Thursday, July 31, 2008

Exhausted and intruiged

Well between traveling and constant late night after a family reunion and getting home and immediately swinging into moving loads of boxes around and between apartments, I'm pretty beat. But for some reason my mind has trouble settling down at night.

So tonights wandering produced something fascinating. I was exploring Jim Sinclair's personal website. Probably the best way to sum up why I pay any attention to him is Jim started one of the earliest and long lived organizations for people on the autistic spectrum to meet and correspond with each other, and that organization in turn created probably one of the coolest and most imitated conference for people on the spectrum (as opposed to their parents and doctors), and was one of the earliest pioneers of the neurodiversity movement who was saying back in 1992 that it was ok for such people to just be themselves. They might very limited in some ways, they might be what no one expects of them, but the essential thing is that they are them and deserve happiness and acceptance like other people. An article written by him is posted as one of my "internet favorites," and is probably still one of the most profoundly presented pleas for acceptance and understanding that I've ever read. He got a lot of hate mail for it, and as of a few years occasionally still does.

Well, getting to the wow moment I had. Jim had better reasons than most to be primed to understand the entire issue of accepting people for who they are no matter how profoundly different they are from the norm. Jim was born neuter, but unlike most such people, had the chance to decide that is how Jim wanted to stay. Against the "better judgment" of others who wanted to induce superficial or half way changes to make (insert neuter 3rd person pronoun that doesn't imply inanimate object) superficially conform with their idea of what a happy human being should look like. Because of course, you can't be happy till you look like other people... But Jim decided to stay Jim.

All I can say is that one way or another everything has a purpose. Some things only have a purpose to the extent that they are a consequence of freedom's purpose, but there is always purpose. Other people could have done what Jim did, Jim was just one of that first group of pioneers. But I think it wouldn't have been as good without someone who could pen the beautiful wording in the above mentioned article, "Don't Mourn for Us."

Sunday, July 27, 2008


I've been enjoying the family reunion. Watching my 5 year old autistic niece and my 3 year old Asperger's nephew playing and laughing their heads off is a blast. When they first met they started growling at each other playfully. That is the 3 year olds favorite verbal expression, growling. So I jumped down and started growling with them and the joy was increased. I'm enjoying the green. I was helping Bonnie Jean with her pictures and caught this one just before running off for yet another eternal round of family photos. I was intending to catch the bee in flight but didn't have time.

I tried telling her to use it on her Photo a Day blog if she wanted it, but she said since she wasn't even trying to get this picture she thought it would be cheating.

So, yes family reunions have lots of photos, group dinners between people who have never seen each other before in their life, and earlier today a 70th wedding anniversary for a great uncle. I had never realized how much of that side of my family belonged to the Salvation Army church, where the celebration was held. The local church has an awesome band, I was in ecstasy
the entire time.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Buses and reunions

This morning I am heading off for a family reunion in Michigan. It's been an adventure already. We knew we would have trouble leaving from the local greyhound station because the buses tend to be full so we figured by taking a bus that left at 2:15 AM we could count on getting a seat. No such luck. There was only one seat on the bus and someone else got it, not that I'd really want to be seperated from Bonnie Jean. We asked when the next bus was coming through to see if we could catch that and all the driver would say is "6:30AM, 10 AM, I don't know sometime soon". We remembered the routes enough to know those times were not even close to true, he was just guessing and trying to get stuck arguing with angry passangers who paid for tickets the bus can't take. Upon getting home we verified, the next bus is at noon. However, we can't verify the process by which tickets can be transfered from one bus to another, except that it costs 15$ per ticket in normal circumstances. Calling is no good since greyhound won't answer the phones even after 20 minutes of hold time and their message advized that to avoid wait times of 10 minutes or longer it is best to call after 2PM (which is too late if the next bus driver can't help us).

So instead we are going to save these tickets for another day and my brother in law is fetching us. That will get us to Salt Lake a little late to make it to the temple, but otherwise everything will work out, the plane doesn't leave till tomorrow.

Since the last time we traveled on Greyhound there wasn't enough space for all passangers either and we only boarded because of luck, I think this is the last time I'm giving them a chance and will only use them for return trips from here on out.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

First Refrigerator Mom theory, now Girly Daddy theory: Mike Savage on Autism

I wish I didn't know anyone who held his views, but I've met a few of them. Mike Savage is about as fluffy of a conservative as you can get, but people like fluffy talk show hosts who splatter their thoughtlessness into public space. He's really seemed to pick this up as a new focus. If you visit his website right now he has links to articles from such prominent medical authorities as Thomas Sowell and a website called "skeptico" claiming autism is falsely diagnosed and that there is no epidemic. On the epidemic question I completely agree. There isn't one and I'd prefer not to have false advocates more interested in their funding than in my social well being running around screaming as if I were an infectious disease.ˆ But I take that from the perspective of ok shut up and respect me for who I am. Coming from a person like him, he's trying to present it as evidence that "it's a fraud" and that I'm a girly man. In his words:

They don't have a father around to tell them, 'Don't act like a moron. You'll get nowhere in life. Stop acting like a putz. Straighten up. Act like a man. Don't sit there crying and screaming, idiot.

Followed so eloquently with phrases including:

You're turning your son into a girl, and you're turning your nation into a nation of losers and beaten men. That's why we have the politicians we have.

My wife reminds me, his comments display bizzare sexism. There is nothing "girly" about autism and the suggestion that temper tantrums are a female trait makes you wonder if he even knows any children. Autism is somewhere between 4-7 times as common in boys than in girls (depending on the statistical methodology used and which subtype of the population being discussed) and repeated studies have shown autism has nothing to do with parenting techniques. Child abuse on the other hand, can have everything to do with fake tough guy attitudes very similar to the ones advocated by the Savage individual referred to above.

If you find this as disgusting as I do, the contact information for protest is here:

Michael Savage AR

Talk Radio NetworkRDDDSDD The Savage Nation
Talk Radio Network CDDDSLSAThe Savage Nation
Talk Radio Network CLDDSDCLThe Paul Revere Society
P.O. Box 3755 CLEACLDDDE...150 Shoreline Hwy, Bldge E
Central Point, Oregon 97502 CLMill Valley, CA 94941
Phone: 541-664-8827 CLEDALEFax: 415-339-938
Fax: 541-664-6250

ˆFor those interested in hairsplitting, the organizations referred to regarding claims of epidemics make no distinction between traditional autism and aspergers when presenting their statistics so I am literally part of what they refer to when they say epidemic. Real scientists pay attention to such differences and debate their significance but the fund raising advocates have little interest in anything but riding the wave of attention autism has received.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Surgery all done

I am back home and in minimal pain so far from the operation that corrected the medical problem unveiled in the the bleeding referred to several posts back. If you feel like finding out more gross details go look up in a history book Rousseau's primary medical problem (other than later life insanity). The anesthesia left me more shaky than loopy but the doctor says I'm not allowed to sign any legal documents for at least 24 hours. Its kind of funny though, never even saw the surgeon, I don't think he even entered the room until after I was out and he didn't come in after I woke up.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Invasive questions

Somehow it offends me when an intake form to the dentist office asks me if I have any psychiatric conditions. About the only reason the dentist could care to know is if someone hallucinates during an examination he'll know to keep drilling instead of freak out, call an ambulance, and then have to reschedule the appointment after disturbing everyone in the lobby.

I've been filling out a lot of intake forms recently for different doctors, and they all ask that question or similar ones. Given the amount of prejudice and/or disbelief I can and have invoked by saying the words "Asperger's syndrome" I've mostly fallen into a need to know habit with that particular diagnosis with anyone who knows me personally enough to hurt me. CrouchingOwl is different because my more or less anonymous cyber identity hardly exists without it being associated with the diagnosis, so no reason not to disclose and have one area where I can talk about it as if it were something normal people wouldn't freak out about. Not that I've ever had a medical professional react in those ways, but I've lived and interacted enough in the online "aspies" community to know that one can't guarantee any particular level of professionalism or real knowledge of such a specialized condition from any doctor who doesn't specialize in that area.

So, I continue to agonize on exactly how to honestly fill out such forms. If they ask for psychiatric conditions I have a very easy solution. Asperger's syndrome is psychological, not psychiatric. Psychiatry involves medical health insofar as it can be solved by the dispensing of pharmaceuticals, with a fringe movement where Freud lives on. Asperger's has never been treated successfully with drugs over any broader population than fluke anecdotal accounts. Certain drugs have been used with more or less success to manage the intensity of certain traits such as depressants to lessen obsessive interests, stimulants to do I can't remember what now, and anti depressents for the obscure beneficial side effects they have (which are so broad they are sometimes used as a "brain tune up" drug more than anything) or for, you guessed it, comorbid depression. But those are symptom management, none of them touch the central features of the condition, unlike how anti depressents directly treat depression, anti convulsants directly target seizures, and anti psychotics bulldoze through higher thought processes to leave less room for neurosis. So its not psychiatric.

But some of the forms use the word psychological. For as much as they are planning on looking at the form I could probably leave it blank and nobody would care or notice. Why should I give the doctor a chance to lecture me on what is or is not possible in my volunteered information based on such critical factors such as not walking the right way, having emotions, or being able to make eye contact upon command? Those are all reasons I've known people who have had their primary care giver state as reasons their diagnosis are incorrect.

I'm probably stressing too much about it. What I should probably do is check the box and not write anything in the explanation box and if they ask about it ask in return "Can you tell which condition it is already? No?, then it doesn't matter to what you're doing right now so lets get back on subject."

Monday, July 14, 2008

A Conspiracy to Promote me, sort of

I just received several new trainings all pointing to pulling me into the management machine. First I had better explain what I do.

AT&T customer service includes allowing agents to schedule followups. So lets say we make a change to your account that is just perfect for fixing your problem but there is a known computer error in which we know your bill is going to do the exact opposite of what we are telling it to, so we set a followup for someone to adjust it manually. In some centers agents do their own follow ups, in others a specialized team handles all of them. I normally do follow ups all day long. Just in the last week however, I got an extra responsibility. Someone has to take the job of watching the entire call center to make sure none of these followup requests fall through the cracks. If Bob Smith down the aisle sets a followup someone there is no automatic process that says who on our team takes it. Someone does all that manually. Typically at first it was the "floor coordinator" who basically as the name suggested coordinates the everything (except the plants hanging from the ceiling, they only handle things on the floor). But they are too busy so it got handed off to a couple specialized team leaders. But they are often busy being team leaders so a few normal agents were selected to do that job whenever needed. I am one of I think 3 or 4 agents who have that responsibility.

But from there it only gets better. I found out this afternoon that for the next two days and perhaps on call after that I am taking over a significant part of the responsibilities of the "floor coordinator". It won't be near all of them. I won't handle changing what types of work everyone is being assigned, won't moniter who may be avoiding work, and I won't file reports or paperwork. But I will be responsible to watch over the center and ensure everyone is at least logged in to do the work they are assigned to do, find out who took breaks late or off schedule and change their schedule to match to make everything look nice on paper, record who never shows up for work, who inexplicably leaves half way through the day, and take calls from all the poor souls who can't make it to work today but wanted to tell us about it so it wasn't a total shock. I will be one of 2 agents assigned to this task and considering there are only 2 people in management authorized to do this work at present this is a major shift.

So all this points to something good happening in moving up the corporate ladder right? In someone else's dreams (since it definitely isn't one of mine come true). One of the positions they have off an on through my time at convergys is an "Intern" which basically means you are a team leader in everything but name and having people directly report to you, but you get paid the same amount of money as any other floor agent till some never never time comes to pass and they decide to expand the beurocracy or someone in management gets fired. Its a lovely way to work things for the company, but for anybody else it means getting a real promotion means serious dedication and outlasting all the other poor fools who were waiting their chance only to be passed up in favor of some newbie who knows nothing about our project but did well on a personality test.

Not that any of this really bothers me since a career at the local call center was never in my idea of a fulfilling life. I welcome the opportunity for more varied and interesting work. Who knows, perhaps being more administratively useful comes with scheduling perks that mean school will be easier to complete. But sometimes you have to laugh at the irony of it all. Considering the ratio of team leaders to floor agents between an AT&T owned call center and our outsourced one, we are undermanaged by a ratio of about 1 of our team leaders to every 4 of theirs. And this expresses itself in the significant number of "normal" floor agents getting nothing special wages who in one or two ways have greater authority or have higher access logins than the majority of managers over them. This contradiction is more obvious to me because the followup team employs most of these special agents. So as I go about the next two days with repeated team leaders and agents coming to me saying "Will you please change this schedule" because none of them have the login authority to do it, I will laugh at the contradictions in the world and be glad I get to do something different for the day.

There are slum lords... and then there are Slum Lords

I used to think the place we live in was pretty badly kept up. Holes in the edges of the carpet, a shower door that does little to keep water in the shower, a sink with the plug broken so I have to reach underneath to make it plug, a silverwear drawer that falls off its track every single time I open it, and to top it off coin op washers and driers that are often out of service awaiting someone to take out all the quarters.

But this doesn't give the proper idea of the horrible things we've seen the past week. Think for just a moment of Darth Vader entering your living room, pointing the finger of doom, and proclaiming "Your repairs shall never be complete. It is their destiny!"

Something like that must have happened for the apartments with half the interior doornobs missing even after having been up on the market for a month and when you complain about it all they'll say is we'll put in a work order. No guarantees of fixing anything before moving in. Or the apartment that was advertized as ready to rent but when you walked inside it felt like they were trying to renovate but after taking apart all the parts they wanted to fix they decided to leave them lying in little piles all over the floor, with graffiti spray painted over the door, maybe a quarter of the sign out front advertising it for rent broken out, and screens from windows ripped loose and hanging from the outside walls. And the person showing us around didn't even apologize for the mess or explain how soon they intended to fix any of it, as if they expected us to move in without any expectation that the hanger rail in the closets would be hung or that the shower heads would be reattatched or that the shelves in the linen closet would ever become anything other than a pile of wood on the floor.

Bonnie and I have finally settled on a place from the same old company that provides the rest of the apartments in town known for washers that are broken because nobody has taken the money out of them yet. But, the only obvious things wrong with it at the moment are we haven't found what happened to the second oven rack, they haven't quite installed the replacement part for the toilet, and the bathtub hasn't been cleaned. Everything else looks great.

There have been a few gems where great upkeep combined with great price for a perfect apartment, but they were so far out by the time we convinced ourselves it was worth living so far from work and the store someone else (probably car enabled and unfearful of distance) already took it.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Walking, and more walking

Bonnie Jean and I have been walking a lot recently. Apartment hunting for if Jen leaves us with her baby. Walking takes a lot of time. We've found a place that is so cheap it would practically be the same price as we pay now after shutting down our storage unit and not having to use laundromats. The only problem, half the interior doors don't have doornobs, the paint is peeling, the windows are all covered in absolutely gross cloth sheets that aren't designed to draw back or go away easily and are all in strange colors, like stripped green and pink. Most of the light bulbs don't have covers. Oh, not to mention that the wall in the shower is moldy. I tried to ask them if they'd fix said items and all I got was "we'll put in a work order" and "that's a cleaning issue" as if it was some mildew that could be wiped off. I know rotting wall in comparison with mildew, and this was rotting wall. I don't think they believed me over the phone. As price goes its a little gem, otherwise it needs a serious redecoration. With as little confidence as they are giving me that they'd actually fix anything, I'm a little nervous wondering how long I could play the game of deducting cost of repairs from my rent each month.

In other walking recently I just went to the dentist. They told me considering how long it had been since I'd been to a dentist my teeth were doing really well. That's always nice to hear.