Friday, July 31, 2009

Another Raise

Pay raise at work again as of today's paycheck. Happy days. I now earn twenty cents an hour more than before.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Neurotypical Privelege

Ok for those of you who read this the first time around I'm sorry, I should really stop trying to blog at midnight. I found this awesome post I think is worth pointing out for general viewership: Neurotypical Privilege: A working document

UPDATE newer version

I know this will take some explaining. Neurotypical or neurotypilogical or simply NT for short is a slang word used by people on the autistic spectrum to refer to people not on it without implying a value judgment by the name. That may sound kind of stupid, but it really quite powerful. We are in a democratic society so a premium value is associated with majority traits. So essentially if I use phraseology that someone else is normal and I am unnormal I have relinquished any presumption of equality because normal is considered better. Thus, I can equalize the playing field by using a medical sounding term to describe the dominant social status.

The document linked describes itself (since my tired brain refuses to function right now) as follows:
Based on the important and excellent essay, White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack by Peggy McIntosh, as well as other,similar lists that have followed, this is the beginning of a version to address the privilege that comes with having no known neurological disorder or disability.

The idea is the reader, coming from outside the movement, reads in explicit text all the things that are assumed for them that if they were of the disadvantaged class they would not get to have. For an example taken from a document on white privilege:

If a traffic cop pulls me over or if the IRS audits my tax return, I can be sure I haven't been singled out because of my race.

I have seen various attempts made to develop such a list for the autistic spectrum, but the one I have linked above is the most developed and polished one I've seen yet. Most of it is geared more to the broader autistic culture than to my own corner of it, but a few of the pieces resonated with me fairly strongly. For instance:

I can reveal to my boss and coworkers that I am NT, without fear of losing my job.

Because I have not disclosed my mental status to my employer, my job is much more secure. It forces them to judge me on performance in an equal manner. If I disclosed then any incidence of weakness related to my condition would be singled out leading towards a bias and potential firing.

Another one I liked:
I am not expected to alter or suppress my natural ways of moving, interacting or expressing emotion in most circumstances.

Now granted, I am not typically asked to make any changes. However, that is in a context where I already understand that if I express myself naturally too much, bad things happen. Because I am a valued member of my work community my manager shields me from some of it. However I am aware there have been repeated attempts by others to have me reprimanded for writing in an overly wordy way. Not that I was unclear or unprofessional. Just too wordy. Or there have been times when I have publicly been trying to ask for clarification of a specific detail when I already understand the basic picture but because most people don't care about the level of detail that I do, they assumed I needed to be instructed in the basic picture. To interact with such people, I am expected to change my manner of working with people.

Another item from their list
If I fail to alter or suppress my natural ways of moving, interacting or expressing emotion, I do not fear public ridicule or exclusion because of this.

I do not particularly blame anyone for the effects described in this list. Accommodation is a mutual process that involves trust, disclosure, and adjustment. The problem comes in where I have had experience enough that I cannot achieve that first level of trust with my environment. And this has pervasive impact on me.

For example...

My life has been filled with a never ending train of people who can see my mental capacity a lot clearer than they can see me. I don't particularly mind being smart and being able to help other people as a consequence of being smart. However it can be irritating to have that trait be so obvious that it is the only particular aspect of myself at hand for them to grasp. This was brought to mind particularly strong the other day when several times in a row I had people respond to me making mistakes with a "well it shows your human after all" genre of statements. I'm not trying to present as superhuman or above anyone, but people can end up treating me in an exclusionary rather than inclusive way when they see me like that. It doesn't help you any to have random managers coming up to you with agents in tow saying "I need someone really really really smart to fix this persons problem and you are it."

So in any case, I've had a string of these incidents recently and my brain was trying to maneuver its way out of the problem. For some reason, trying to do my job, have a modicum of conversation with the person sitting next to me while wondering why I was suddenly having an extremely hard time making eye contact during the conversation (not typically a problem I exhibit strongly) was taking up all my brain power. So I just sat there, thinking "I know I used to have a solution to this scenario but I don't seem to know what it is anymore."

Thinking back on the situation now, I recall what the solution is. When someone praised my smarts so much as to irritate me, I would tell them my diagnosis. It works really well actually, a short conversation can transform a persons view of me from "wow I'm talking to a smart person" to "wow, I'm talking to someone who has a unique blend of strengths as weaknesses." So problem solved just go to the person and tell them who I really am? Nope, won't work, because I still can't trust that if I disclose publicly I won't end up with quality monitors with a bias against me. I don't blame myself, my manager, or anyone else for the situation. Its simply fact that unless society were thoroughly ready to accommodate me, I can't take the statistical chance that someone in power over me wouldn't respond in an extremely negative way. And its not just the quality monitors I worry about. Being a very publicized condition right now, there are plenty of people who have made up all sorts of horror stories on the subject so that by going public with it I risk being accused of having poor sexual morality, being a socio path, or a loser looking for an excuse for a lifetime of poor achievement.

Not that there aren't other methods I could deal with this, but most of them are either temporary fixes (I can hang out only with people as nerdy or as smart as myself that my peers cannot marginalize me) or involve conversation skills I am not abounding in. Maybe some other day I'll figure out a good stereotype shattering strategy. Just remember it has to be one that accommodate me finding it difficult to initiate social conversation and even more difficult to control or manipulate the direction of that conversation. To put this in context the last time I can recall seamlessly guiding a conversation out of an awkward point I did it completely on accident, interrupting someone else's conversation they were finding awkward without intending to. And that was probably more than a year ago.

So in the meantime, I'll console myself that I am thought to be very smart. And be thankful that despite not having room to establish trust to the level I'd like, I have a manager who still generally understands what's going on in my head and shields me when things get over my head.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


So Bonnie Jean went in for a kind of off the wall lab test the other day that we half expected the insurance not to cover. We have an HMO after all. When the "NOT A BILL" statement arrived and it appeared we had been billed for two instances of this particular lab and the pending charge exceeded $800 we were kind of holding our breath. Not that we couldn't pay that and much more, its just a very large chunk of cash to give away over not knowing ahead of time whether the lab would be covered. We were worried enough that we actually even tried to call the lab to protest that the statement they sent seemed to show them performing the test twice when the doctor only ordered it once. They didn't answer or even callback, so we were kind of worried. We are very happy to get this in the mail today:

I guess there's hope for our HMO after all.

Sunday, July 26, 2009


So apparently President Obama has announced an intention to sign the "Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities." as of a few days ago. I'm very intrigued by this move. I haven't gotten to read the entire document but what I did read looked pretty good. Probably not going to change anything night and day, but being attached to a statement of values on the subject could be a really good step in the right direction. From the peek I took at it, someone did a lot of research before putting the treaty together. There's a lot of hot button issues addressed inside of it that I've seen many in the disability community concerned about. If anyone finds out more about it feel free to let me know. I'm surprised this has barely made a splash in the news yet.

My initial response from what I read is that I support this move, but as I said I haven't read the entire treaty yet. I find it very unsurprising that despite, according to their website, being the fastest negotiated and most signatory states on launch day, the United States has not signed it. Kind of a trend that. I have to laugh at a world where China has ratified a human rights treaty that the United States has not even signed yet. I laugh for multiple reasons, so no jumping to conclusions there.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Stats... and not getting fired

For a long time at work whenever we've complained about working conditions, the standard answer has always been be glad you still have a job because they're seriously considering shutting down this center. Felt a little bit like this dilbert cartoon. (click on it to view the whole thing)

So, for the last two weeks in a row we've met our minimum quality stats as a project. My manager tells me that's the first time we've done that since we switched to this project. So I'm really glad. Perhaps I won't be fired after all.

Something about this job has increased my cynicism or something. I used to find Dilbert only marginally funny, but recently I've found it downright hilarious.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Talk in church

For those who missed it on Bonnie Jean's blog, on Tuesday before yesterday we were asked to speak in church on Sunday last. My assigned subject was humility. Kind of an interesting subject to prepare on since I'm not exactly the humblest guy in the world when it comes to the talks I write. But it was a good experience, went quite well overall.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Death of a camera

So, as Bonnie Jean mentioned in her blog, our camera is seeing purple spots. Which is kind of odd, because normally it can't see the color purple, interpreting it as white, pink, or blue. So I am looking forwards to its replacement arriving. It's amazing the difference a few years can make in what apprx. $350 can buy you. Back in December of 2004 it could get you a 3 megapixel camera with 3x optical zoom, red eye reduction, flash, f2.8 at widest angle, and capable of ISO100 before significant noise comes into play.

Now, $350 will get you 20x optical zoom, 10 megapixel, face recognition assisted focus and exposure control, motion tracking autofocus, image stabilization, focus or exposure bracketing, capable of (according to one reviewer) 400 ISO before significant noise comes in, along with the above mentioned flash (except with an exernal flash adapter), red eye reduction (except it can be applied in post editing in camera), and many other features.

Just makes me wonder. Give it another 4 or 5 years and what will $350 buy in a digital camera?

Care taker, or someone who can't be bothered?

So I performed a rather disturbing call at work the other day. I was requested to help someone with a ringtone download. When I reached them I discovered it was an elderly woman at some sort of managed care or nursing home scenario. In the course of helping her I needed to call her back on a landline phone. She didn't know the number, so she handed the phone to one of the care takers to give me the number. The care taker refused to assist the customer but instead demanded that I give her the instructions and when they were too techy for the young nurse to figure out she informed me not to try to help the customer anymore and that the customer would get help from her family.

So my mind at this point is screaming that we've got a serious ethical lapse here. A tenant of a nursing home should have access to their customer care representative and be able to perform whatever they want to over the phone with reasonable accomodation, such as giving a phone number to a customer care representative. Instead because it was too much trouble to handle it herself, the nurse forbade me to have an interaction with my customer that the customer initiated. Granted, ringtone downloads are not that important of a quality of life issue, but in as much as can reasonably accommodated people should be allowed to live their life without interference. I could here in the background the nurse telling the customer not to try to do this on her own and to wait for her family. Granted, the patient may have been unable to perform the function on her own, and I had even suggested getting a family member to help. However when the customer wanted to try it on her own, there is no ethical reason to forbid her a service from a customer care representative that she is paying to be able to receive.

As I've seen another blogger mention, care taker relationships are not equal power relationships.


So I went on a campout with the Elder's quorum this last weekend. Had a few interesting experiences. The campfire was left completely unattended while people went to play games. When the games descended into pelting eachother with glowsticks I decided to bow out and tend the fire. Earlier that evening large logs were being put on even though it was getting close to the end of the night. Didn't make any sense to me, but when I asked if that was a little excessive (thinking that we'd want to let the fire burn down so it could go out) I was told "well what else are we going to do with it?" So before I went to bed I poured enough water on the fire to reduce it to a smoldering bed of coals. Didn't want to use up the rest of my water bottle on the fire and I figured the other guys could handle it the rest of the way with their water when they came to bed. Woke up the next morning before anyone else and found to my dismay the fire was still burning as a smoldering bed of coals, which between myself and the next person who woke up was built back up to a roaring fire by just dropping some wood on it. I told the second person who woke up that the fire hadn't gone out last night. The response was, "It normally doesn't".

So, I'm wondering if I went through the same boy scout program as these guys or something. Leaving fires unattended, building them so high they burn till the morning light, chopping wood repeatedly so close to other people that we were routinely being showered with wood chips, attempting to chop down trees for firewood without even bothering to check if they are alive or not and continuing to chop them even after its pointed out that they aren't dead. Don't even ask me if that was legal. Kind of freaky, but the general sense I got from the condition of the park we were in was that most people were fairly disrespectful of the forest. The trees along the road had relatively fresh names carved in them (people dated their carvings) a good 10-15 feet off the ground, indicating going to a significant trouble to vandalize the woods. I just hope the fire practices of my Elder's Quorum are not normal for Utahans. If they are they deserve all the fires they have to fight every year.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Funeral, and birds

So I never got around to finishing earlier intended blog posts. The funeral I mentioned earlier was very nice. First LDS funeral I had actually been to with a viewing, so that was a little different. Hopefully that will be the end of people dying around me soon. Found out a lot about my, how would I say it, step grandfather in law than I ever knew before. Not too hard given that I didn't know him much.

Most of the driving on our trip that I mentioned above was in search of bird watching sites. Not counting the birds we saw at the aviary, Bonnie Jean and I spotted:
American Avocet
Curlew (I don't recall the variety
Chickadee (I don't recall the variety)
Yellow Warbler
Downy woodpecker
Heron (didn't see well enough to see what kind)
Cedar Waxwing
California Gull
?Franklin Gull? (I'm really not certain on that one, it was a very far off sighting)
Meadow Lark
Marsh Wren
Cliff Swallow
Brewers Blackbird
Yellow headed blackbird
Redwinged blackbird
Western Tanager

and probably many others that I can't remember and definitely many more that I couldn't identify. Takes some practice to successfully identify birds and I'd never really tried with water fowl before. I saw a lot of ducks that I have no idea about. All in all a very fun trip, which shall have to be repeated someday, preferably in the fall when the migration is in full swing and there are thousands more birds around back on their way to South America or wherever they are going.