Autism diagnosis and resources

Aug. 25th, 2014 10:59 pm
rmc28: (charles-dragon)
[personal profile] rmc28
I've talked to some people in person about this, but I wanted to make a brief public post, not least because this topic is going to absorb a lot of my attention for the foreseeable future.

Charles was formally diagnosed with high-functioning autism last month.  Tony & I were not entirely surprised, but now that our suspicions have been formally confirmed, we have a lot of catch-up learning to do.

The letter we have says "high functioning autistic spectrum disorder (also known as Asperger's syndrome)" and later on says "in the medical profession, the term Asperger's syndrome is being phased out and the term high functioning autistic spectrum disorder is being used more frequently". Meanwhile the National Autistic Society insists there is a difference between autism and AS.  

The doctor who made the final diagnosis talked with me for some time and recommended a number of resources (listed below). In addition, I can talk with my youngest brother, who was diagnosed very young, and with our parents for their perspective.

I am interested in recommendations / feedback on recommendations, and will prioritise in the following order:
  1. people who have an autism/AS diagnosis
  2. people parenting children who have an autism/AS diagnosis
  3. therapists, psychiatrists, or similarly-qualified people with recent experience working with people who have an autism/AS diagnosis
  4. everyone else
Comments here, or emails to me at rmcf @ cb4.eu if you want to keep it non-public.

I don't want to talk specifically about Charles on this post, and will probably keep that to locked posts and direct conversations.


Resources

From the doctor:
National Autistic Society, in particular the resources on visual supports
The Complete Guide to Asperger's by Anthony Attwod
Managing Anxiety in People with Asperger's
by Anne Chalfant
Mental Health Aspects of Autism by Mohammad Ghaziuddin

From this Captain Awkward post I also identified:
Asperger's From The Inside Out by Michael John Carley

I've got copies of all the above books now.

Based on the NAS website age-appropriate recommendations I've picked out the following to read with Charles, which are on their way.
I Know Someone With Autism by Sue Barraclough
Can I Tell You About Autism? by Jude Welton
A Book About What Autism Can Be Like by Sue Adams

and we also have the NAS's own publication What is Asperger syndrome and how will it affect me? on the way (they are out of stock of I have Autism .... what's that? but I will look out for it being back in stock if the AS one is any good).
puzzlement: (jelly)
[personal profile] puzzlement
Originally posted at http://puzzling.org.

Aside from having a memory that I twice successfully skied nearly half a lifetime ago, there were two things I’d been told about skiing that tempted me back. One is that it is somewhat easier to learn on carved skis, but the other bigger consideration is that being tall is apparently essentially a complete disadvantage in snowboarding, where holding your centre of gravity pretty much above the board at all times is the key skill. In skiing, this is not so. I asked a few people, and someone I know who is quite good at both agreed that with my snowboarding skill level, I really wouldn’t be losing a lot by switching to skiing.

Our trip didn’t begin promisingly. First there was the usual agony of planning a holiday. We had thought to return to New Zealand, but I decided I didn’t want to deal with pumping for A in a daycare and so we’d have to switch off caring for her. There’s essentially no on-snow accommodation in New Zealand; I imagined the experience for the person sitting with the baby in a crowded snow cafeteria all day with a shudder. And the difficulty getting V onto a bus up a mountain each day and entertaining him for an hour in each direction. Then we considered Perisher where we’d been before, but it was ludicrously expensive. So we settled on Thredbo, which is also far from cheap but has more beds and is also a genuine village in its own right. Important, I thought, if I once again got too injured to continue and wanted to do something else with my time. I was tired from planning long before we left.

Even less promisingly, the morning before we left, V woke up and was sick. To be precise: he was sick on the baby, setting a new record for contagious behaviour from my children even exceeding the time A stuck her snotty finger up Val’s nose in the US. We didn’t have the food we’d planned to take and we didn’t have snow clothes. So we waited a while and took a pale and tired V for clothes and generally considered the following day with fear.

V was bewildered and annoyed to get up before the sun, something I think we’ve never got him to do before, and especially since we then hustled him onto a city bus, and marched him across Central and onto a coach. (We can’t easily take a taxi with a baby under one year old, something that also caused a lot of problems on my US trip.) He was then annoyed that we had promised him the very interesting experience that the coach would have a toilet and it didn’t, which was nothing to our reaction to the prospect a seven hour coach trip on a coach without a toilet. Meanwhile, I contemplated the joy of seven hours on a coach where all but three of the seats didn’t have enough leg room for me. (About every two years I have the brilliant idea of taking buses places instead of driving, and each time I board only to remember that I don’t actually fit on them. Oh.)

It all worked out though; the bus made a few loo breaks, and V was well enough to not be miserable but sick enough to spend most of the trip asleep or staring dreamily out the window rather than, as we’d feared, spending the whole trip in perpetual whine-motion. A still isn’t crawling, so she spent the trip strapped to me or Andrew mostly happily except for occasional annoyed screeches. Towards the end of the trip, I was the one climbing the walls, squashed into the bus and nauseous from the bus’s heating level and A’s body heat.

The agony was not over: we were disgorged from the bus with two little kids and two giant and heavy suitcases, went briefly to see the tobogganing and then went to pick up all the gear — two sets of skis, a snowboard, three sets of boots, my stocks, three helmets — with a tired V who was very keen to ski and who believed that we were going to get off the bus and immediately all ski down a mountain together.

I have to hand it to Thredbo: their hire gear places are frighteningly efficient, with 8 separate “stations” each staffed by multiple people who sit you down, pop your feed on sizing guides, stand you up, eyeball you for ski length, strap everything together, tinker with it, and send you on your way.

Even so, it was tough. V had a small tantrum that we weren’t getting him stocks, believing it’s not possible to ski without them (only very advanced children are allowed to use them in the children’s ski school), and a very long epic tantrum as we painfully loaded all our luggage and gear onto a minibus packed with other skiers. Once we had fought all our stuff back out of the minibus, we had to slowly leapfrog it up a steep driveway and steps to the apartment we were staying in while V cried that his skis were so very very heavy, can’t you carry them Mama please? What, with a 20kg suitcase, my skis and stocks, and the baby strapped to my front? (Various adults who saw this trainwreck in action would make sad pitying noises before they saw the baby. After that, they’d just squeak and flap in alarm.) The owners of the accommodation were horrified and helpful once they’d discovered all this and helped us into the flat where we used the very last of our energy for sorting out the following morning’s piles of stuff.

Actually, no, I tell a lie, I used the very last of my energy walking several hundred metres down the hill and back up in the icy dark to buy additional groceries, but this was actually a blessed emotional getaway. (And Thredbo is actually quite warm, it was probably only roughly freezing.)

It’s not a destination designed to be reached on public transport, that much was clear.

We set our phone alarms for the distressing time of 7am, and in our last tragic act, failed to check how to set the thermostats properly before going to sleep, leaving them on MAX and sweltering all night. And so it began. Not entirely as it was to continue, you’ll be pleased to hear.

damerell: (anime)
[personal profile] damerell
I saw "The Daughters of Buffy", a panel which talked about the influence of Buffy, as you might expect. One of the ideas was that Buffy was first (1997) to have a female lead supported by an ensemble cast, showing it could be done.

It struck me (with a bit of looking things up)... Sailor Moon started in 1992, and it aired in the USA in 1995; cancelled, the enormous fan response led to it being rerun (further into the series) in 1997. It was massively influential in US anime fandom, arguably the Robotech of its generation (down to the dub being a bit of a travesty, ahem). Sister of Buffy, maybe?
puzzlement: (jelly)
[personal profile] puzzlement
Originally posted at http://puzzling.org.

I suppose it’s just possible I have enough loyal fans to actually remember my snowboarding epics, but it’s unlikely.

The distance between 1998 and 2003 doesn’t seem so long now of course, but at the time, it was about a quarter of my life, and encompassed university. (Which is why I didn’t follow up skiing; I couldn’t have remotely afforded to. I am not sure how I paid for the 2003 trip during my honours year, but possibly Andrew, who was working by then, paid for some of mine.) My memory of the fun of skiing at the very end was intact, but the certainty was gone.

I did some research online and the conclusion I came to was this: skiing is easier to learn, but requires a much longer period of refinement over more difficult terrain. Snowboarding is harder to learn, but once you know how to do it, you apply essentially the same skills to harder and harder terrain. Given that I’d skied successfully for a grand total of about a minute, it seemed worth saying goodbye to the four days of sunk cost and starting with the once-off investment of pain required for snowboarding.

And that theory worked basically OK… for Andrew, who began snowboarding with me in 2003 and who now snowboards at an upper intermediate skill level.

In 2003, we went to Perisher with several friends, staying down in Jindabyne and hauling up to the Skitube and the snow at 8am each morning, other people’s hangovers be damned. (I cannot fathom how hangovers and snowsports go together so closely.) It was the first time Andrew had ever so much as seen snow in his life, hopping out of the tube into the sunlight with his board under his arm. (I’ll give snowboarding this: it’s a lot easier to carry one board around than skis and stocks.) We practised a teeny tiny bit on a very flat part and then enrolled in group lessons.

The skiing joke about snowboarders is “sitting on their butts”, partly because beginning snowboarders fall a lot and partly at group lesson time, beginners’ slopes will be arrayed with snowboarders sitting down listening to instructors, spread along the slope inconveniently. (Andrew notes entirely correctly that skiers don’t do this only because it’s not really possible to sit down in them.) And the first day was terrible for me because we were learning to ride heel-side (facing out from the mountain, heel side of the board dug into the snow), and that involved standing up heel-side, and I was just never able to do it. Sit down. Dig board in. Reach down and grab the toe side. Pull up. And boom, back on my butt. As with having to put my skis back on for every turn five years before, this quickly tired me out and I started getting worse. That instructor had a day off the following day and the new instructor — I think a woman — was rather horrified: everyone (except apparently for day #1 guy) knows that some women in particular really struggle with standing up heel-side (because women are, generally, less strong for their height and have somewhat higher centres of gravity) and you get around this by having them get up toe-side (lie or kneel facing the mountain, dig the toe end of the board in, push up with arms), which indeed I could do.

And then my unrevealed snowboarding curse kicked in: I bruise very easily. A couple of days of falling on my butt and I was so badly bruised that I had to sit out the third day because falling over and over on plate-sized bruises was hurting me too much to continue.

It was in 2004 we learned to scuba dive, and for a while that took up a lot of the time and space we had for getting up too early, hauling ourselves into uncomfortable clothing and interacting with our environment in a highly artificial and expensive manner. Even then, Andrew hinted that he’d probably prefer winter sports, but as the person who has the powers of arranging such things in our household, scuba it mostly was. (If you’re wondering what’s happened to it: we haven’t ruled a line under it. It’s just not a kid-friendly activity, I couldn’t dive at all when I was pregnant, and I’d have to pump at the moment to be apart from A for that long, which is impossible on a dive boat. Most likely we will dive again when we happen to be near good dive sites, as in Maui in March 2013, the last time we dived. We probably won’t go back to diving ten or more times a year for a long time, if ever.)

We stumbled into a snow trip in 2006, when André arranged for a number of people to spend a week at his family’s ski lodge in Victoria. I think I grappled again with the idea of switching back to skiing but figured I couldn’t be that far from getting over the hump to learning to snowboard. So we went for lessons again, the last time Andrew and I were still just plausibly at the same level, and I continued to struggle. I bought a private lesson one afternoon with our instructor at Mt Hotham which just about hauled me up to the level of the rest of the group, so that they could cheer when I turned again and again to reach the bottom of the slope. But again, I was ridiculously bruised, my knees and butt an even black-purple, and had to sit out the third day, the day Andrew thoroughly climbed over the snowboarding hump and began to cautiously experiment with intermediate slopes with André’s skier friends. He got his own injury there, falling on his face hard enough to kick his board into the back of his head (if you look at the back of his head, there’s a 4cm hairless vertical scar on it — that’s why), but while he probably narrowly escaped a really nasty head injury there (and has since worn a helmet) cuts on the head aren’t as inhibiting as falling on bruises over and over.

And this was also the time we were heavily into doing yoga, and for months afterwards, I noticed a faint but sharp pain in my ribs when I twisted.

Finally, in 2008, I decided it was do or die, and as part of a bigger pre-kids holiday driving around the south island of New Zealand (recommended: “let me guess… around this corner we will find… a lake and a mountain? I WIN AGAIN!” — it’s the best) we spent five days snowboarding and I took only private lessons. And really, after these I probably can say that I could snowboard, but every inch of progress was hard won. I never once got off a chairlift without falling over embarrassingly. I got badly bruised on the first day, and kept on mostly with the power of the butt and knee armour I hurriedly went out and bought. At least one night I cried about how much I was dreading the next day. And, on the third day, I cracked a rib in the same place that I’d hurt them in 2006. I sat in the medical centre in the ski resort while a very small friendly doctor pressed all over my chest until I screamed, and then offered me some powerful codeine, just in case I wanted to return to the slopes the same day. No.

We had a few rest days then in any case, and escaped from Queenstown down to Te Anau and Milford Sound, me sleeping a lot under the influence of the lesser codeine I’d been prescribed, the doctor preferring that I be very sleepy to being too afraid of pain to cough, although in reality I didn’t find it had a lot of effect on the pain. Returning to Queenstown I did two more days of lessons, my instructor kindly recommending I never join group lessons because I progressed “at a different rate” to most people. The last day the plan was to attack some long and new-to-me runs, but there was a whiteout and it scared me. Instead I linked some turns down a blue run, and my instructor triumphed over my learning to snowboard, and assured me I’d get the hang of chairlifts soon for sure and could progress from there on intermediate slopes. “Tell your next instructor you’re beginning to link turns on blue,” he advised me. Meanwhile, Andrew’s group lesson was making their first forays into the terrain park as upper intermediate or lower advanced boarders. We would occasionally run into him getting off the lifts, as he’d board over to us with a foot free, bend over, strap it in, wave, and take off down an intermediate run.

Which left me in a frustrating half-way point. I could snowboard, but it was agonisingly slow going, rather scary (you have to have your back to the drop a bunch), and not only had I come home with the usual bad bruises and cracked ribs, I also had a painless but severe swelling in my knee for the next couple of weeks that got bad enough that my GP tossed up draining it (and also, since this was close to the time when I was recompressed for suspected decompression illness, suggested I take up chess as my sport of choice).

I clung to my how-to memories of boarding tightly, determined to go back and get the pay-off from all of this, but life — very literally ­— got in the way. The following winter, 2009, I was pregnant with V. The year after that we were lost in a wilderness of childcare-induced illnesses, and then the flurry of projects I committed myself to; finishing my thesis, getting my business going. Andrew started making noises about really wanting to go again last year, but I was again pregnant. And so, before we knew it, it was six winters since I’d snowboarded, and how much of this pain was I going to need to go through again to get it back?

And so, once more the question: should I really be skiing instead?

Skiing round one: 1998

Aug. 23rd, 2014 08:38 am
puzzlement: (jelly)
[personal profile] puzzlement
Originally posted at http://puzzling.org.

Me learning to ski a couple of weeks ago is a weirdly long story, beginning in 1998.

In 1998, I was in the final year of high school, but because of my ludicrous and I now think in some ways ill-advised academic program, I had already completed 9 units of study of the required 11 minimum for the Higher School Certificate and was only doing 8 more. (The reason I now think this was ill-advised is beside the point, but in short, I should have risked a slightly lower university entrance score in return for just completing the entire thing in a year early in 1997, and not spent so much energy on doing 1½ times the required courses for absolutely no long-term benefit.) So it was not completely out of the question to head off to New Zealand for a week in winter.

My sister Julia and I were both working retail at the time, and my parents offered us half the price of the trip if we saved the other half. We duly did so and thus embarked on all the mysterious preliminary rituals for a snow trip (getting fitted for gear and such before leaving) and flew to New Zealand with a small group of fellow pupils. It wasn’t my first extended trip away from my family by any means, nor my first plane flight: in the preceeding year, I’d done two fortnight long nerd camps and flown by myself to Sydney a few times to take part in a selective university-level philosophy course for high schoolers. But it was my first international trip, and my first trip between time zones.

The trip was basically a disappointment in several ways. First, I think in retrospect that the supervising teacher, who went every year, must have been frustrated at the social dynamic. There’s good odds that when you take a small group of teenagers out of their usual environment and hierarchies and give them something to do, they behave much more like adults. But it didn’t really work like that. Unless I’m forgetting someone, in terms of age, there was myself in Year 12, Julia in Year 10, and six or seven other girls all in Year 11. All but two of those were part of a group that even I, a year older and not really in need of knowing their class’s dynamics, recognised as the core of a notoriously cliquish group of princesses. We were staying in a lodge in Methven, and they grabbed their own dorm room with unseemly haste and proceeded to have nothing to do with the likes of the rest of us. We made shift for ourselves, but it was still less than ideal.

Second, most importantly, most of us really struggled to learn to ski. The teacher explained the setup to us, and pointed us at the trail guide and the longest beginner run that we were all going to ski with him at the end of the week, and it wasn’t to be. Or at least, I don’t recall how the princesses did, but of my dorm-mates, one was a natural, already turning parallel within a day of starting, one I think wasn’t and other than participating in lessons took to spending most of the day reading in the bus, and Julia and I weren’t much chop either. I think I was the worst. It was the first time in my life that I got pulled aside by an adult to be complimented for trying really really hard, as distinct from succeeding at all. (As I recall, the instructor was quite emphatic about this: he’d never seen anyone work so hard at it. Subtext: at least, not without learning anything.)

With hindsight: here’s what happened. First, I hadn’t even finished growing at this point. (I finished really late for a woman, when I was 18 or 19.) Physically, I was enormously tall and stretched out like gum. My brain and body were not well matched at the time. Second, this was the dying days of non-carved skis. If you were buying yourself skis, they were carved. If you were renting them, at least at Mt Hutt that year, they were still long narrow flat fence-posts. Thirdly, and most importantly, I just didn’t lean forward enough to stop my skis crossing in front. That last the instructor really ought to have picked up: it’s the most common failure mode in beginning skiing. Perhaps he did and I just never learned quite far enough forward to believe him.

The setup was much the usual for beginners: there was a very shallow first day slope and then over to a short but slightly steeper slope to get the technique down. And that’s pretty much where I was done. On, I think, the second last day, still believing that I’d celebrate with a run down the much longer ultimate beginners’ slope the following day, I grit my teeth and just figured that more hours were more better, went higher up a second short beginners’ slope, and went down it, falling at every single turn. I am pretty sure that I spent the best part of two hours snow-plowing cautiously down in one direction, trying to turn, falling over, retrieving my skis (the bindings were pretty loose), pointing myself in the other direction, spending ages knocking snow out of the soles of my ski boots and skiing in the other direction. Two hours, two baby slopes. Not one successful turn. Lots of crying and self-pep talks. Presumably my growing exhaustion and cementing bad technique were hindering me by then.

I don’t even know what got me back on the slopes the last day. Probably the money I’d spent on it. The last day brought the backhanded compliment about my work ethic (albeit true, I am bad at quitting things), and, crucially and a bit cruelly, the actual breakthrough I’d wanted the day before. For whatever reason, I decided to lean forward to what I considered a ludicrous degree, and which was probably barely acceptable, I pointed my skis downhill, I lost all fear, and I skiied to the bottom (if I am remembering correctly, more or less without attempting to turn) and stopped myself. And then I got back on the pommel, rode up, pointed myself down the hill again, and did it again.

It was exhilarating; I can still feel how happy I was about it.

And then there was absolutely no time to do it a third time because it was time to return my skis, get back in the minibus, ride the nailbiting drive back down to Methven, and fly home to Australia knowing that, probably, I was capable of skiing and would find it rather fun.

And then I didn’t return to the slopes until 2003 and, when I did, I made the regrettable decision to switch to snowboarding.

I missed a month of Wednesdays

Aug. 21st, 2014 01:35 pm
rmc28: (books2010)
[personal profile] rmc28
I've still had a file listing books read and acquired and that list is behind a cut below.  I thought it might be more interesting to put here my post-Worldcon list of new authors/books to try (additional recommendations welcome!).  I'm going through and tracking down kindle samples or library copies for now - my to-read pile being perpetually too big.

Diversity in YA panel:

Malinda Lo - Huntress
Nalo Hopkinson - The Chaos
Robin McKinley - The Hero & The Crown
Malorie Blackman

We Have Always Fought panel:
N.A. Sulway - Rupetta (Tiptree Award winner)
Richard Morgan - Altered Carbon (fanf has this & others on our bookshelves)
Justina Robson - Quantum Gravity series
Django Wexler
Alice Nunn - Illicit Passage (this is the one about sisters and hackers, and I can't find a website for the author)
Carol McGrath - The Handfasted Wife (historical romance rather than SF, about Harold's not-official wife and the Norman invasion)

Other authors who said interesting things, either that I saw directly or through others' writeups:
Rochita Loenen-Ruiz
Mary Anne Mohanraj
Kate Elliott
Rebecca Levene
Liesel Schwarz
R.A. Smith
Zen Cho
Tobias Buckell
Candas Jane Dorsey
JY Yang
Max Gladstone

Long lists of books read and acquired since the last Reading Wednesday post are behind the cut.

Read more (why, yes I did) )

Hugos again (if not bored)

Aug. 21st, 2014 12:30 pm
damerell: NetHack. (Default)
[personal profile] damerell
I just ran into the idea that, why, there is a conspiracy. Never mind what people think of Theodore Beale, "NO AUTHOR FROM ANY COUNTRY, OF ANY ETHNICITY OR ORIENTATION, who is _openly_ anything but left wing can get onto the ballot, let alone win", we are told.

If you run into this idea, it may be useful to note that Brandon Sanderson (who was not on the Sad Puppy slate) had Campbell nominations in '06 and '07, a Hugo in 2013, a Hugo nomination in 2014, and cohosts a podcast which has had 4 Hugo nominations one of which resulted in a win.

He is also a Mormon, an opponent of gay marriage, and a "staunch Republican", all of which he blogs about, so they're not exactly secrets.

(Not the only one, just the first one I could find...)

Obligatory Loncon post

Aug. 20th, 2014 06:23 pm
damerell: NetHack. (Default)
[personal profile] damerell
I turned up on Wednesday and may have gophered rather too much in Exhibits until Monday; I made it to the Masquerade, the Hugos, 3 normal panels, and one filk gig. It was very jolly, although my feet are a bit of a mess, and I did not see many of you as much as I might have liked.

However... the way that Worldcon site selection works is that if you have a supporting membership to con n, you can pay a site selection fee to vote on con n+2 which then turns into a supporting membership to whichever con wins. This tends to mean that voting on sites for even-numbered or odd-numbered years can be reasonably self-perpetuating.

I noticed a number of us seem to have pre-supported the Helsinki 2017 bid, the Dublin 2019 bid, and perhaps even Paris 2023. However, in light of the above, that sort of means Loncon was a year early; to vote on 2017 bids, you'd need a supporting membership to Spokane 2015, whose membership rates rise on August 31.

Traditionally, Worldcons have almost all been in North America; when cross-continental travel was more difficult, there was a rule dividing them between the West and East Coasts of the USA. I feel the current crop of European bids (and Japan 2017) may represent a sea change, where we might instead divide them between North America in even years and the rest of the world in odd ones. I'd like to see this happen (of course, as someone who doesn't fly, not for entirely unselfish reasons).

Placeholder for 2015 hugo nominations

Aug. 19th, 2014 12:44 am
rmc28: (bat-funny)
[personal profile] rmc28
As this year's membership lets me nominate for next year, and the problem is always looking back and trying to remember good things.

lists )

So there was a worldcon

Aug. 18th, 2014 11:51 pm
rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
[personal profile] rmc28
And I enjoyed it quite a lot but did feel that I wasn't getting in anywhere near enough fannishness (either events or socialising) as I would have liked, primarily because children.

I made a choice to concentrate our childcare funds on 2-year-old N, who is too old to be baggage and too young to be quiet and convenient for adults. There were a surprisingly high number of child-friendly events, but I vastly overestimated 7-year-old C's ability to cope with large numbers of people and a vast and loud venue. So he spent a lot of time out of the venue with one or other of us instead.

I find that I want very much to go to more cons (next year's Eastercon has Jim Butcher whose books both Tony & I like very much, for example), but only if we budget a lot more for childcare, assuming there is any, or wangle some family cover to leave the children behind entirely. [I leave solving the problem of cons - and party conferences and tech conferences - being inherently hostile for young families as an exercise for the reader.]

Whinge over. I enjoyed the two panels I was on, and felt both resulted in interesting conversations in which I was able to make relevant points.  My initial nervousness / imposter syndrome basically dissolved as soon as we got started and it was a great experience.  Several people were pleasingly complimentary afterward, and not all of them were friends and family :-)

(Though it was incredibly heartening to arrive in the huge 7 + 12 room for my first panel and seeing half-a-dozen friends in a row giving a cheerful wave at me, and m'mother taking up her access seat in the front row. )

The other panels I attended also seemed to have a really appropriate mix of participants. Excellent work by whoever matched programme volunteers to panels.  Go that team!  I am absolutely sure there was a great deal of work behind the scenes to achieve that result.
 
Which reminds me, at least two people I spoke to were unaware how one gets picked to be on panels: there was a programme volunteer form which was drawn to my attention at least twice in the run up to the con, and I filled it in, and a while later I was invited to be on these two panels, and confirm my details, etc.  It was all very straightforward from my point of view, which I think again results in a Go Team Programme!

I have pages of notes of recommended books, authors, youtube videos, blog posts, etc, which I shall try to work through in the remainder of my leave from work.

Oh, and though I missed the Hugo ceremony, I was very happy reading the results this morning, in particular Ancillary Justice winning best novel and Gravity winning best film.  Nicholas Whyte did some analysis of the voting numbers and transfers if you like that kind of thing. For me it's just a pleasure to not be in the minority in the areas where I'd formed a strong opinion.

July 2014

Aug. 17th, 2014 07:29 am
puzzlement: (geomag)
[personal profile] puzzlement
Originally posted at http://puzzling.org.

I took about a week to get over my jetlag from the USA, but it was really rather mild. I would just get on with my day, only as soon as the sun set, the day would be over. The unpleasantness was mostly that this meant that for about a week, I worked and slept and did nothing else.

I met my mother, aunt and sister in Hornsby — where Andrew and I lived for 5 years and where V was born — the Friday afternoon after I got back, which was odd. Of course, most things are exactly the same, but there was also no point to it. We didn’t have friends up there even at the time and there was nowhere to go where people would remember me unless the food sellers in the (very very busy) local shopping centre remember a very tall past customer.

The playground where V played the most was exactly the same, but he’d forgotten it, and it was also verging on being a little young for him. Hornsby Shire Council is not the City of Sydney in terms of devotion to adventure playgrounds. I drove past the hospital to show V where he was born, and realised I’m not sure I’d remember which birth suite it was (even if they were inclined to allow random people to traipse through the delivery ward, which of course they would not be). Hornsby Hospital, which was a state-wide scandal in terms of maintainence, has had some money spent on it in the last few years. The building which I believe contained the old maternity ward my mother was born in has been knocked down and replaced with something in blocky primary colours, looking much like the new Royal North Shore hospital. It shouldn’t surprise me there are trends in hospital design, but it does.

V, of course, was politely puzzled by the idea that he had ever lived in this place or been in that hospital and so on. He also didn’t recognise his old daycare centre.

The block of flats we lived in — we still own the flat — looks exactly the same as when I last saw it more than two years ago, but there’s a speed bump in the street, and a new Thai restaurant where the sad failed grocer was. (Sad both in that any failed small business is sad, and also that they appeared to have sunk a lot of thought and effort into the fitout, trying to set up a slightly fancy deli that was patronised mostly by me and Andrew. They left on what would have been about the first annual review of their lease.) I entirely forgot to check if the Blockbuster franchise was still there; I would assume not.

I had intended to spend most of a day up there remembering things, in the end I drove around and left after 45 minutes.

It was probably that trip that inspired me into a very brief foray into the Sydney property market the following weekend, to wit, inspecting two properties. One we arrived at only to be told by a bored agent it had been bought before its first public inspection. “Yeah, sorry. That’s how it goes!” The other involved real estate agents cornering us to let us know how very motivated (very, very motivated) the seller was, and wanting to have a big discussion about what we were looking for in the market and what we thought about the market and why we thought that and whether they’d be of any help re-aligning our thoughts for us and what kind of finance we might have access to or could be assisted with, and etc, and were not easily put off by “we live just up the street and are having a sticky-beak, and also, this apartment is down two internal flights of stairs and we have a baby in a stroller, so no.” I suppose it could be worse, we could have actually bought the place. But it was surprisingly difficult to get away from them even as entirely unmotivated buyers.

And that was Andrew’s cue to nick off to the USA himself. It was a long and lonely trip at my end, probably much the same as mine for him. As our work trips become increasingly totalising — he was expected to have all three meals a day with work colleagues he needs to know better, I took a baby with me — we’ve dropped off our communications. I spoke to him a couple of times while I was away (and mostly in order to speak to a very bored and slightly bewildered V, at that), I think while he was away we had a couple of abortive attempts at video chat and that was about it. Not much fun having a chat that consists mostly of “… no, I still can’t hear you, oh, I just saw you wave, nope, now you’ve frozen, can you hear me? CAN YOU HEAR ME?” It got even worse when he got to London and didn’t have a local SIM and was impossible to reach at all.

Andrew works in an office, but I don’t, so when he travels I can go for days without having face-to-face interactions with other adults that aren’t transactional. (“Have I paid for V’s dance class this week? No? Here’s the fee!”) So I took V and A to my parents for three nights in the middle of Andrew’s trip. Packing alone for a trip is always really annoying and boring, but the drive that I was dreading (about 4 hours each way) ended up being surprisingly painless. V remains a good and surprisingly non-whingy car traveller and A sleeps even better in cars than he used to. The first morning we were there they had their snowfall of the year; unfortunately we hadn’t brought gloves with us but had a bit of fun anyway, with my parents hauling V around on a tarpaulin “sled”.

Once I was back, I warned Val that I was feeling slightly ill and was having an inexplicably grumpy and sad day. (The amount of emotional work and intimacy required in a small business can be high, but I do like being able to rearrange my day around being grumpy every so often.) It got much more explicable when I realised I was having cellulitis symptoms in my left ankle (an infection of soft tissue under the skin).

I had cellulitis in September 2012 with a slightly unusual and very aggressive presentation: I got a high fever first, about 24 hours before there was any redness or swelling and so on. By the time the redness was even really properly visible, I had been running a 40°C fever for several days, could barely walk due to the painful swelling of lymph nodes, was dehydrated, and was admitted to hospital for 6 days of IV antibiotics (and three days of rehydration, because I refused to take anything by mouth). When I was in there, the infectious diseases registrar asked if she should draw the boundaries of the redness on my leg to check if it was spreading, and the specialist said mildly “I don’t think there’s much point to that.” He was quite right: within a couple more days, the redness had spread all over my left thigh, and I ended up losing two layers of skin from most of my inner thigh, very much (as the specialist pointed out) as if I’d badly burned it. The day before I was discharged, he stopped by my bed alone and remarked that it was cases like this that “remind us that even in the age of antibiotics, these things can be very aggressive, and sometimes even fatal.”

… Thanks.

So, naturally, I panicked that I was having cellulitis symptoms again, only this time with two children in my care and Andrew in London (so, timezone-flipped) and close to unreachable other than by email. It wasn’t, in the end, justified: this time I got the redness and swelling but no fever or systemic illness, and a couple of courses of antibiotics cleared it up without me losing any skin, although I did walk with a cane for a couple of days due to lymph node pain. It was no worse than having twisted an ankle a bit in the end. It was tough on the extended family, as I set up Illness Level Red in case of needing to be hospitalised, unnecessarily in the event. (Andrew and I agreed that he’d arrange to leave London early as soon as I started running a fever, so he ended up leaving as planned.)

As a concrete thing, Andrew and I are going to have to work a bit more about communicating, and being accessible, while each of us travels. I used to talk about emotionally putting our marriage on ice for the duration — which is already much easier for the person who is travelling than the person left behind — but it’s not possibly for parenting, especially if the at-home parent gets taken out of action.

Once Andrew was back, all was well with the world. For the week and a half it took him to incubate the influenza he presumably picked up while travelling, anyway… stay tuned.

Starting (again) to read SFF

Aug. 14th, 2014 08:48 am
puzzlement: (Default)
[personal profile] puzzlement
Background: I like the idea of reading SFF, but I've never really managed to get a decent self-sustaining start at the genre. I read a bit, every now and then, run out of easily accessible books by that author, and then am faced with staring at this giant lump of human endeavour again wondering where the bits I like would be.

Help me out?

Some reading history: )

A couple of years back, I committed to reading Octavia Butler and James Tiptree Jr. I loved what I read of Butler (about half of Bloodchild and Other Stories): motherhood and genetics and illnesses, oh my. Excellent. And then I wanted to start on Tiptree and the collection of hers I began with started with a biographical summary and Warning for domestic violence ) and I think I should just not read Tiptree for the time being and move along rather than letting this whirlpool stop me from reading the genre in total.

And certainly, I want to return to Octavia Butler, although with the serious asterisk that I'm in Australia.

On the Australian issue: I have a suburban library a block away and a giant academic library in the next suburb, but it's still a bit tough. I suck at libraries really; it's basically a case of "borrow book, forget to return it, run up fine larger than purchase price of book, never borrow again" for me. (Note: right now I'm not really interested in improving my library-use skills in this respect. That's not what this entry is for.) So I tend to buy, but then, shipping is pricey, and quite a lot of e-books aren't available in Australia, and this is largely invisible to US recommenders (Amazon et al don't put up a giant "THINKING OF TELLING AN AUSTRALIAN ABOUT THIS BOOK? DON'T BOTHER!" warning). Anyway. I'll let you know if you rec something that's really tough for me to get hold of, and we can rage together.

What I think I'm looking for:

  • interesting world-building as a core feature, even when this involves plot or writing skill trade-offs (obviously, only up to a point, which is hard to specify)

  • engagement with social issues like gender politics, economic disparity, racial and ethnic identities, revolutions, culture clashes, illness, disability

  • for momentum reasons: authors who have quite a lot of published work, since I tend to read through an author and come to a grinding halt once I'm out of their work

  • narrative kinks (incomplete list): social implications of different biologies, telepathy, the ocean, time travel, marriages and equivalent length relationships, charismatic villains who play a long game

  • probably not enormously experimental prose styles, and certainly not poetry. I can be a sophisticated reader in this respect, but I think not while I'm trying to get to grips with new genres.

  • I'd probably prefer to stick to a single set of characters per item, ie, not the style of book that takes place over 1000 years and switches characters every chapter. (That's for novels: loosely linked short stories would be OK.)

  • I'm neutral on the question of YA or New Adult or… Adult?

Stuff people have already recced to me that I should just try FFS: Charles Stross, Seanan McGuire's October Daye novels, Constellation Games (I stopped reading this sometime around my Tiptree crisis, it was going well until then)

Thoughts?