3 things that amused me this week

Aug. 29th, 2014 08:44 pm
rmc28: (silly)
[personal profile] rmc28
There is a letting agent whose sign I pass on my commute, called Let's Rent Cambridge.  Every time I see the sign, I find myself thinking "what, all of Cambridge?"

Tony was 40 earlier this week and we had a meal at the Cambridge Smokehouse, where the Eraina used to be.  This is a great restaurant if you like meat with your meat and some meat, and I love the "ping a light for service" approach.

I have a new fitness-monitoring-wristband thing (Fitbit Flex for those that care), and my slow overfull waddle back from the Smokehouse was classed by it as "intense activity".  I slightly fear what it will make of my running, when I next manage it.

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).

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Matthew Garrett

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Power management, mobile and firmware developer on Linux. Security developer at Nebula. Ex-biologist. @mjg59 on Twitter. Content here should not be interpreted as the opinion of my employer.

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