now; social media algorithms and how they influence us; what being human is; and more.

Mason suggests that today’s elites realise the current system is not working for them and by supporting the likes of Trump, a system of capitalistic anarchy will rise in its place that promotes the interests of, you guessed it, the elite. He tells why we need a new theory of the human being and how people can help back with small acts of defiance.

Even if you disagree with his ideas, I think you will find them thought provoking. You can hear the whole podcast Why human beings need to resist the machines [32m 18s]

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One Tree Hill

Some songs tend to haunt me. They get into my head and stay – sometimes long after the welcoming mat has been withdrawn. But there are a few that I’m happy to have stay for an extended period. One song in particular has bitter sweet memories.

It was written to honour the memory of a former work mate of mine. Greg became the fifth staff member of the local branch of the multinational I.T company I worked for.  He was around ten years younger than I was, and we worked together for around two years. He left the company around 1980 to join a local band, which from memory, was called something like Straight Flash.

Greg was very likeable. He was always charming, humorous and witty, always polite, and very considerate of others. In other words he was real gentleman, even though he was still in his teens. Travelling took up a lot of our work day and sometimes two of us might spend up to six hours in one day as we traveled between various jobs. We’d take turns at driving, and whoever was in the passenger seat usually did most of the talking. To be honest, I can no longer recall what we talked about, but I remember that I enjoyed his company as talk was not oriented towards sport and other topics that typically occupy the minds of teenage males.

Unfortunately the branch manager was one of those people who can often be heard starting a comment with “I’m not a racist, but…”. To him all Māori were lazy, and incompetent of performing tasks that require intelligence and skill. While he acknowledged Greg’s courtesy, and reluctantly conceded Greg’s grooming was always immaculate, in fact better than anyone else our small team, he was always critical of Greg’s ability as an engineer. It was the criticism he was constantly under, I believe, that caused him to leave the company and seek greener pastures the music industry.

Eventually Greg became a very close friend of Bono from the band U2 after a chance late night meeting when the band was touring Aotearoa New Zealand. Greg took Bono to the inaptly named One Tree Hill (it’s a volcano, not a hill, and although there was a lone tree near the summit, that was removed for safety reasons several decades ago). The “hill” is of great spiritual significance to the Māori, and apparently Greg successfully conveyed much of the meaning to Bono.

Unfortunately Greg was killed in a motor vehicle crash in Ireland in 1986. This song was composed in Greg’s memory and the vocals were recorded in a single take because Bono didn’t feel he would be able to do more.

I often think of Greg, and wonder what he could have achieved if his life wasn’t cut so short at the young age of 26. Hearing this song as I did this morning, always brings his memory back to the front of my mind. I still miss him. R.I.P. Greg Carroll.

One Tree Hill

We turn away to face the cold, enduring chill
As the day begs the night for mercy love
The sun so bright it leaves no shadows
Only scars carved into stone
On the face of earth
The moon is up and over One Tree Hill
We see the sun go down in your eyes

You run like river, on like a sea
You run like a river runs to the sea

And in the world a heart of darkness
A fire zone
Where poets speak their heart
Then bleed for it
Jara sang, his song a weapon
In the hands of love
You know his blood still cries
From the ground

It runs like a river runs to the sea
It runs like a river to the sea

I don’t believe in painted roses
Or bleeding hearts
While bullets rape the night of the merciful
I’ll see you again
When the stars fall from the sky
And the moon has turned red
Over One Tree Hill

We run like a river
Run to the sea
We run like a river to the sea
And when it’s raining
Raining hard
That’s when the rain will
Break my heart

Raining…raining in the heart
Raining in your heart
Raining…raining to your heart
Raining, raining…raining
Raining to your heart
Raining…raining in your heart
Raining in your heart..
To the sea

Oh great ocean
Oh great sea
Run to the ocean
Run to the sea

 


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Numbness of mind

I was seated, but I could not draw my knees together. The light was white, bright, very bright, painfully bright. Behind me there is movement but I’m unable to turn my head to see. It does not respond to my wishes. I hear soft sweet sounds that might be voices, but I can’t be sure. They are in stark contrast to the oppressive mechanical noises all around. I know I am required to lean forward, but I don’t know how I know. I start to lean forward and immediately feel a hard cold surface against my chest. I sense air movement on my back and realise my top half is not clothed. My arms are lifted and draped over the top edge of the surface. It is very uncomfortable but I know I must not move. How do I know that I wonder.

I feel rubbery fingers moving over my lower back concentrating on the spine area. Again, I sense rather than hear an urging that I must relax even if I’m uncomfortable. My head is thumping, agonizingly so, and that light hurts, even with my eyes closed tightly. I want to escape, but I am unable to do so.

A dull ache starts in the area of my lower spine, at or slightly below waist level. It grows in intensity, slowly but surely. I want it to stop but I don’t know how to say the words. I hear a groan. Is that coming from me? I’m not sure. The ache goes away, then returns, different but the same, and maybe not in exactly the same spot. I’m not sure. I sense shadows moving around me even with my eyes shut. It’s too painful to open them so I remain frozen where I am.

A sharp pain on my inner thigh, a little above the knee . A few more stab of pain, each in a slightly different area. Like I imagine a red hot poker being pushed through the skin, but there is no burning smell, only the sensation. I keep trying to find the words to tell it to stop, but the words are elusive. They tease me then disappear.

The ache on my spine disappears momentarily only to return. The ache feels different but I don’t know in what way. Is it in the same spot? Maybe, maybe not. I feel more stabs of pain, this time perhaps more like white hot needles. They are near my groin. Suddenly the white hot needles move from groin to scrotum. I realise I am no longer sitting. I am standing.

The sweet soft sounds that may be voices sound agitated. They want me to sit again but I don’t hear any words. Then a new sound – deeper and commanding. Is it another voice? Who is it directed to? I do not know. It does not matter as I don’t understand it. The ache in my spine has morphed into a pain. When did that happen? I sense pressure being applied to my shoulders, but can’t feel it. I just know it’s there. I lower myself slowly.

I realise that I’m straddling a chair backwards. My chest meets the cold hardness of its back. The pain in the spine remains and is soon joined by a return of the ache, although not as intense as before. I drift into nothingness.

I feel myself being lifted. Rubbery hands under and on my arms. Green legs on one side, blue, or maybe white on the other. Not sure. The glare is painfully bright. I cannot see their feet. Do they have feet? It seems they’re gliding. I’m half walked, half dragged then manipulated onto a bed. I think it’s a bed. I feel it rising. Then it stops. Some bars rise up beside me. I’m imprisoned. The nothingness returns.


What I describe above was not a nightmare, nor a scene from a horror movie, although I wish it was. It was very real, and every so often the memory returns to haunt me. You could be forgiven for thinking that I described an alien abduction. Looking back on it now it doesn’t seem too much different from the description of some so called abductions, but I’m yet to be convinced of the reality of such events.

Yet the experience I describe above was real.

It occurred while I was hospitalised for a week during a severe migraine attack. I have nothing more than fragmentary glimpses of that time. The actual event described, as I later learnt, was an attempt by hospital staff to obtain a sample of spinal fluid. They failed. I have no recollection of any emotional state during the episode, hence the title of this post.


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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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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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Flowers

Flowers are a delight when they’re like this:20181104_143551x1200
But a real pain in the arse when they’re like this:20181104_141758x1200
Literally!

First it was the camellias, then it was the flowering cherries. Now it’s the rhododendrons. Traversing the pathway with its 4 metre (13 ft) rise from the car parking pad to the front door means taking one’s life in one’s hands. At this time of the year it sees no direct sun and after even a little rain becomes extremely slippery. It takes skill to manoeuvre one’s way through this pretty hazard without taking a tumble…

 


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Celtic Illusion

Last night the wife and I went to see a show in the nearby city of Palmerston North.


I missed most of it.

The problem is that being autistic and a migraineur is incompatible with watching modern shows. Bright lights, strobe effects, pyrotechnics and loud noises are not only very unpleasant for many autistics, including myself, they can also trigger a migraine attack. Over the years I’ve learnt how to minimise some of the ill effects by closing my eyes, blocking my ears and even covering my eyes with my hands to filter out strobe effects when eyelids prove to be inefficient.

So I spent more than half of the show with my eyes closed and hands over eyes, and tried to ignore the fact the my sternum was vibrating unpleasantly due to the volume of the speakers. Consequently I missed most of the illusions incorporated into the act. I also missed the moment when one of the dancers slipped/tripped/fell, although I did see her being assisted off the stage. I hope her injury isn’t serious.

So what did I see? Our tickets were for seats in the front row, although both of us thought we had booked seats a few rows back as we are aware of how modern productions can overload my senses. Being so close, there were opportunities to observe the footwork of the dancers. All I can say is that it is incredible. The speed and precision is something to behold. I wouldn’t be surprised if injuries are very common to the performers.

By keeping my view to floor level, I avoided the worst of the spotlights sweeping over the auditorium, and I tried to convince myself that as it was Irish dancing, the only thing that matters is footwork. But as the show combined dance, illusion, music and song, there was an awful lot that I missed visually.

We saw another Irish dance show a few years back, and I was disappointed when I realised the the sound of the footwork was not coming from the dancers, as occasionally the sound got slightly out of sync with the dancing. With this show however, there was no doubt where the sound of the footwork was coming from, especially when I noticed tiny floor mounted microphones around the stage.

I was exhausted by the time the show ended, but the wife was in her element. She’s the kind of person who loudly and vigorously supports a performance with clapping, frequent standing, shouts of surprise, gasps and anything else that displays her pleasure. As a group of women who were sitting behind us commented afterwards, watching my wife was as enjoyable as watching the show itself.

There was I slinking down in my seat trying hard not to become a nervous wreck and wishing the torment would end soon, while she was practically standing on her seat yelling for more! Talk about contrasts. It’s not the kind of antics one expects from a tiny grey haired 70 year old Japanese woman. If there’s anyone else in the world that can beat her enthusiasm, I’d be very surprised. She’s probably the reason they did four (or was it a hundred?) encores. But I wouldn’t swap her for the world 🙂

As for the show, would I recommend Celtic Illusions? A definite Yes! But if you’re on the spectrum or prone to seizures or migraine attacks, I suggest it might be more sensible to stay away.


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Lloyd Geering: on meaning

Before we can enter profitably into discussion with one another on any particular subject, it is important to ensure that we are all using our words in much the same way. Words are not the fixed objects which people often imagine them to be. Many words change their meaning over a period of time. Even at one particular time a word may possess not just one meaning, but in fact hold together a whole family of meanings. One meaning may be intended in one place but at a later stage another meaning implied. Because words sometimes depend upon their context for their exact meaning, even the speaker himself may be misled, not realizing that the new verbal context has given the word a slightly different meaning from what it had in an earlier context. This ambiguity in the very nature of the verbal language with which we communicate means that the value of our discussion or debate may be greatly reduced if, unknowingly, we are using one or more of the key words in different ways. Where difference of opinion rests solely on the different uses of words, it is called a merely verbal argument.

Some verbal battles can be avoided at the outset if we simply take more care with our use of words. But they are not so easy to avoid wherever it is a question of that small number of basic words in the language, which by their very fundamental nature are either difficult or impossible to define in terms of others less basic. One such word, for example, is the basic term ‘God’ and the problem to which we have been referring often causes the modern debate between atheist and theist to be fruitless, for there is little use in discussing whether God exists until there is some agreement about the precise meaning to be given to the word.

Lloyd Geering, Resurrection: A Symbol of Hope


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What’s wrong with some Kiwis??

In a recent Colmar Brunton poll conducted for TVNZ’s One News, 18% of the population believe that our Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s ability to govern the country will be negatively impacted by the birth of her first child in June. That means almost one in five Kiwis believe motherhood is incompatible with running a country! I thought we were beyond that sort of thinking.

There have been several PMs (Prime Ministers) in the past who have had children while in office, but I can not find a single poll that queried the nation’s opinion and about whether or not the upcoming birth would have a negative impact.

The difference? The other PMs were male. Strangely, although the number of comments by the public in the media are few, there does not seem to be a significant difference of opinion by gender in how becoming a parent might affect her ability to run the country.

Most comments have been around the fact that due to the many sleepless nights ahead, the PM will not be in a condition to make wise decisions. For goodness sake! This is Aotearoa New Zealand. Most Kiwi fathers will have just as many sleepless nights as their partners, and during the night might even change the baby’s nappy (nappy = diaper) more often than his partner, leaving her to perform the one task he is incapable of: breast feeding. The odds are that previous PMs have also been just as sleep deprived as Jacinda will be.

Why did One News think up the idea that a poll on her ability to govern was even newsworthy? This has me somewhat baffled. Perhaps they thought it might be more controversial that it turned out to be? There’s no doubt in my mind that news media are just as capable of creating news as they are of reporting it.

Perhaps they wanted to show how progressive we as a nation are. If so, that fact that one in five of us think that motherhood is incompatible with a major role outside the home reveals we are not as progressive as we like to imagine.

On the other hand, if the intent was to create controversy by illustrating how conservative and traditional we are in contrast to our image of ourselves as being progressive and liberal, especially regarding gender roles, the result must be disappointing. The response from the public has been much along the lines of “(Yawn) So? (Yawn)”.

For those who missed the results in the clip above, the results of the poll How do you think becoming a parent will affect Jacinda Ardern’s performance as Prime Minister? are:
59% No difference
18% worse than now
15% better than now
6%  don’t know
1%  refused to answer

Thank goodness, no one has conducted a poll regarding the appropriateness of the PM being in a relationship that is not formalised in the manner of a marriage or civil union. I can be reasonably confident that the reason for there being no such poll is because (a) more than 90% of the population would consider it irrelevant, and (b) it would bring out the very worst of the very small number religious fundamentalists who like nothing better than to vilify anyone who doesn’t conform to their ideas of morality. While controversy might be good for business, being seen as vehicle for hatred and bigotry is not. Perhaps this is just a “Kiwi thing” that extreme views are not encouraged.

When I think about the fact the the leaders of the two political parties that make up the current government (Jacinda Ardern of Labour and Winston Peters of New Zealand First and who are also Prime Minister and deputy Prime Minister respectively) are not married to their partners, yet no one here thinks anything of it (the few religious fundamentalists excluded), or considers it in any way remarkable, perhaps we are somewhat progressive in our thinking after all.


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The land of awkward terrorists, communists and fascists

For several weeks, I’ve been struggling with completing a post regarding the Kiwi propensity to avoid conflict and how it has a tendency to neutralise extremist views. Today I stumbled across an opinion piece first published in April 2017 which neatly summarises what I was attempting to write, and even poses a question very similar to what I wanted to ask.

So in the interests of getting a post out at all, I have abandoned writing my own, and refer readers to the Stuff article New Zealand: the land of awkward terrorists, communists and fascists.