CARTOON Dung Beetle & Robot: “Six Legs”

This is is the first of a new cartoon series full of silliness and science, “DUNG BEETLE & ROBOT”

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HYPERMOBILITY CARTOON: In which I come unhinged — again

I have severe Joint Hypermobility Disorder.

I dislocated my jaw chewing on a piece of baguette.
I walked a couple blocks to the dentist, did the new patient registration, and they advised me to go to A&E [Accident & Emergency]. So my husband picked me up, and four hours later my jaw had been clicked back into place, and I had a photograph of my x-ray, and some codeine.

Yeup, another datum for an Ehlers-Danlos diagnosis; pretty sure this takes me over the tipping point. Awaiting echocardiogram and visit with a geneticist.

HMS-EDS_Revenge is Sweet and Spiced-15

Cartoon title: I WAS CHEWING ON A PIECE OF BAGUETTE AND MY JAW DISLOCATED The doctor (a Black man with a beard and dreads, wearing a white coat and stethescope) is showing me my temporal-mandibular joint x-rays. (I’m a white woman with short dark hair and glasses, wearing a navy hoodie.) The doctor says to me, “That shows where the mandibular condyle of the jaw came out of the temporal bone of the skull.” I’m thinking to myself, (I’m going to turn that baguette into a nice, soft bread pudding. Revenge is sweet — and spiced!)

CAPD CARTOON: Thai Food

CAPD Central Auditory Processing Disorder

Despite excellent hearing, I misunderstand what people say all day long.

 

CAPD CARTOON_Typhoo Thai food-20

I’m standing in the kitchen next to a bulletin board full of take-away menus, waiting for the kettle to boil to make some more tea. My husband (off-panel) asks, “Is it ‘Typhoo Time’?” Experiencing yet another decoding error, I ask back, “Thai food?”

 

FACEBLIND CARTOON: Oops, Staring

FACEBLIND CARTOON_Oops-Staring-27

Cartoon of myself (a middle-aged white woman wearing glasses, a fedora and trenchcoat) and a man riding on a bus. The man has a very pronounced nose, chin, and jowls; he is wearing a coat, scarf, and cap. The caption reads: Prosopagnosia (Faceblindness) is the inability to recognise people by their faces. Sometimes having an unusual feature helps me eventually learn to identify a person. But it also means that I unintentionally tend to stare at some people.

 

CARTOON: Super Powers

Here’s my latest cartoon!
TRUE LIFE ADVENTURES
 
Description: I’m laying under a medical scanner, with a blanket on me and a display screen above. The doctor stands next to me, monitoring.
“The Nuclear Medicine doc injected me with Technetium 99 to test my gallbladder.
I was radioactive for two days but did not get ANY super powers!”
CARTOON_Technetium-7

CARTOON: QUARK

Description: Six blocks of Quark cheese, labelled Up, Down, Top, Bottom, Strange, Charm.

CARTOON_Quarks-3

CARTOON: GEEK FLIRTING

Geek Flirting-32

CARTOON: Heat Sink OR The Monster Under the Bed

It’s hard to get to sleep sometimes, between being too cold, warm, and my noisy imagination!

CARTOON_Heat-sink-Monsters-40

AUTISTIC / ASPERGER’S CARTOON: Irony

Jokes-on-ceiling-fan

Cartoon of myself (a middle-aged white woman with short hair and glasses) inside a room.  I’m looking upwards with a raised eyebrow and puzzled expression.  The word IRONY has a pair of wings and swooshing lines where it flies over my head towards the ceiling fan.  The tops of the fan blades bear pile-ups of repeated, mixed words: IRONY, JOKE, and SATIRE.       My thought ballon reads, “Being autistic, sometimes irony goes right over over my head. I think it’s time to clean off the ceiling fan again.”

FACEBLIND CARTOON: Group Photographs

Prosopagnosia (faceblindness) is the inability to recognise people by their faces. That includes one’s own face. I can only identify myself in photos if the clothes are familiar and I remember the event. School photos, team photos, tour photos, departmental photos, all are landmines. I’m puzzling myself out, don’t ask me to identify the other people!

PROSOPAGNOSIA_Group-photographs-300dpi-signature

Black and white line drawing of a hand holding an old B&W school class photo. The caption written on the cartoon says:  Read one of those “How to Find Yourself” articles. Disappointed. I’d hoped it would tell me how to identify myself in large group photos.

FACEBLIND CARTOON: In the Cafeteria

Prosopagnosia (faceblindness) is the inability to recognise people by their faces. You never know when you’ve blithely walked right past a neighbour or classmate.

Even those people more familiar to you who you might be able to identify – slowly, consciously, by their hair, voice, or gait – are easily missed when they’re out of the places you associate them with, i.e. your doctor at the grocery.

It’s hard to make friends when you can’t recognise people. Worse, others make so many misassumptions about you.

PROSOPAGNOSIA_Cafeteria-300dpi-signature

Cartoon of myself at a cafeteria table, thinking, “I wonder if I know anybody here?”  At a table behind me, one woman is telling another, “… she just walked right past me, no Hello, nothing. She didn’t acknowledge she knows me! Just so rude.”

 

Thumbs Up: Life Hack for Medicine Bottle Caps

Here’s a handy life hack or all my spoonie, arthritic and / or dyspraxic friends out there who struggle to open the %$#@! medication bottles dispensed with push-down-and-turn child-safety caps (even when you don’t have young people around).

This hack works with those bottles that have a sort of sliding inside cap.
You know, the one you tried removing, only to discover that the outside cap now no longer fits on the bottle. Cut To Scene: pliers and mangled inside cap, feeble chair-arm thumping, weeping, sore hands, and tiny pills escaping everywhere.

The beauty of this approach is its simplicity. All you need are a tack and a pusher. The tack might be some thumbtacks / drawing pins; I found upholstery tacks worked better on my medicine bottles. For the pusher, either a strong thumb or spoon suffices.

Push the tack into the [outside] top of the cap, halfway between the center and the edge. That’s it.

NOTE: make sure the point of the tack is long enough to pierce well into the inside cap.

Because my thumbtacks weren’t long enough we used the upholstery tacks, which just peeked through the inside. I decided this wouldn’t be too much of a safety hazard for myself. Otherwise one could plug over the pokey bit with say, a bit of the red wax from a Gouda cheese, or Sugru™.

2017-07-23_Bottlecap-tack-hack

Two medication bottles in front of a weekly pill-minder. The left bottle is open, with the upside-down lid showing a tack point barely poking through. The right bottle is closed, showing a tack inserted halfway between the center and edge.

This bottle-tack-hack originates from the Instructable “How to Make Evil Childproof Caps Easy to Open” by SFHandyman. His article explains how to simplify other types of caps, such as the squeeze-and-turn, line-up-arrows et cetera.

Annoying froms full of wee boxes

So, hat’s my problem wilth filling out forms? “Sure, no one’s fond of it, but it’s not that bad. Just sit down and get it done already.”

Sometimes it’s the essential tremour that makes handwriting shaky.

Someone tell me: WHY are the boxes so damn small?

Then there’s visually tracking back and froth between my pages of information and where data goes into the form. There can be column slippage: No, I don’t have 268 sweaters valued at $10. That would be quite a feat! (I hope none are the ugly Christmas sort. Then again, with 286, who cares?)

Some days it’s reading them form.

That floater smack-bad in the middle of of my left focal point has been there several years. I can mostly work around that.
But there are the days when I’m having semi-dyslexic issues.
Like today when I’m filling out a shipping form, and their Sports Equipment* list includes:
Goll Chubs
Brow Bonads
Winq Suder
Stakes
Tannins

Which often goes ahnd in hand with writing the numbers. I can read a large percentage correctly and those I know them in my head straight, but when saying or writing them they get turned inside out; 5600 is 650, or 277 is 227.

Oh sure, Just. Fill. It. Out.
Then I check it forwards. And I chcek it backwards.

QUESTION: What sort of strategies do you use?

* Those are Golf Clubs, Snow Boards, Wind Surfer, Skates, and Tennis

“I even have trouble understanding the Mondegreens.”

I mostly listen to instrumental music because I can’t understand what people are singing. One of those major effects of CAPD (Central Auditory Processing Disorder).

*Mondegreen (noun)
“A misunderstood or misinterpreted word or phrase resulting from a mishearing of the lyrics of a song.”
~ Oxford Dictionary

Companionably Autistic

It’s a different thing being around other autistics.

Well, doubtless I’ve been around other autistics before. But when we did not know we were, there was all that stress from passing (“pretending to be normal”), so generally weren’t aware of what our sensory and other needs actually were, much less how to comfortably, genuinely, be ourselves.

Now it’s different.

(1) A little morning talk over my cuppa tea. Then he says, “Well, that’s enough social interaction for a while.”
He returns to his computer work, and I chuckle as I go out the door.

IT’S LOVELY when constant conversation or chit-chat aren’t expected.

(2) Yesterday I took a day trip to London to meet a friend from the States.
We met at the train station, where (being faceblind) I texted him my location and held a page with his name so he could find me.

After he bought his sausage roll, I suggested eating on the less-crowded, quieter mezzanine level. Together again after a long absence, we sat talking about how much less stressful it was not being in the States: him not worrying about being shot at, and myself not being awoken by gunfire. Alas, we were unsuccessful at not talking about Trump and disability and healthcare and racial and social care and environmental and- and- and- US politics Bllaarrgg. (The actual convo didn’t have many paragraphs, or rather, not spoken aloud. But I flapped a little in frustration.)

Time to move on; we brushed off the inevitable puff-pastry crumbs. I geeked over riding trains and how different cities smelled, and he reminisced about subway announcements. We started to get on the first subway car but it was too claustro’, so we caught the next. En route to the British Museum, Waterstones bookstore sucked us in; he found books he was looking for. I checked out the wee toys, feeling more 5 than 55, more child than grandmother, as I checked out the shinies and tiny things and science toys.

We ambled to the Museum, pausing as needed for him to catch his breath or for my slow knees to ascend stairs. No need to apologise; no need to hurry.

Then finally at the Museum! Get maps and —
Have a cuppa tea and figure out what to see. This was not a Must See Everything tour; we both understood having to mete out our tolerances. Made a list. He suggested started and the fifth floor and working our way down — Excellent!

Oh boy. One lift out of service, and it took a bit of searching to find the other. And … the fifth floor Japan exhibit closed. Moving along … Third floor was fascinating. We took photos. SO crowded, so many languages going on, so many Auditory Processing Disorder blips for us to chat much.

By the time we got to the room with the Egyptian mummmies, it was a crush of noisy school children in addition to all the tourists. One couldn’t walk in a straight line, and hardly much take photos.

It was overstimulating. Too much noise and too much crowds and he needed a breather. Too many smell-shapes and flavoured colours and moving sounds and I needed to sit. We glanced at each other in instant agreement; he pointed towards an adjoining room and we wended our ways out. Sat and rested by the rune stones.

At the end I lost my pal in the vast space of the museum entrance and crowded plaza, so once again, I texted him my location and held a page with his name so he could find me. It being mid-afternoon, we did the sensible thing and regained our stamina with chips and ale in the pub across from the museum. Apparently 15:30 is a good time in a pub; there weren’t many there and we could hear each other speak. Recharging time: I rocked and he doodled.

That in turn meant that we were hungry for our evening meal at Café in the Crypt at St Martin-in-the-Fields during early evening. The food was hot and fresh, and we choose a table that felt secure near a pillar, instead of exposed from people surrounding our backs.

Back on the street after dinner, he announced, “I’m running low on spoons.” We stopped to rest at Trafalgar Square. Then my train was due in an hour, so parted we ways at the Northern Line.

IT’S LOVELY not having to justify eating at a particular table, or wanting to photograph the visual texture of fractured safety glass, or why subway announcements are so endearing. Or that one is getting overwhelmed and needs to rest and stim, or is running out of spoons.

Nor did it take us twenty minutes to say Good-bye; that was enough social interaction for a while.

This Gimpy Artist Prefers GIMP

After beating my head on a wall with Adobe Illustrator CC for a month, I’ve given up and gone with GIMP and Inkscape.

Whilst GIMP has its own annoyances and quirks, I’m finding it much easier!
Granted, there was a bit of transfer-of-knowledge from AI to GIMP, which allowed me to comfortably use the latter in just a day’s time. But I was getting things done — happily, easily — getting things done, by the next day.

But Holy Ravioli folks, WHY is AI So Damn Freaking Annoying?

The good words (CC video)

Strength of Purpose: Two black women standing for rights

 

What to take from Comments

For the unfamiliar, Vi Hart makes fabulously fun-entertaining-educational Youtube videos about math & geometry, doodling, food and music. (No, you needn’t have aced calculus to understand them; my 7-year old grandson thinks they’re awesome.)

Once in a while she takes a tangent, such as this episode, Vi Hart’s Guide to Comments, where she explores ideas about why people make different kinds of negative comments, possible reasons for reacting to them, and how best to respond.

I thought one analysis was particularly insightful:

Type #2 DIRECT SHALLOW INSULT
Commenters like these are thoughtless and bored, and obviously don’t have very high self-esteem. They’ve been taught to be normal, so if anything’s different about you, well that’s not allowed in the rulebook they know.

But in the anonymous internet context, I don’t think the usual explanation of them trying to put you down to make themselves feel bigger quite cuts it. They probably don’t see you as a real, live person, and would never make the comment to your face, so it’s not about putting you down.

In fact, their comments aren’t aimed at you at all.

They comment to pretend that they are not just wasting time on the internet, but being active participants, discerning in their tastes. Their commenting justifies their watching, and just like voting in American Idol or tweeting your local news, their opinion further invests themselves into their identity as a judge, observer, consumer. They have been taught to be vocally judgemental by the people for whom judging means watching, and watching means money. Plus, other commenters might reply, refuting their insult, which proves their comment matters.

As with other types of comments, she then proposes ideas for why we react, and what to do about the comment: that is, just let your eyes glide past them and move on.

The whole video is superb! (Also, she has fun playing with wax on her fingers.)

Auto-generated CC has some glitches, as usual.

When TSA is Terrible Staff Agency

This is absolutely inexcusable!

A young woman, Hannah Cohen, has had a tumor removed from her brain, which combined with radiation treatments has made her blind and deaf on her left side, along with limited speech and mobility. She and her mother were flying home to Chattanooga a day post-anaesthesia from another treatment at St Jude hospital. [1]

And then the metal detector went off.

“They wanted to do further scanning, (but) she was reluctant — she didn’t understand what they were about to do,” said her mother, Shirley Cohen.
Cohen said she tried to tell agents with the Transportation Security Administration that her 19-year-old daughter is partially deaf, blind in one eye, paralyzed and easily confused — but she said police kept her away from the security agents. [2]

Disoriented and confused from the metal detector alarms and being grabbed, she was forcibly manhandled hard to the floor making her head injured and bleeding.

Worse, the TSA and Memphis Airport Police did not heed her mother, Shirley Cohen, who repeatedly tried to convey necessary medical information about her daughter, and ensure accommodations.

Two guards grabbed her daughter from both sides, the mother said.
“It freaked her out,” she told The Commercial Appeal. “They didn’t listen to me at all. When they grabbed her, it scared her, and she was trying to get away from them. The next thing I know, one of them slammed her down on the floor and busted her head open. There was blood everywhere.” [1]

The young woman, who was returning home after finishing treatment for the brain tumor at St. Jude Hospital, was arrested and booked into jail.
Authorities eventually threw out the charges against Hannah Cohen, but her family has filed a lawsuit against Memphis police, airport police and the TSA. [2]

[1] http://www.commercialappeal.com/news/courts/lawyers-st-jude-patient-injured-by-airport-security-36949a4b-631b-10b7-e053-0100007f024b-385207351.html

[2] http://www.rawstory.com/2016/07/disabled-woman-beaten-bloody-by-tsa-agents-after-becoming-confused-and-afraid-at-security-checkpoint/

In the school cafeteria

I saw some people eating over at the grocery dining area the other day. Some were just-barely adults, and others were of that great, vague realm of middle age. They were louder than necessary, sloppy, and left a mess. Not that my budget was going to let me buy a hot lunch to eat there anyway, but it would have been unpleasant to sit near them. I sighed inside; it “was like old times” and I wondered what had become of some of my former students.

When I worked with the secondary school students (ages 12-18), I often wished that in our smaller school cafeteria we had full table service — like Hogwarts — so we had a more home-style or nicer environment to teach and practice basic manners. No, seriously. Some of the students were fine, some were simply hungry kids who (being young) weren’t concerned about niceties, and some couldn’t help that they were uncoordinated or dyspraxic.

But all the students were all there because they had severe behavioral and emotional problems. And a good many either did not know, or did not care, how to eat neatly and politely. Instead, they went through a cafeteria line loudly, bumping into people, leaving behind a trail of dribbles around the serving bins, then dropped their possessions about the table and floor, eating noisily whilst conversing inconsiderately, and generally making themselves and the table a mess.

(Perhaps saddest was when someone despoiled a perfectly good piece of fruit by pencil-stabbing or bruising it. There were people there – students and staff – who would have gladly eaten a spare apple or orange. So we tried to intervene and rescue the produce for classroom fruit bowls that existed for the hungry.)

On the other hand, this was one of their few times for all the students to just relax, talk with friends, and recharge for the afternoon. Everyone needs opportunity to take a break, so we eased up from constantly supervising and redirecting, albeit still watching out for unsafe, disrespectful or irresponsible behavior.

But if there were something more like a real dining situation — instead of what amounted to a scramble at a fast-food joint — the following would have been the basic skills of politeness I would have them learn. And they are, very basic.

Note that these are mostly phrased as what TO do; this produces much better learning results than just telling what not to do.

  • When serving yourself in the cafeteria line, hold your bowl over the container of food; this way anything that falls out will go back into the container, not all over the other containers and the tray rail.
  • Set your possessions down quietly and neatly, do not slam them on the tabletop, nor use up more than your share of the table.
  • Drape your coat over the back of your chair, do not drop it on the floor.
  • Keep your legs by the chair, do not stick them way out under the table, nor out in the aisle.
  • Lean your forearms on the table if you want, but do not stick your elbows out sideways upon the table, nor sprawl your body on the table when people are eating.
  • Keep the book you’re reading close to you, not held way out in the middle of the table.
  • Ask for something to be passed; don’t grab by reaching across others.
  • Chew with your mouth closed. If you can’t, take smaller bites.
  • Use a knife and fork, or the fork edge to cut food into smaller bites.
  • Whole fruit or dipping-size pieces of vegetables may be eaten with the fingers; diced fruits and salad should be eaten with a fork.
  • Do not stick your fingers in sauces and lick them.
  • If you are dipping something in ketchup or other sauce, place that dish closest to you to prevent dribbling or leaning.
  • Use napkins to wipe your hands, not your clothing.
  • Avoid belching; burp quietly with a napkin over your mouth.
  • Swallow before talking.
  • Let others finish talking; do not interrupt.
  • Rather than insulting people, explain why you believe something different.
  • Everyone has different tastes; do not insult other’s taste in food.
  • If you do not want something (piece of fruit, unopened milk or juice carton), ask if anyone else would like to have it; do not abuse it or throw it away.
  • Before you leave the table, hold your tray underneath the edge of the table and use a napkin to wipe crumbs off the table and onto the tray. Do not leave the table messy, nor swipe the mess onto the floor.
  • If you ate greasy or sticky food, wash your hands with soap and water. No, sanitizer gel does not remove the mess, especially not the grunge under your nails.

A Reliable Read: Person-first language and oppositional models of disability

This post from Finn’s excellent blog, Standing in the Way of Control is an easily-accessible introduction to the uses and problems that can result with “person-first language”*.

Just an appetizer:

This oppositional attitude toward disability stems from the ableist idea that disability is something that happens to “normal” people—or that disabled people are altered able-bodied or neurotypical people—rather than a natural aspect of human existence. This applies particularly to those of us who have lifelong disabilities—we cannot envisage a life in which we were not disabled relative to the societies in which we grew up.

Now, go read “Person-first language and oppositional models of disability”! (-:

 

* “Person-first language” refers to the practice of saying, “person with ____”, meant to emphasizing the person rather than defining them by their condition(s). Good intentions run into the law of unintended consequences when ignoring how people define themselves by intrinsic qualities, e.g. “I am a Deaf”, “My autistic aunt”, “He’s bisexual”.

WE MUST CREATE CHANGE

I was going to call this my “Hope For 2015”, but that is so passive and useless. Anybody can – and lots of people do – post warm, fuzzy notes with Hopes for the New Year, and others click and share. Lovely.

But this is NOT all warm & fuzzy. It’s literally dead serious (with many murdered throughout the year), and quite often blunt, because I am blunt at times. It’s also a call to a change of perspective for some of you.

Deal. Think about it. I’m not a lone voice. Click and share.

MY CALL TO ACTION IS FOR YOU TO READ THIS THROUGH, THINK, AND SPEAK UP. ALL YEAR LONG.

And the next year and the next.

This isn’t about some stranger, or Those Other People, or “That Kind”.

Children with disabilities or other differences are not diseased or broken. The same is true for adults. Yes, those “poor, little disabled children” grow up into disabled adults. Gee, so where’s the concern now? It sure isn’t at work; in the U.S. general unemployment is at 5.3%, but for disabled adults it’s twice that at 10.8%.

Nor are autistic or ADHD children some kind of modern mystery; millions of such adults have been around for decades, just unrecognized for lack of diagnostics. Most of us are profoundly relieved to find out Why. We still have to deal with the details, but that’s easier when you know that not all your difficulties are from some kind of moral failing, or from a lack of trying (and trying, and trying).

WHAT, YOU NEVER HAD KIDS LIKE “THAT KIND” IN YOUR CLASSES? YOU KNOW WHY?

Some were kept at home, because until passage of the IDEA in 1975, US law did not require public schools to teach everyone.

Some were warehoused in institutions, badly treated, undiagnosed or misdiagnosed, and oft uneducated.

But many of us were there; how we struggled through school and life, without accommodations or understanding, and often the target of bullying by peers and even school officials.

Untold numbers of women and men just knew themselves inexplicably “a bit odd”, and did best they could; some succeeding, others not so well.

At worst are those who not only lacked resources, but were shunned by society’s classism, ableism, racism and sexism, and (if still alive) are found among the imprisoned, derelicts, addicts, abused and enslaved populations.

YOUR CHILDREN AND EVEN COLLEGE STUDENTS WILL LEARN DIFFERENTLY, SO YOU MUST ADJUST

We are neither inherently stupid nor incapable of learning. Learning differently means teaching differently. Find what works. Everyone has limits, but a consistent lack of success means you should use another method, as well as more time. Sometimes the learning is highly irregular in pace. Tie learning to interests to motivate your children and students.

Also, be aware that sometimes the “simple basics” may be entirely bypassed by some students who leap to master higher concepts, albeit often forever struggling with those seemingly “simple basics”. People are humans, not robots. Learning is not always linear.

COMMUNICATION IS NOT JUST SPEAKING

Never assume that just because someone is nonverbal they cannot communicate. If you’re not getting their messages, then *you* are doing something wrong. Nor should you assume that because someone is nonverbal that they cannot understand what people say (though the processing may sometimes be delayed). Nor assume that because someone has been nonverbal for years that they’ll never speak. And damn, will you get an earful.

INCONSISTENCY IN DAY-TO-DAY ABILITIES IS FRUSTRATING FOR ALL, AND NOT A CHOICE

Importantly, just because someone is able to speak or do a task one day, that does not guarantee consistent results. It’s the nature of disabilities — regardless whether considered mental or physical – all involve the brain. Brains are funny things, and many of us have a few buggy Beta-version programs in our wetware. It’s frustrating as hell for all involved.

But don’t assume the “could-then-can’t-now” is intentional. “Oh, he can hear me when he wants.” “Well, you could solve those equations just fine yesterday.” I can guarantee that after a lifetime of such, ridiculing people and punishing them for things they cannot help only increases performance stress.

While that stress might increase focus from sheer terror, it often squelches overall functioning. (Do you want me to listen to you, or try to recall yesterday’s process, or slowly figure it out on my own? I can only do one — if my stomach will stay down.)

TRAMPLE THE TROPES

Ignore the media tropes and centuries of religious hype: disabled people are neither inherently amoral, soulless and evil, nor are they infinitely happy, friendly and angelic. People are people. A few will be nasty bits, some will be profoundly good sorts, and the rest are just ordinary folks who get mad, sad and glad, who screw things up sometimes, and who will also serve others selflessly despite bearing more abuse than anyone should.

We are definitely not incomprehensible, incomplete, little autism-puzzle-pieces, unloving, unlovable, or uncaring.

We are whole people with all the same cares, needs and wants as all humans. Beware — disability happens to anyone at any time. We aren’t a Them, and YOU can be among the world’s 15% in just one day. We are all Us.

STOP “TEACHING TOLERANCE”

Because tolerance means putting up with something one doesn’t really like, or that doesn’t really belong. We want full-fledged ACCEPTANCE.

Nor should we only be acceptable if we can somehow “overcome” our differences enough to pass for Normal Real People. Trying to “pass” all the time is exhausting, and invariably breaks down, oft resulting in the [supposed] Normal Real People assuming that one is lazy, stupid, crazy, all the above, or worse.

Training children for hours a day how to artificially perform “acting normal” does not serve to help them learn how to function best in the world. Yes, of course teach good manners, social and work skills. But suppressing every twitch of one’s natural being adds to stress, making everything else yet more difficult. This is especially when performing like a “normal person” means not doing the harmless things that reduce stresses.

STOP THE BLAME

I must call out the terrifying, unaddressed assumption which underlies so much daily trauma: “The reason the disabled [children] are targeted by bullies is because they are perceived as being weird”. Despite the pervasiveness of this social theme in society, most people are functionally unaware of it, all the while instilling in their Normal People children the same message. Normal People children need to act normal, and not act like That Kind. After all, that’s how the Normal People know the others are That Kind, who’s Us and who’s Them.

But it’s the disabled and different who are taught, over-and-over-and-over that not only is it their fault for behaving or looking weird, BUT ALSO if they weren’t so weird, well then they wouldn’t be bullied. “Quit being so weird! Just say No! Just say Stop.”

Just say BULLSHIT. Because this is blaming the victim. The problem is not that everyone isn’t the same, the problem is that there are bullies.

Even worse, blaming the targets actually empowers the bullies, because the social story says it’s the victim is the one who is acting wrong, so it’s not really the bully who is to blame.

Let’s just top off all that existing anxiety and depression with the trauma of trying to seek justice, but being told again that, “Well it’s your fault, you know. Attracting attention by being weird, and bugging people. You need to quit making trouble now. You already take up too much of our time with all of your “special” needs. Quit whining and go deal with it. — But no fighting, because we’ll know it was you who started it.”

By the way, it’s not “just a kids at school” thing that everyone will “grown out of”. It continues on through college, and happens at work, too.

YOU CAN’T WALK IN THE LITTLE BOY’S SHOES;

THEY’RE FLOATING DOWN-RIVER

It is NEVER acceptable to murder disabled children. Nor should these repeated, horrifying events be considered “understandable” or “excusable”, with the murderers being pardoned just because their son or daughter had a disability.

Increasingly more prevalent in social media, the crime becomes insidiously deemed more and more acceptable. Murderers re-cast themselves as martyrs, acquiring champions to their cause. Throughout repeated blog posts and news stories, they bemoan how taking care of disabled children is just too unbearable, they had to take care of them every day of the week, there was never any relief or help. (Even though there was.) Cue the groupies’ hand-wringing and protests upon the villains’ behalf: “Oh but won’t you walk in their shoes, how they’ve given up their lives, this wasn’t at all what they wanted.”

For in true sociopathic fashion, the poor, long-suffering parents revel in the attention, announcing to the world – sometimes ahead of time — what they have done, and all the while describing themselves as the victims. The dead children (young or adult) are unwanted, and deemed unwantable, less than human just because they couldn’t speak, or needed medical treatments, or used a power chair, or didn’t play with their toys the “right way”, or wore adult diapers … No one would want to live like that; the thing’s better off dead. And what of the groupies? Well, where do you think people get such terrible ideas that it’s okay to kill one’s own children?

ENOUGH WITH THE “DISABILITY INSPIRATION PORN”.

Quit using those heart-tugging videos, walk-a-thons, telethons, and other grand-society functions to win your supposed Cosmic Brownie Points for giving us your pity. Please stop dumping upon us the largesse of your unwanted rags (so Victorian, so passé), or creating useless functions requiring us to serve as targets of unwanted helpful-helper-helpiness for your ego-boo.

Get disabled people out of “sheltered workshops”. Yes, people need work they are suited to. But the segregation and token sweatshop “wages” are an embarrassment and humiliation to all.

YES, CHILDREN GROW UP.

YEP, STILL DISABLED, BUT NOW ADULTS

Do not assume your children will remain permanently childish and incapable — they mature on their own timelines. Allow adults to be adults. Support their needs and interests, but neither dress them like children, nor expect them to live their lives in naïve pre-puberty stasis, without adult desires for socializing with adult peers, life-long learning, mastering skills for some kind of job (even if that job is “just socially productive work” rather than traditional work), and yes, having a love life, however that may be expressed.

YES, PEOPLE ALSO NEED ACCOMMODATIONS;

THAT DOESN’T MEAN “CURE”

Most disabled or different people are not looking for cures to magically change them into someone else, some kind of fantasy Normal Real person that their families wanted instead. Our differences may result from physical events, by random mutation, and / or genetics. Your genetics. We are family. I’m Me, and I like being Me. If you somehow changed all the differences in my brain, I wouldn’t be Me anymore, with all my quirks and abilities.

Of course it will be great to find a means for preventing migraines, epilepsy, fatal medical conditions, et cetera. But it’s also a sad fact that some people have been so convinced of their undesirability as disabled human beings that they can only see “cure” as a means to being an acceptable Normal Real Person. (Worst of all, some people commit suicide because they’ve been taught to hate themselves, as useless and unwanted.)

But what’s really alarming is all the fund-raising, talk, research, and work going on today to eliminate entire kinds of peoples. I’m talking about the thousands of selfish individuals and sociopaths who believe that anyone with neurological or morphological differences should not exist at all, because That Kind takes up too much time, money, and resources.

That’s not “looking for a cure” – that’s eugenics and euthanasia, the same ideas that led to the Nazi Aktion T4 program and other horrors. (In my youth, the state hospital was still in the regular habit of sterilizing people. Had I been institutionalized, I might well not have had my lovely children and grandchildren.)

Yes, we want assistance, we want things that help us achieve what we want in life. Getting the things one needs to learn effectively, to move about, attend to their own needs, to work, to play, to be a part of the community, to have lovers or families. These things should not be seen as extraordinary, special, absurd, or a waste of money, just because they aren’t the same kinds of things used by other people. 15% of the people in the world have disabilities. That is a lot of humanity, and many are uneducated, abused, neglected, avoided, or shut away, depriving the world of incredible amounts of untapped abilities and talents.

CALL OUT BULLSHIT. REQUIRE ACCOMMODATIONS. DEMAND ACCEPTANCE.

MAKE IT SO.

A quartet of easy recipes! (Or, From one jar of olives, two very different kinds of sandwiches)

Are you getting tired of the same-old same-old for lunch? Had too much holiday leftovers? Here’s a lovely change of pace, especially for all you bread and cheese lovers out there: three very easy and quick recipes for two sandwiches and a soup!

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A plate with half a grilled pimento-cheese sandwich, cream-cheese & olive spread on a Dutch rusk (toast), and a bowl of tomato soup garnished with croutons and shredded Parmesan cheese. In the background are containers of cream-cheese & olive spread , pimento-cheese spread, and a container of Dutch rusks.

 

“Salad olives” is the common labeling (in the US) of jars of sliced green Spanish olives stuffed with pimentos.These olives are great for adding to potato salad, and of course, making cream cheese & olive sandwiches.

CREAM CHEESE & OLIVE SANDWICH FILLING

Scoop some cream cheese or Neufchatel into the mixer bowl, and add half that quantity of well-drained salad olives. Blend well, and spread on bread or crackers.

It’s kind of a given that as a result from the slicing during processing, one ends up with a whole bunch of pimentos that have escaped their green olive rings. And you know what that means? You don’t have to buy a jar of pimentos to make pimento-cheese spread!

PIMENTO-CHEESE SPREAD

Dump about a cup of shredded sharp cheddar cheese (that’s two or three handfuls) into the mixer bowl, and add about a fourth that quantity of well-drained pimentos, about as much mayonnaise as pimentos, and a dash of cayenne pepper. Blend well, and spread on bread or crackers. Great as a filling for grilled-cheese sandwiches.

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A cutting board with diced bread sprinkled with herbs. In the background is the jar of herbs, can of vegetable oil spray, and a loaf of home-made bread with a couple more slices cut.

CROUTONS

I made a loaf of bread the other day, but when I stuck it back in the breadbox, forgot to set it sliced-side down. So my first slice was rather dry. “Croutons!” said I, and diced the bread, then gave the pieces a quick hit of vegetable oil no-stick spray, and sprinkling of mixed Italian herbs. I dropped the croutons into a baking pan into the oven to bake while I made some tomato soup.

TOMATO SOUP

Dump one can petite-diced tomatoes and one can tomato sauce into a pot. Add a dash each of Sriracha and Worchestershire sauces, and half a teaspoon of dried basil (a whole teaspoon of minced if you’re so fortunate as to have fresh basil on hand), plus a dash of black (or white) pepper. Bring to a simmer. Remove from heat, and before eating, stir in a bit of milk. Serve garnished with croutons and shredded Parmesan, as desired.

Tastes Like Spring — A recipe for Scallion Pancakes

“What are they?” asked my son en passant.  “Scallion pancakes; they’re a kind of fry bread.” “Can’t go wrong with fry bread!” he replied, and snatched one to eat before mowing.

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Yes, Spring is here (again), and we’ve gone through our usual winter-spring-winter-summer-winter-spring nonsense. The daffodils are blooming, the grass needs mowing, and the scallions are up. Scallions are the same thing as green onions, meaning ordinary yellow or white onions harvested when young. I have some volunteer onions in the former vegetable patch (soon to be lawn again), and because they grew from rogue seeds last year, and as onions are biennials, this year they will in turn go to seed if not harvested before that point. I woke up the other morning thinking, “Boy, some Scallion Pancakes sound really good!” A dim sum from Shanghai, these fry breads are some of the simplest of the tea-house treats to make. If you don’t have any scallions on hand (or found them withered away in the back of the crisper drawer), you can use Chinese chives (AKA garlic chives or Chinese leeks).

PREPARING THE DOUGH AND SCALLIONS

In a large mixing bowl, blend together:

  • 1 1/2 cups (150 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) hot water —  plus a tablespoon more, if needed

Once the dough is rough and clumpy, liberally sprinkle flour on a clean counter, and knead the dough for a few minutes until it’s smooth and workable. Wrap the dough in a damp cloth or plastic bag and set it aside to rest for 30 minutes (set a timer). TIP: Set the mixing bowl in the sink, and fill with hot sudsy water to soak off the sticky bits. Then I go out to harvest my scallions. When pulling up scallions, knock off the extra soil from the roots, and also strip off the outermost leaf. When onions grow, each onion layer is formed from a leaf; stripping off the outermost leaf removes the thin, dried, dirty layer. In the kitchen, rinse off the scallions (including any soil hiding in-between the leaves), and trim off the roots and brown leaf tips. This recipe only calls for the green parts, so you can set aside the white stalks for a stir-fry or omelette. In a 2-cup (1/2 L) measure, blend together:

  • 1 1/2 cups (325 mL) scallions, chopped small
  • 1 teaspoon (5 g) sugar
  • 1 teaspoon (5 g) salt

TIP: I wear safety / laboratory goggles when chopping onions, as they keep the fumes from my eyes. Yes, it looks doofy, but it’s the best method I have yet to find to prevent the watering-eyes problem.

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A pair of safety goggles set atop a pile of scallions

The scallions need to macerate in the sugar and salt to get soft and tasty, so meanwhile we’re going to do some cleaning up. Remove any clumps of dough from the counter; I use the edge of my square-bladed metal spatula / turner, as I’m too cheap to spend money on an official dough scraper when something else works just fine. TIP: To remove gummy dough bits from the mixing bowl, pour out the suds and use a rubber spatula to scrape off the lumps. Wash the mixing bowl and rubber spatula, plus wash and dry your knife and cutting board, as you’ll need the latter again.

ASSEMBLING THE PANCAKES

Flour the counter, and cut the dough into two even lumps. Take one lump, and roll / squeeze it into a log 12 1/2″ (35 cm) long. Cut the log into five, 2 1/2″ (6.5 cm) long sections. Move four sections aside, and roll out the remaining piece very thin, into a rectangle 10″ x 4″ (25 x 10 cm).

(Yes, these conversions aren’t exact, and that’s okay as we’re going to be further mashing up the dough anyway.)

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Cut log of dough into five evenly-sized sections.

TIP: It’s hard to use a rolling pin to stretch the dough by just rolling it. So after the initial bout of rolling the dough flat, I use the rolling pin to anchor one end and gently pull, then without lifting the rolling pin, lay down the stretched dough and roll the pin over the dough to secure the stretching and flatten it more. Then I roll the other direction to broaden the piece.

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Hold down one end of the dough with a rolling pin and gently pull on the other end to stretch it out.

Now it’s time to fill that piece of dough! Take a tablespoon of scallions and distribute them along the center of the strip, but stop half an inch (1 cm) before each end. (Resist the urge to “supersize” your load; you’ll find out why.)

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A very thin rectangle of dough with a line of chopped scallions going down the middle.

Fold over each of the short ends, and then fold over the top to cover the scallions, and the bottom to cover the top. I’ve never seen any recipe source mention folding in the short ends, but I have found from making burritos and such that tucking in the short end first helps prevent the filling from falling out. Take one end and fold the whole thing over lengthwise (doubled).

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Filled dough showing one short end folded in first, and the bottom and top lengths folded over each other.

Lift from the counter and gently smuush it along its length to make it thinner and longer. Take the end with the original ends, and fold it over a bit.

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An inch of the open end of the doubled, filled dough has been folded over to begin the coiling process.

Then coil up the roll, tucking the outside end between adjoining parts of the ring.

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The filled roll coiled up, with the end tucked into the next loop.

TIP: Don’t even think of trying to use a rolling pin to flatten the coil into a pancake; even using your palm to flatten it onto the countertop doesn’t work well. Instead, dust it well with flour, and use your fingers to palpate the dough, pressing it as thin as possible, all over.

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Pressing the coil thin between fingers to flatten it. In real life, I generally use two hands; here I was taking the picture with the other hand.

Note that some scallions wil pop out of the dough and create a juicy mess here and there. That always happens. Tuck them in, or just use them in the next pancake. Don’t worry your early pancakes aren’t terribly round; they will still taste good.

Repeat the rolling, filling, coiling and flattening process with the other pancakes.

You might ask, “Wouldn’t it just be easier to flatten and fill one of those two big lumps of dough, and then cut it into five pieces, instead of doing each piece separately?” Being an efficient sort, I wondered that myself, and tested my dough with both methods. The fill-then-cut pancakes ended up much messier, with scallions popping out everywhere. You can see the results here, with the fill-then-cut on the left, and the make-five-individually on the right:

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Comparing two methods: five of the the messy fill-then-cut pancakes on the left, and five of the tidy make-five-individually on the right.

TIP: To easily remove the dough and scallion gunk off your hands, use warm running water and a rubber spatula to scrape off the dough; be sure any dough bits aren’t left stuck on the sink where they might harden.

Likewise, scrape off your counter, and put your utensils to soak in warm, soapy water. The washing up will be easy to do by the time you’ve cooked and eaten your scallion pancakes.

LAST STEPS: COOK AND ENJOY!

Get a large iron or non-stick skillet and heat up a thin layer of oil for frying your pancakes. (On my electric stove, the ideal setting is somewhere between Medium and Medium-hot, but stoves vary.) Do not crowd the pan with too many. The pancakes are ready to turn over for frying on the second side when lightly browned, and the dough looks mostly white instead of translucent. Once fried on both sides, remove to blotting paper.

TIP: I drape a couple of paper napkins over the pages of an old phone book; the napkins keep the ink off, and the phone book pages provide plenty of blotting ability. Once the cooking is over, I rip those pages from the book and toss them.

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No sauce is needed for this dim sum; just let the Scallion Pancakes cool enough to eat!

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