WAN-Foraging Behaviour of Migrant Geek Populations

You may have seen people wandering around railstations or airports or other public areas with open laptops in hand, searching for wireless signal to access the internet. I always thought that would be a neat demographic study to do.

Right now I’m one of them; “teh internets is broke” at home, and yesterday the cable service company told us they wouldn’t be out to fix it for another 48 hours or so.  No small surprise, considering that the US ranks 11th for internet penetration — it’s hardly an efficient or consistent utility, being composed of numerous companies, all with their own combinations of grids, pricing schemes and services.  So why do we have no access at home?  I’ve no idea; we’re not suffering from any severe geo-meteorlogical events, and I’m not way out in the boonies (the hinterland, the bush, the back country).

So here I am using free time on a college terminal, because despite their LAN sending out good signal, I cannot rouse their router’s attention anywhere on campus.  No, it’s not my laptop, which has worked with the college’s systems before, and worked just fine at the public library last night — however, I’m not fond of the public library because their wireless is glacially slow.  The result of all this is not having my laptop files for making blog posts.

Except of course, whatever just spontaneously comes to mind from a public-access keyboard, as I sit here kvetching.  Gah.

Coffee Break

Go check out Disability Blog Carnival #17, “Laughter, the best medicine” being held at the Kuusistos’ blog, Planet of the Blind.

Garden Buzz: Bug-Eyed

Time for a break from all the serious posts. I finally got some new batteries for my D-SLR, so between [much-needed] rain showers I snapped some insect pix. By “bug-eyed” I’m referring to the ability to spot little insects amidst masses of flora. For example, here’s a frothy mass of fennel plants growing in the garden. There are several caterpillars and some eggs in here, but you probably can’t see them at this level of resolution …  (rest of story, pix with descriptions and scientfic names here)

Odds Are …

Life, they say, is a crap shoot; you never know what you’re going to get, and eventually you’ll lose and your life will be over. A little grim sounding, but not necessarily fatalistic, not like the whole concept of predestination. I’ll take free will any day. But that’s free will guided by inner moral responsibility, not by fear of hellfire and damnation. Though not explicit, there’s still that undercurrent of hellfire and damnation in the various flavours of xenophobia being flung about. (“Xenophobia” means fear of the Other, not fear of Xena, Warrior Princess.)

Sometimes it’s the covert version that seeps through schools in a fog of viscous cliques targeting whatever groups are considered to be outsiders, such as gays or geeks. What most people didn’t seem to realise or acknowledge was that you didn’t actually have to be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered to be slammed as a “fag”, “homo” or “fairy”. Anyone could be a target for verbal and/or physical violence just because Read the rest of this entry »


When reading about various “cures” for autism, AD/HD et cetera, you’ll see the term “recovered” used. As in, “was ill but recovered”. This takes the medical model of disability rather far, from the sort of issue that may sometimes be addressed symptomatically using medical intervention (e.g. Ritalin for AD/HD), into the realm of a disease or pathology that must be cured using medical intervention.

“Recovered” can also mean “was lost but has been found”, which is not a coincidental usage when parents describe their child who was devastated by autism (slight projection there — I think it’s rather the parents who are devastated), and is otherwise doomed to be trapped in the dark abyss of autism. (I am not making up these catastrophic phrases; you can google them yourself.) And of course there’s the old cliché, “lost in your own little world”, which I heard repeatedly through my own childhood. (How silly — I mean, who else’s world would I be in?) Parents feel that when they try any number of cures and as the child matures and engages in less obviously-autistic mannerisms, that the child has been cured. (Hint: flapping less just means Read the rest of this entry »

Which Is Better?

When people ask, “Which is better?” for most anything, my response is, “Better for what?”

The same is true for any kind of debate about different teaching approaches, whether the subject is language, mathematics, or how we design classroom environments.

Take for example the whole debate about phonics versus whole-word approaches to reading. Each method is useful in different ways, and to different people. Phonics does give you tools to decode a great many words. But because English is not a strictly phonetic language, phonics can break down in the pronunciation ability, and especially in the spelling ability. One can usually come up a number of phonetically rational ways to spell a word, but only one or two will be correct (e.g. the British kerb and the American curb). So, let’s spell a word (I bet you can come up with even more ways than I’ve listed here!): Read the rest of this entry »

Solstice Means Carnival Time

The Solstice Edition of the Skeptic’s Carnival is going on over at Robert McCormick’s blog, Relatively Science. Go check out the sheer variety of fun offerings!

Epidemics of Bad Science vs Epidemics and Bad Science

Here’s a hot topic constantly resurfacing in the news, especially with the Omnibus currently proceeding at the US Court of Federal Claims, to wit: Is autism caused by vaccines? I won’t pretend that I’m going to capture everything in this controversy; there are too many players in the drama. (Autism Diva is keeping track of the daily news on the hearing.) However, this does make for an excellent case study in the scientific method. We get to look at concepts like incidence & prevalence, correlation vs causality, testimonials vs evidence-based medicine, and some general concepts in epidemiology. Could we possibly have any more fun?! (tongue-in-cheek joke)

When you read about autism, something noted most everywhere is the increasing numbers of children diagnosed. Surely, people say, there has to be something causing that to happen!

The whole vaccines-causes-autism story starts back in 1998, Read the rest of this entry »


Getting into the hot, humid season over here (30° – 40°C / 86° – 104°F). Always seems like the sweltering weather hits us way too soon in the summer! But no, it’s nearly solstice, so here we go, irrevocably dragged through that long, sticky stretch of subtropical obnoxiousness until late September.

It’s just too damn stultifying and oppressive, but attacked by this overly-radiant nearby star, we’re more unstrung and agitated than we are strung out and somnolent. The muggy, sun-blasted season doesn’t inspire any enthusiasm in me for Read the rest of this entry »

“Go out and play!”

Disability Blog Carnival #16 is going on over at Pilgrim Girl, where Jana has collected various posts along the line of “Borders”.  There’s great reading to be had — she begins with a great post by Gloria Anzaldua, and discusses the exclusions and curious permeability of various borders …

Garden Buzz: The Feeling’s Mutual

I’d hoped to take some pix of the black swallowtail caterpillars on the fennel, but alas, they are no more to be found. Instead, I found that the volunteer sunflowers are hosting several new species of insects that I’d not yet seen in the garden. Except somebody forgot to tell the lacebugs, treehoppers, and ambrosia aphids that they’re on the wrong plants … (Full story, pix, and scientific names here.)

Rainbow Cracking

The other week after my blogging about dyspraxia and such, hubby found an article in wired blogs (“Hacking My Child’s Brain”) and a recent article in the New York Times, “The Disorder Is Sensory; the Diagnosis, Elusive”. Although sensory integration remains a vaguely-defined albeit real disorder, treatments are highly varied and disputed. Some treatment approaches lack rigorous testing for efficacy, creating difficulties for insurance coverage.

One approach mentioned in the former article is from the Sensory Learning Center in Boulder, Colorado (US), and is described as suitable for a long list of issues: autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, acquired brain injury, developmental delays, birth trauma, behaviour problems, ADHD, and for “learning enhancement”. Their Web site is rife with testimonials from clients and practitioners.

Well, testimonials don’t sway me, Read the rest of this entry »

Greed Speaks: Fundraising for Nonprofits, Megachurch-Style

While reading Ginger’s rundown of the Autism Speaks annual IRS (US federal tax) Form 990, it occurred to me that this organisation conducts its financial operations in many of the same ways as do some of the less-savoury megachurches. (I’m not against religion in general or any particular religion, but recognise that churches are run by humans with typically human failings, and that big-scale churches and big egos can result in big-scale failings.) That probably seems like a really odd analogy, but there are a number of parallels, all of which are disquieting. (As another parallel, in the US both churches and nonprofit organisations are exempt from paying federal income taxes.)

Here’s the pathological model of the megachurch fundraising style: Read the rest of this entry »

Is it CC?

Description: The Closed Captioning symbol, a black frame in a horizontal rectangle, with a white television screen shape inside, displaying a pair of letter Cs.

This icon is used in North America to denote television programming that carried the accessory closed captioning signal. (I like to give artists credit, so I’ll mention that it was designed by Jack Foley, a graphics designer for that closed captioning pioneer, public television station WGBH of Boston, Massachusetts.) I’m pleased to see this icon on video boxes or in a television guide by a show listing, because it means the program is captioned, i.e. subtitled. Captions aren’t exactly the same as subtitles, although the two terms are often used interchangeably. Captions also describe other important auditory information, such as the type of background mood music, that a phone is ringing, there’s a knock on the door, or putting a musical quarter-note symbol by the words to denote that someone is singing, rather than speaking. The captions provide necessary clues to understanding the activity onscreen.

So … who cares? Read the rest of this entry »


I don’t belong here. Maybe I should have applied at a different department; Professor N was just being nice to write me a letter of recommendation. I don’t even know what those rec letters said; what if they were just so much “social noise” and I’m not really cut out for graduate school?

I am not getting these party jokes at all. Are they inside jokes? Are they related to people’s research? Is it a department joke? Just smile and move along…

I’ll never be able to cope with all this stuff. Omigod, they’ve added so much stuff to animal biology since I studied it years ago. I can’t believe I just got a B grade in biochemistry without knowing all these details.

How come everyone else seems to know what’s going on? Did I miss something on Orientation Day? Just act sharp and keep your mouth shut; hopefully somebody will mention something.

There’s too many people here to remember! But they all know each other. Just smile and ask “How’s it going”; maybe some clue will be mentioned.

My advisor says I ask too many questions. I thought he was there to advise me?

Oh no! How will I make it through four semesters of statistics? I’ve always been terrible at the maths. That A in Calculus wasn’t normal for me; we just had a really good teacher. I can’t hardly do these life table calculations without getting numbers turned around!

I feel like such a fake. I was just lucky. That was just an isolated event — it won’t happen again.

“You have no idea what a poor opinion I have of myself, and how little I deserve it.”
~Reg Smythe

It’s not just me. This is what we call “Imposter Syndrome”. Often mentioned in the context of gifted individuals, and high-achieving women, it’s also seen in quite a different population. Read the rest of this entry »

“Ooh, shiny!”

I got a shiny award; I’m so tickled.*

thinking blogger AWARD

I’ve been meme-tagged! Twice, no less. I shoulda’ said something after the first time, but I got busy with the end of the school spring term (and a few blogposts that grabbed me by the collar and demanded to be written), and then I got tagged the second time and that got delayed because of the beginning of the school summer term (ditto more demanding blogposts — my Muses are very assertive). Mea culpa.

The Thinking Blogger Award is a blogging meme meant to aid in the dissemination of thoughtful blogging (as opposed to the more mundane chit-chat kind of blogging, e.g. “Today I found a cute frock on sale”). Unlike some memes, this one is highly codified in that it has concrete rules, and requires ongoing documentation, which is guaranteed to make historians and literary pundits absolutely delighted. The rules read as follows:

  1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think,
  2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme,
  3. Optional: Proudly display the ‘Thinking Blogger Award’ with a link to the post that you wrote.

The first award was nominated by Read the rest of this entry »

The Words

They lied.

One sentence; two words. Together, two very powerful words.

As the beginning, those two words beg more questions than they answer. Who lied? What about? To whom? When, where, and why? Read the rest of this entry »


Several days ago I noticed that I had a couple of green peach aphids on some cabbagey plants. Did I pull out the insecticide? No, I waited a few days and returned with my camera to witness the inevitable carnage, because aphids are the McDinners of a number of beneficial predators, not just ladybird beetles, but also syrphid flies, lacewings, and most fearsome of all, the parasitoids! Story, pix and scientific nomenclature here.


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