Getting permission

The last time I taught one of my gardening classes, I ran into an interesting intersection of personal change, horticulture, and pedagogy.

At the end of the sessions, the students have (optional) evaluation forms to fill out about the class and instructor. On the front is a ranking various qualities of the facility, the topic, the instructor and so on, and the back has open-ended questions about what you liked best, suggestions for improvement, other courses and what-not. These review forms are very helpful to both myself and the college.

During the last class, under the “what you liked best” section, I got a comment that I’ve never had in 15 years. Usually the positive remarks are about the handouts, the photographs, my sense of humor, and willingness to answer questions. But today one of the evaluations had minimal responses, aside from this comment: Read the rest of this entry »

Wicked Good funnies

Two short things I want to post before I get distracted (again!):

BigHeathenMike put up a riotously funny edition of The Skeptic’s Circle: “Every One Of You Is Expelled!”, narrated by Ben Stein, if that is his real name. Probably should be rated NSFW, if only from the coffee-spew LOL potential.

The second is the funniest prank I’ve ever seen; it’s clever and tongue-in-cheek rather than mean. Safe for work, silent YouTube video with captions.

TIP:  This vid seems to “stick” a few seconds in; just pull the thermometer bubble to the right a millimeter or two. 

Repelled from the Garden

Triocereus candicans

Trichocereus candicans

There are few better times to visit a garden than when everything is unfolding in the fresh new flowers of the season. If you’re visiting a desert garden, spring is nice because it is not as hot as summer.*

I’m a serious “garden-geek” and visit gardens where-ever I travel. Hubby has perforce acquired a taste for gardens, albeit at strictly the tourist level. He has even taken pictures of me squatted or perched in awkward positions as I strain to take pictures of plants, because well, that’s what some of our vacation consisted of. He will (most thankfully) exercise patience as I take pictures of giant compost heaps as well as rare blue poppies or blooming agaves. We have also found that when you’re jetlagged and desperately trying to stay awake to adjust to a distant time zone, a tour of a garden is a perfect way to get the necessary daylight exposure for the inner clock, and is a good opportunity to stretch and exercise airplane-cramped muscles. Even better, it is an attraction that does not place heavy cognitive demands on the visitor just to enjoy it (which is important for those of us who cannot sleep on plane flights).

So when hubby is looking for things to do with his papa, he thinks that a trip through a garden would be a great way to spend time together, and also get a change of scenery. But is the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix accessible? Hubby is hard of hearing, so pulling up their Web page on his Blackberry is his first route of information. But he can’t find the information he seeks, and then tries phoning. Unfortunately that just yielded the annoying automated system. When you cannot understand the recorded message, having to go through the entire phone tree again to listen to it a second time is not only frustrating and laborious — the message is also not likely to be any more intelligible the second time around!

Well, this lack of accessible information about site accessibility is really vexing. It’s also really surprising — Phoenix and the surrounding cities are full of seniors, due to the climate. One would hope that large portions of the garden would be accessible for wheelchairs and walkers, but gardens aren’t always. In fact, many botanic gardens have gravel or wood chip pathways, or even put flower beds way out between expansive lawns, which turns garden tourism into wheelie triathalon events.

Meanwhile, I’m hanging around bored in an automotive waiting room as I get a dead headlamp replaced. Receiving his frustrated text message, I then start my own search. Read the rest of this entry »

lego scorpion surgically remove broad shoulders

Don’t I feel special – my blog seems to be a sink for a great many weird search terms. Owing to a long week full of short sleeps, I’m posting this mind-bending nonsense for today, and will resume usual blogging again tomorrow.

This time I have put them into “dada-ist” poetic form. Each line is a different search term that landed someone to my blog [sic]. This is even better than wee “poetry magnets”, because I get a bunch of different phrases each time!

Hat tip to Bev who came up with the idea after one of my earlier Weird Search Term posts.

lego scorpion
surgically remove broad shoulders
people that got shot in the arm
a condition in which a person has no rot Read the rest of this entry »

Disability Blog Carnival #34: Breaking Out

Yellow crocus blooming through patchy snow, with the titles, Breaking Out and Disability Blog Carnival # 34

Hooray, spring is around the corner, and the crocus are breaking out through the last dregs of snow. (Well, at least it is in my neck o’ the woods.) I chose “breaking out” as a theme for this DBC because there are so many ways that people with disabilities can “break out” of social expectations and other limitations in our lives. I hoped that the theme would be more liberating than limiting, and am delighted in not only the range of posts, but also all the bloggers whose work I’d not seen before! (Unlike some of the other Disability Blog Carnival graphics, this one does not illustrate a disability, as not all disabilities are visible.)

Watching her own crocuses, abfh notes that “A change is in the air” as news reporters begin to break out of the idea that “neurodiversity” isn’t a small fringe group, but rather the development of a larger social concept. Ettina is back, breaking out of rules that were not good for her, and finding unconventional ways of dealing with feelings. Cherylberyl is taking advantage of a Independent Study period to also break out of some bad habits and create mature strengths; it’s a very insightful post. I’m trying to deal with some feelings of my own on how to break out of obnoxious social situations of being given Piss-poor platitudes when faced with the pain of grieving (or, not grieving). On the other hand, Amanda is trying to find a way to break out of the monotony of having her thought processes repeatedly blocked by a different sort of pain — there was a thought in there about the weird fairy-tale versions of disability that others have, but then …

Speaking of fairy tales, Simi Linton at Disability Culture Watch discusses how advertisers are trying to break out of stereotypes by featuring disabled people, but in fact are perpetuating some misconceptions (the term “supercrip” comes to my mind). For something really different, Sweet Perdition describes how an old horror movie, “Spider Baby”, manages to break out of the usual nonsense to explore some concepts (but not enough!) around the social ideas of disability.

More social ideas about disability are being discussed at the Discovering Deaf Worlds blog, Dave Justice & Christy Smith report that in China, Yang Cui is breaking out of the four (and only four) traditional careers allowed for Deaf college students. The dynamic duo also describe a visit to the Deaf community in Wuhan. Fookem and Bug did not break their bottle, as they bring out an example of really old-fashioned woo with Dr Cooper’s Ethereal Oil for Deafness. The Future Doc Wilson relates the tale of how parents are trying to break INTO the board meetings at St Mary’s School for the Deaf because they are currently not allowed in, and there is plenty of contention — and secrecy — about a number of the board’s decisions.

On the other hand, did you know that the Illinois General Assembly may break out of the usual curriculum to add disability awareness teaching in public schools? Katie at Urbanagora has a whole list of things we never learned in school. (Think we can get something more than a token nod to Helen Keller, with the lousy blindfolded disability simulation?)

Omigosh, give the women wheels and they get all uppity-like! And more power to them, I say. Emma the Wheelchair Princess just had to break out of her Good Little Patient role by remarking to other volunteers that doctors don’t always know everything, especially about incurable conditions like CP. Naturally, we are shocked. /sarcasm. Frida writes up a bitching good list of 9 things, “Beep Beep Beep This Important Message for the Abled Community Beep Beep Beep.” Fruitfemme breaks out of society’s limitations by Choosing my body, pithily noting that “Bodies on the margins have always had to fight for integrity.”

Sarahspy breaks out from her usual “pop culture nonsense” to do an MS Walk. Funky Mango breaks out the crystal to celebrate the 3rd anniversary of a chronic diagnosis — and that’s a good thing. Bint Alshamsa writes from My Private Casbah, where she is breaking out from the usual oncological dichotomy: the news of being in an unexpected sort of limbo from being On the Frontier of a New Kind of Cancer Survivorship.

Just when I wasn’t sure just how to wrap up such a diverse assemblage of posts (and disability is nothing if not full of diversity), the fabulous Fledchen managed to come up with no less than seven aspects of what “breaking out” means. I can’t wait to see what she does with them!

  • Breaking Out means embracing stereotypes by reinterpreting them.
  • Breaking Out means showing that people can fit into more than one category, and in more than one way.
  • Breaking Out means that people can grow and change over time–and that they have a right to do so.
  • Breaking Out means challenging assumptions.
  • Breaking Out means acknowledging sexual and gender identity, and variations thereof.
  • Breaking Out means discussing the unspoken.
  • Breaking Out means freeing ourselves from barriers created by our own thoughts and the thoughts of others.

The next Disability Blog Carnival #35 will be at Reimer Reason, where Jodi says the theme is The Hardest Part. The Carnival’s on April 10th, so that means getting posts in by the 7th, either by posting a comment on the blog, or through the Blog Carnival site.


(Trying something new here:  Wordless Wednesdays, for sharing interesting images I have taken, including flowers, insects, clouds and bridges.)

 A color-inverted photograph of two people seen from the back as they are crossing a light- and shadow-striped covered metal-span bridge.

Question for my visually-impaired readers:  are the photo captions coming through?  If not, then I will go back to putting the descriptions below the pictures.

Driven to a frazzle

General kvetching here, mostly related to the large number of idiots who feel the need to–   
I’ll get to that in a minute.  You ever feel so annoyed and stressed that your brain functioning gets crispy around the edges?  I hate driving around strange cities, especially when I’m looking for parking places. It’s hard navigating unfamiliar streets and trying to read the signs and watch for passengers and watch for traffic and figure out how to get somewhere despite the one-way streets and angled streets and dead-end streets that confound my passage. I was stymied by streets that were closed for construction, and I found no less than four of them in this small area that was both experiencing both road repairs and the rehabbing of several old buildings.  So many unfamiliar things to be aware of — it was like being a student driver all over again.  
By the time I rejoined my kids at the hotel lobby, my head hurt, my eyes had that “screwed in too tight” feeling (like when you first put on a stronger pair of glasses), I was randomly mispronouncing words, and was taking wrong turns down hallways.  Sitting around a hotel lobby and crayoning butterflies in my new coloring book was just what I needed to decompress.
It was the eldest’s birthday.  We went to a museum, had lunch and went to some specialty shops, hung out at the hotel lobby to rest a bit, then went out to eat at a nice restaurant.  All these places were within the same square mile.  I figured I would drive down to the city, find a parking spot, enjoy the day, and then drive home.
I couldn’t find my sunglasses before leaving the house, and it was really bright.  Then I couldn’t find a place to park.  The parking in front of the museum is the short-term variety with coin meters, so I look for street parking, find myself in all the wrong lanes, finally give up on that, drop passengers off at the museum, and then go in pursuit of the multi-storey car park nearby.
Next thing I know people are calling me because I needed to already be there at the museum for the ticket time.  I’d spent literally half an hour trying to get around a block to the correct turn-off into that multi-storey car park, and then cruising circuitiously within the structure looking for an empty spot that wasn’t either reserved for post office workers, or rendered functionless by sloppy parking.
Because Yes, an alarmingly large percentage of the people parked in that car park feel they need Sport-Utility Vehicles.  Not to navigate muddy, rocky pastures, nor to carry equipment through washed-out country roads, nor make deliveries up the rutted gravel side roads of mountain foothills, but to cruise around the rugged terrain of paved city streets to offices, schools and shops.  Older, crowded, downtown metropolitan streets, where the lanes are squeezed by parallel parking.    
The old urban streets are narrow, and the parking spaces in such areas are also necessarily narrow.  But an alarmingly large number of people drive SUVs that don’t really fit the given parking spaces.  A surprising number of them end up in that multi-storey car park, with a pair of wheels over the line into the next parking spot.  Some of the drivers are either so paranoid about their paint, so uncertain in their driving skills, so inconsiderate, or feel so entitled that they simply straddle the dividing line (centered over it) and use two whole parking spaces for their single oversized vehicle. 
Polysyllabic expletive!  There I am, part of a line of vehicles circling the structure, looking for available spots.  We drive along one side and then the other, slowly cruising up level after level in our pursuit of parking.  My Beetle is dwarfed by these overbuilt, gasoline-gulping, fat-arsed vehicles with their passenger windows that looked down upon my sunroof.  I finally park and rejoin the family.  
Then after the museum tour,  I am in the queue of vehicles waiting to go through the ticket gate to exit the pricey car park.  To my passenger side is an empty spot, and I pause to let an oncoming vehicle turn in.  The driver of the SUV turns to go across my lane into the parking spot — and then they realise that they are not going to make it at that angle and stop.  
They back up, and re-angle again to fit into the parking space.
Then they back up a second time, and re-angle a third time to fit into the parking space.
And even after that, they are still not parked between the divider lines.
Once finally positioned, agitated squawking ensues from inside the vehicle as the passengers do not have enough room to open the door and get out!  Meanwhile, the line of cars ahead of me had advanced, so I do too — obviously this driver needs space to manoeuver.  (I assume that everyone either crawled over to the driver’s side to exit, or they gave up and re-parked it elsewhere.)  
Back when I learned to drive, we probably would have called such a manoeuver a “4-point turn”, meaning having to stop and change the direction four times.  Then again, we didn’t even make such manoeuvers; we only did 3-point turns in lieu of U-turns when on narrow roads.   

a huge green SUV parked with wheels over the parking divider line
Slowly waiting for my turn at the ticket gate, I passed yet another such monster.  (The queue was really slow, hence time to take snaps.)  This SUV driver had backed the vehicle into the parking spot, which is no small trick.  Even so, they still were not centered between the lines.  (Maybe the vehicle that had been on their passenger side had also strayed over the divider line.)
Apparently the owner of the black car to the right of the SUV had come by and parked later, because it was centered within its parking lane divider lines.  I’m assuming that the black car’s driver was able to open their door enough to slide out, but it must have been a tight squeeze.  
 a huge red SUV with wheels over the parking divider line 
It took me a freaking HOUR to move my car from a pay-per-hour multi-storey car park by the museum to a free car park at the nearby restaurant where we would be dining.  I knew where I needed to be — I could see the restaurant.  I knew where I was (I wasn’t lost) — I just could not get from where I was to where I wanted to be!  I probably travelled four or five miles, but when all was said and done, had effected a vector change of a whopping quarter-mile northward. 
So why was I driving around this large metropolitan area in pursuit of parking?  It’s not that I prefer driving — I would rather be riding a subway or light-rail.  It’s  because the public transit system in Big City sucks.  No one can get the funds to develop a more viable mass-transit because too many people prefer their cars.  
(These digital photos were not manipulated other than to correct for lighting and to white out the license plates for the owner’s privacy.  But it doesn’t really matter where the photos were taken — those damn SUVs are EVERY-freaking-WHERE.) 

More Cross-Cultural Communiqués

What do you do when you are trying to get a technical project started, or get feedback on it partway through, or even get it finished, and some of the people with whom you work have this strange inability to just reply to an e-mail or memo ? You need information — simple data, and maybe a higher-up’s preferences — so you can perform the tasks for which you were hired. That’s what you are there for. Why is it so hard to get simple answers? (One feels like Johnny-Five from the movie Short Circuit, “More input!”)

Asperger’s / autistic employees everywhere express this same complaint. Just give me the information so I can do my job. But what if you also have Auditory Processing Disorder as well? The Unruly Asides blogger ran into this recently, where she describes in a recent post how all she needs is some responses from a board member to produce a video. But the other person won’t simply reply with the required information in an e-mail. They want to chat. On the phone, because they don’t even work in the office. Oy!

If you also have APD, you need information given in a manner that doesn’t work against you and make things more difficult. You don’t want to appear foolish, forgetful, rude, or uncaring because you are having problems simultaneously Read the rest of this entry »

Happy [ahem] Equinox!

(originally titled “Happy Solstice!” in a stupid moment. I blame the lack of caffeine; that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.)

Spring has sprung, at least in my part of the northern hemisphere. To celebrate the vernal equinox yesterday, I was out in the garden. I’ve been doing bits of garden cleanup on days when there have not been showers. Or hasn’t been snowing. Or drizzling. Or sleeting. Or sprinkling. Or frozen solid. Or pouring rain. Or thundersnowing …

No arthropods found yet, aside from some pillbugs, also called sowbugs, woodlice, roly-polys or ballbugs. People call them pillbugs because when bothered, they roll up into little pill-size balls. But they aren’t really bugs, nor even insects. Insects have 3 pairs of legs, and these have 7; with this many legs and flattened dorsal-ventrally (back to front) they are Isopods, a few of which are terrestrial crustaceans. (I think these are probably Cylisticus convexus.)

These weren’t even out and about; I uncovered them when I slipped and skidded on a rock that rolled over in the heavily-saturated ground. As crustaceans go, they are small; the largest is about 1 centimeter long. They look a bit like beans in plate armor, and are generally detritivores or eat the fungi that grow on wood. Once in a while they can get out of hand and bother garden plants.

Lots of school children (myself included) make temporary pets of them because they’re fairly hardy critters. You can hide a few in your pocket during recess, and then play with them at your desk instead of doing boring worksheets.

several small pillbugs (roly-polys) on a piece of limestone

And did I mention it’s been raining? I did find another Minuscule vid I hadn’t seen before, with our hapless friend the little fuzzy black spider. It’s been raining there, too…

Piss-poor platitudes

There’s something about the intersection of the loss of a child and thoughtlessness that produces a dreadful lot of dreadful platitudes. But your child doesn’t even have to die — finding out that your child has an incurable disease or disabling condition can result in more horrible platitudes.

Some people will protest that, “Well, they mean well, so it’s really okay.” No. When someone says something cruel, or does something rude to another person, their “good intentions” don’t really amount to a hill of beans. Even using treacly god-talk doesn’t sugar-coat the insensitive words enough to make them palatable.

Finding out that you will have to learn how to do many things differently due to chronic illness or major disability involves some initial sense of loss for expectations of how life would be. But the situation is not analogous to having a child die. The parents have not “lost a normal child”. The child is not dead, but very much alive, and still loved. Furthermore, the child would not be “better off dead”.

Sometimes people pull out the platitudes because they want to “make things better”. But a few saccharine words is not going to help. The death of a child cannot be healed by the verbal equivalent of a bandage on a cut finger. When at a loss for words at the magnitude of someone’s grief, it’s okay to be honest and share that, “Oh, I’m SO sorry. I hardly know what to say.” And if you can’t think of anything further, then share a hug if these are hugging people.

After the initial shock, share memories of the child with the grieving parents, rather than trying to make the social “problem” go away by ignoring it. Don’t suddenly drop the parents of disabled children from social groups, as though the family has contracted something horribly contagious.

But please, don’t pull out the insensitive platitudes:

Don’t be so selfish; you still have your other child.

You can always have another one.

Children are not interchangeable, replaceable units, like dolls.

Having another child won’t somehow magically make a family “complete” — the family isn’t defined by the number of members, but by who they are. There will always be a sense of loss for the missing person.

God wanted the child with him.

What kind of deity is so selfish as to deprive parents of their child? What, God couldn’t have enjoyed the child’s presence more by watching it grow up with its family?

God’s punishing you for putting your desire to have children ahead of Him.

Make that selfish and vengeful. Where’s the “loving deity”?

It was God’s Will.

And you know this because … how?

Your child’s in a better place.

How is an early death better than a full life?

God never gives people more than they can handle.

Nonsense; there are plenty of people who have cracked under the strain of grief, falling to depression or sometimes even violence.

Everything happens for a reason.

True, there are causes for everything. True, people can create extra purpose in their lives in reaction to events that happen to them. But I cannot accept that a deity required a child had to die for its parents’ moral improvement.

Think of the money you’ll save; having one kid is cheaper than twins.

Oh for ~~ one doesn’t have children for budgetary reasons!

Guess what — I’m pregnant! It’s like God’s making up for the baby you lost.

Let’s blame the maternity hormones for that incredibly tactless, thoughtless remark, and hope that she has a full recovery.

Haven’t you gotten over that yet? You just need to pray more / work harder / think about others.

Grieving for the death of a baby or child is not something over and done in a few days. Really, one grieves for the loss of a loved one the rest of their life — it’s just that the grief becomes tolerable, and the memories more wistful than painful.

You’re lucky the baby died early — it could have been handicapped.

Being disabled is not worse than death.

It’s for the best — she / he would have suffered from being, ‘you-know’ … Retarded. Crippled. Deaf. Blind. Palsied. (et cetera)

Being disabled is not a life sentence of suffering.

Well at least you have your other, healthy child(ren). You could even try again.

If I have a disabled child, I am not about to discard them, nor decide that I have not succeeded in getting the “perfect” child that I deserve.

God gave you a special child to teach you something.

We all learn things from our children, and many parents find they learn unexpected things from children who have different needs. But such a platitude smacks of begin given a special-needs child as a prescription or punishment for a moral failing.

It’s just as well; so many sick preemies survive nowadays, and there’s too many special-needs kids being a burden on society.

The social burden is not special-needs kids.

The social burden is people who feel they have some special hotline to heaven. The social burden is people who think that death and disability are divine punishment for sins. The social burden is people who can only see the disabled as those who are a useless waste of public resources. The social burden is people who imagine that a disabled person cannot have a happy, loving, productive or even [otherwise] healthy life.

Andrea Knows Noodles

“Luck is like having a rice dumpling fly into your mouth.”
~ Japanese proverb

So. The eldest is in town for spring break and loves any sort of dumpling, so tonight I made cheese pierogi. This requires making the noodle dough, which after resting gets a few pressings through successively thinner bands in the pasta roller (the hand-cranked machine is not necessary, but it does make the job a little quicker). Of course, once an eighth of dough has been properly flattened, it has to go someplace safe and the countertop is full of other stuff, so I hang the two-foot long sheets over the backs of the dining chairs.

The sheets of pasta are then cut into circles (my official dough cutter is an old tin can with both ends cut off), filled with a bit of cheese mixture, folded and sealed shut, and then boiled for a few minutes before being served all slippery in butter. Somehow there are never any the next evening for dinner, because a pieróg (or two) sounds like the perfect midnight snack. Or breakfast. Or second breakfastes. Or brunch. Or lunch. Or a tea-time nosh.

After we stuffed ourselves with pierogi, to the point that we know to quit because our tummies are saying, “Enough already!”, contented sighing ensued, and after a while I got up to put away the leftovers.

And then I discovered a forgotten sheet of pasta draped over the back of my chair. Having leaned back against my chair, the dough was now stuck to the slats. “Why didn’t someone tell me there was still noodle on the chair?!” I asked incredulously. (What a waste of perfectly lovely noodles.)

Hubby indicated that he’d seen the dough there, but didn’t think I would actually sit on it. As if!

“There’s some stuck to your jeans, too …” added the eldest. I twisted around to look at my tuchis, and peeled more pasta off the waistband. ::sigh:: If you’re one of those people who has trouble with figures of speech, I will explain that is not really what they mean by food that “goes straight to your hips”. Cheese pierogi are fattening, but they are also dense, so there’s a limit to how many you can eat in a sitting.

Make these for your family. Heck, share the fun and make these with your family by having them help roll out and fill the dough circles — just keep an eye out for stray dough pieces. Like so many things, they take longer to make than to eat, but they’re not really very difficult. The sour cream dough is not only delicious, it’s also more tender than traditional egg noodles. Pierogi are Polish dumplings; I’m not Polish, but like our eldest, I never met a dumpling I didn’t like.


(“Pierogi” is plural; one dumpling is a Pieróg)

5 cups flour
4 eggs, slightly beaten
2 cups sour cream
1 teaspoon salt

1 pound Farmer’s cheese, grated
1 egg
2 tablespoons minced parsley (optional)
black pepper, to taste
melted butter

Mix together the flour, eggs, sour cream and salt to make a dough. Remove to a well-floured board and knead until the dough is smooth. Cover and let rest in the fridge for half an hour until rolling out.

Tumble together the cheese and other ingredients. Cut dough into eighths for more workable quantities. Roll out an eighth as thin as possible, cut out a circle, put 1-2 tablespoons of cheese filling to the side of the center, fold over and crimp shut.

Cut any leftover bits of dough into long noodles and add them into the pot to cook. Gently drop pierogi into a large pot of boiling water, and let cook until they have been floating at the surface for a couple minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and lay in a heated platter, drizzling with melted butter; you can garnish with some more fresh parsley.

Natural Therapy

Last night I was digging through a giant box full of 35mm transparencies (slides) looking for specific pictures for a new class I’m teaching in a couple of weeks. Naturally, the effort took far longer than I anticipated, partly because I kept finding other interesting pictures, such as vacation photos. I finally did find what I was looking for, but once again, it was after midnight before I got to sleep.

One picture was of me back in 2000 when I was building our backyard pond. Kitted out in a tank top, a pair of knee-length boy’s cargo shorts, a pair of leather gloves and my hiking boots, I was hardly a fashion plate. But boy was I buff. I had muscles, and it showed because I was holding a very large chunk of limestone up above waist level. The long rock was about six inches / fifteen centimeters thick and wide, and stood on end it would have reached my hip bone. The piece weighed about 90 pounds / 41 kilos, which is less than I’ve ever weighed as an adult, so hardly something braggable in the world of bench-pressing barbells, but it was still a respectable lunk of solid rock to be schlepping about.

Nowadays the arthritis slows down the yard work considerably. I can’t work as long, and it takes me longer to get going in the morning because I have to eat before taking my meds. Continuing to do some form of weight-bearing exercise is important to avoid the osteoporosis that runs through my maternal line. But I also have to take care to protect my joints against non-Tennis-playing Elbow and the stupid shoulder subluxation.

I have to force myself to work out at home or the gym during the winter. Frankly, this winter I’ve been especially lax in doing so, partly because by the time I get off work I’m so tired and achey I can’t bear to go to the gym.

It’s funny though, how if you have a physical impairment, what would ordinarily be getting exercise somehow gets turned into Receiving Therapy after its trip through the “disability grinder”.

The last time I visited the “Physical Terrorist” was a few years ago when I went to the university clinic for something-or-another. I left with some over-photocopied handouts describing exercises, and a prize (better than any shiny piece of costume jewelry from the dentist’s “treasure chest”), my beloved rice sock for re-heating and draping across sore places.

The PT encouraged me to come back for more therapy, but I found the exercises to be sufficiently effective on my own. I’m not keen on people manipulating my body. Other people think that if my joints can move within the normal range of motion, that I must be okay. But in truth it means that I’m actually injured and stiff because they are reduced in range of motion from my usual hypermobile state. It’s also hard to convince them that I normally have oddly-placed or large bruises about my body, and that I really can’t remember getting them, and that “No, nobody is abusing me, thanks for asking.”

Any kind of therapeutic exercise is more fun, easier to do, more beneficial, and more likely to be engaged in and maintained if it is combined with one’s daily activities, rather than done strictly as PT or gym exercises. I continue to schlep my briefcase or luggage-size tote with my teaching references around campus (frequently switching which side I’m carrying it on), and try to get in as many staircases as the routes require during the day.

The turnabout is that even dull exercises can be more inspired or inspiring if I think of them as antecedants for doing the fun stuff. I need to start stretching out and doing dumbbell reps again, because spring lurks around the corner.

The daffodils are poking up through the mud and leaf litter, reminding me that I need to rake. And once gardening season starts, I can get in lots of stretching, range of motion exercise, weight-lifting, deep knee bends et cetera, just from fun things like turning over and hauling compost, digging, planting, weeding, deadheading and all those other fun “chores”.

I’ll just be doing them for an hour at a time now, instead of eight hours solid. I hear it’s warmish and sunny tomorrow …

Transitions, ACK!

Read up on descriptions of students with autism, Asperger’s, or Non-Verbal Learning Disorder, and you find the familiar piece about how such people “have rigid routines” or “cannot deal with changes in routine”. Some of those descriptions are um, much more rigidly defined than others. I have real problems with descriptions that use a lot of always or never, as real humans just aren’t that binary. In such cases, the author is being more literal-minded than the group they are describing!

In contrast, statements worded as, “Dislikes changes in routine” or “Has difficulty with unexpected changes in routine” would be much more accurate, especially with regards to the unexpected changes — you can brace for, and plan ahead for expected changes in routines.

Therefore, consistency in routine is suggested as a good instructional, parenting, and employment tool. It’s also recommended for students with AD/HD as a support measure.

But you know what? Everyone is attached to their routines. We like to get through our morning preparation without a lot of glitches. “OMG, we’re out of coffee!” We expect holiday celebrations to go a certain way, and when two people become a couple they find out how many rituals were specific to their own families of origin, and then the couple has to decide how they are going to select and combine both of their rituals.

People in general don’t like having to adjust their day around massive changes in their schedule, and are more than a little vexed at unexpected and unavoidable challenges thrown in. Airline travel went from something exciting to a dreaded ordeal as airport security became tighter and tighter, and the airlines restricted what kinds of and how many comfort objects people could bring with them on the plane. No, “comfort objects” aren’t just teddy bears or worry-beads; a wide variety of mundane objects like your favorite bed pillow, brand of soda and portable music player are also comfort objects.

So why are some people so much more attached to their routines, and then undone when faced with changes?

There are a several reasons, related to situational decoding, compensating, and attention-switching. Read the rest of this entry »

Are you Breaking Out?

No, not in spots …

“Breaking Out” is the theme for the upcoming Disability Blog Carnival, to be held right here. You can “break out” in any fashion, or from anything you want.

The deadline for submissions is Monday the 24th, and the Carnival will be posted on the 27th. You can post me your links here in the comments, or use this submission form.

Two more species of Fallacies

After you’ve become familiar with a variety of stupid political arguments or with spotting pseudo-science, you find yourself making a mental game of it: Name That Fallacy. It’s gratifying to know that there are terms for the sorts of things that used to “make your brain all hurty” because you knew they were wrong. Such terms are a great time-saver in discussions: being able to assign those names means that others know what you’re talking about, and that you don’t have to explain why the fallacious thinking is not correct.

But every now and then I run into something that cannot be easily defined by a term. Such things may be multifactorial in the numbers of cognitive biases and argumentative fallacies; there’s no one reason why the reasoning is bad. But boy, are they off the mark!

Right now, I have two fallacies I would like to discuss. (Maybe there are names for these that I’ve not yet run into — let me know; they could be from fields that I’m not well-versed in.)

~ I ~

I call this first sort of über-fallacy-bias Read the rest of this entry »


I’m going to tell you a story.

It’s about a recent presentation I gave on Auditory Processing Disorder.

Afterwards one of the attendees had some specific questions,

and I had some ideas to offer. Here’s how it goes:

One of the things that I had mentioned that APD wasn’t really “curable”, but that one could improve some skills to cope with it. She was concerned because the school had released her son from therapy some years ago, and yet her son was demonstrating obvious difficulties again … she was concerned and puzzled.

As I’ve mentioned before, a person can “lose their label” by having achieved the proscribed psycho-educational goals. This means that the particular skills have been met so that the problem is no longer severe enough to warrant the diagnostic label. The therapists, the school district that may have employed them, the family, and the child have all succeeded in the neatly-documented IEP goals. Whoopee!

But in cases like this, although the child’s enunciation may be much improved, and his phonemic awareness sharpened (meaning he is better at discriminating between different spoken sounds), that does not mean the APD has necessarily gone away.

So why was the boy having so many of the familiar, discouraging, “Huh?” moments again? Read the rest of this entry »

Just bothering, telling you so,

We’re past the mid-week “hump”, but the weekend is still just a calendar square after Pi Day. However shall we slog through?!

Fear not, for salvation is at hand, or at least something profoundly mind-bending. (Given the shape of some of our minds, that’s probably best.) Hie ye’self on over to Happy Jihad’s House of Pancakes for The Genesis of the 82nd Edition of the Skeptic’s Circle.

“Be there or be dodecahedral.”

Geek holiday alert!

Don’t forget — this Friday is Pi Day and Albert Einstein’s birthday! (March 14 = 3/14 in American-style date marking.)

In addition to eating your favorite kind of pie, you can also enjoy the non-repeating music of pi in the key of your choice.

Hmn … gooseberry? Blueberry? Pumpkin? … mmm …

(buzy with jobs — back to normal blogging again soon)

22 Things That Give Crippled Trekkers Away in “Normal” Company

This is a pass-along joke rather than something I’ve written — I don’t even use a wheelchair, but it’s too irresistibly geeky to not share! Need I mention that our children grew up watching Star Trek: Next Generation? Or that one of our cats actually is named Spot?

22. You have tried to breed legless hamsters so you can have a Tribble.

21. You write the President to let you join the Navy. Not to get PWD into the services but just so you can serve on a ship named “Enterprise.”

20. When you go to vote and the polling place is not accessible, you flip open your cell phone and say loud enough for the voting officials to hear, “Now would be a good time, Scotty! One to beam up!”

19. Bombed out of your mind at the office Christmas party, you attempt the “Vulcan nerve pinch” on the guy who keeps leaving his brief case on the floor in your way.

18. You never really finished college, yet you have a “Federation Academy of Technology” or “Vulcan Academy of Science” sticker, proudly posted on the battery box of your wheelchair.

17. During an argument with your city manager about finally getting more curb cuts downtown you call him an “ugly bag of mostly water.”

16. When you get out of your wheelchair and onto the toilet you say, in your best Patrick Stewart voice, “Transfer of data is complete.”

15. You once seriously hurt your roommate trying to figure out how to do that Vulcan neck-pinch thing.

14. You get so confused when people don’t understand why it goes against the Prime Directive to help little old ladies with walkers across the street.

13. When speaking about nuclear disarmament, you sneer at the idea that the able bodied can be trusted not to exploit any sign of weakness.

12. Every piece of your durable medical equipment somehow reflects something Trekkie.

11. You work words like “warp”, “blue alert”, “imzadi,” and “p’toQ” into disability jokes.

10. Your bulletin board at work looks like an ad for Paramount and is SO interesting your co-workers pull up a chair to look at it so they don’t miss anything new you’ve added at wheelchair user level..

9. You wear your communicator pin on your wheelchairs safety strap for convenience.

8. You’re giving blood at the lab, and you start singing “You tiny little life-forms…”

7. You shave your head to look “really hot” but friends start asking you if you have cancer, too, besides just being crippled.

6. The “warp factor” modifications you’ve made to your wheelchair’s joy stick box…

5. When people really irritate you, like when they offer to hold open a door for you, you say “No thanks, I can get it,” but they do anyway and then stand in front of the door so you can’t roll on through, you whip out your dustbuster, point it at them, and make a buzzing noise.

4. “Fully functional” has a very special meaning for you.

3. You get a cat instead of a service dog just so you can name it “Spot.”

2. That pointy-eared guy tattooed on your shoulder has prosthetics for all four limbs.

1. Whenever you get off the mainline bus you don’t just say goodbye to the driver, you make the Vulcan V-sign and tell everyone on board to live long and prosper.

The joke comes from Crip Humor ~ By and For the Severely Euphemized. You too can get a motley collection of disability-related funnies in your e-mail box by sending a blank post to: CripHumor-subscribe [at] topica [dot] com

Three strikes and you’re Out!

My first job was scooping ice cream. Normally someone would come up to the counter, tell me what they’d want, and then would stay there until we traded money for cone. The system worked fine most of the time. I could keep track of my customers fairly easily because the shop did not have high volumes of traffic, and the narrow store-front meant both limited seating for customers (most of whom promptly left) and that the servers stayed behind the counter.

At the time, I had no idea how much difficulty I really had recognising people. It had never occurred to me that there was a reason why I hardly knew anyone at school besides a few teachers. Because I didn’t really go anywhere around town, I had not really encountered the issues of not recognising familiar people outside of their familiar contexts. The narrowly-defined social worlds of my life was an effect of the faceblindness, and perpetuated my continued unawareness. I’d had inklings on previous occasions when I could not find or identify people, but lacking any way of comparing my inability to others’ abilities, my faux pas were considered to be rudeness or stupidity on my part, rather than an organic problem.

There behind the ice cream counter, I unwittingly kept track of my customers by their position at the counter, and by their shirts or hair style … which if the shop was not crowded, worked pretty well. There would be the tall guy with the crew-cut in a white cowboy shirt, the skinny girl with the afro in a glittery tank top, the big mom in a pink muu-muu with two little kids in tow, and so on. Of course I knew who got which kind of ice cream, no problem.

And then one day a softball team came in, some dozen white girls, all wearing the same jersey, and they all seemed to have their blond hair up in pony-tails. It was the most queasily-disorienting sensation, as though the same person had been multiplied (“cloned” was not yet in the public vernacular). Of course, all the girls were bouncing around changing positions to see the different flavors of ice creams, and going back and forth chattering with each other. They wouldn’t even stay put in the queue for me to keep track of them!

By the third serving, I had absolutely NO idea for whom I had just scooped, and just stood there with the cone held up in my trembling hand, “Who wanted the praline on a sugar-cone?” They all look at me with disdain, and the gal flounced up and grabbed it, and re-joined her giggling mates.

Mortified, I stared down at the lines of ice cream tubs, trying to remember the next flavor and focusing on scooping it out into a perfect ball.

I couldn’t put my finger on why, but I knew that I was uncomfortable with trying to keep track of which customers had which orders. Worse, I couldn’t figure out how everyone else knew the “regulars”, those customers that came by frequently and always got the same thing. I just figured that somehow the other ice cream shop employees knew those people from other parts of their life — that they knew them in other capacities than simply as frequent patrons whom they recognised.

It never occurred to me that it was odd that I never noticed anyone I knew when I was out shopping or running errands. When I couldn’t recognise the neighbors my mom chatted with in local shops or restaurants, I just assumed they were part of the vast horde of adults that my parents knew but I didn’t — I didn’t realise that they were people whom I should have known. I never “ran into” anyone when I was out, partly because I knew so very few people, and partly because I could not recognise them if they were “out of place” from where I was used to seeing them.

It was only a summer job and I didn’t get into social trouble very often by just keeping track of people by their shirts and haircuts. But the experience did serve to keep me away from employment in food service or retail from then on.

phlegm ringing dyspraxia stars

With a title like that, you know it’s gotta be another edition of “Weird Search Terms”! These are just some of the phrases that landed people to my blog recently.

There’s the usual run of unintelligible combinations:

  • phlegm ringing
  • migraines tapioca pudding
  • gluton in humans
  • epidemiology of sowbug
  • chit tea and water
  • punishment in inflation
  • old teacher big bread sucking student
  • drawing cat 45 tool holder
  • winded bugs
  • epidemiologist investigate humor
  • beautiful crush bug media
  • back titties
  • prosopagnosia number pi
  • “baking soda” “insomnia”
  • euphoniuc dissonance

(A euphonium is like a baritone tuba; does your brass need tuning up?)

  • cat hitting forehead

(Is that cat hitting its forehead or yours?)

  • dyspraxia stars

(Media stars that are dyspraxic?)

  • the venus of

(… of what?)

I suppose that with millions of humans on this planet, there are bound to be some odd word or concept combinations in search-engine queries. But why do so many of them land at my blog?

Then we have the Complete Nonsense queries (quack, quack, quack): Read the rest of this entry »

D is for Diss

“Diss” is a slang term, a verb meaning to show disrespect to someone.

One day I was waiting (interminably) in an uncomfortably hard reception room chair at the doctor’s office, flipping through the previous day’s newspaper and reading sad news reports of hate crimes directed at people with disabilities. Of course, the news didn’t call them “Hate Crimes”; they were simply short fillers in the corner of the page where local crimes were reported, just ordinary, everyday, unremarkable crimes that happen in a big metropolitan area.

It occurred to me that an awful lot of dreadful words come from the D section of the dictionary. Like the news omitting the term “hate crime”, we don’t even see these words used very often either, because the attitudes that create the malfeasance are not examined.

Even thought it’s about The Letter D, this is not a happy little alphabet book for children, not even Children with Disabilities.

  • Damn or Demonise someone as being “possessed”
  • Decline to discuss why something is a problem
  • Decry and condemn advocacy efforts as “mere whining” or asking for “special treatment” or “extra favors”
  • Deepen the Difficulty level beyond merely being “challenging”
  • Defame and insult advocates who work for social justice
  • Defer actions until “resources are better” but never do anything
  • Deflate ambitions of young people, recently-disabled people, and anyone trying to change jobs or retrain for new careers
  • Demote or transfer employees to Dead-end jobs
  • Denigrate parents who seek accommodations or services from schools
  • Deny or quit service previously given because the recipient has been re-identified as one of the undeserving out-group
  • Deny what really happened in workplace discrimination
  • De-personalise those on life-support as mere “vegetables”
  • Deprecate equal-access laws as undo hardship on businesses
  • Depreciate the value of slower workers’ earnings (well below minimum hourly wages) because they are paid for piece-work
  • Derail important conversations to unimportant side matters
  • Destroy or vandalize homes or vans-cars-motorcycles-bikes simply because one is seen as outcast or unable to fight back
  • Devalue creative works because they are not “normal”
  • Diminish and belittle one’s dreams
  • Discard residents’ possessions because they “will never need or miss them”
  • Discharge from the hospital and then Drop off and abandon still critically-ill people at homeless shelters, despite the fact that they are even less-able to defend or care for themselves
  • Discredit a person’s knowledge, training or skills
  • Dishonor veterans by failing to provide adequate medical, counselling, residential, educational or occupational services
  • Dismiss someone’s concerns as trivial because “nobody else has a problem with that”
  • Disown children or other relatives because they are deemed unworthy of being proper family members
  • Disparage and dismiss one’s rank or position
  • Displace existing residents because “more important” people need the space
  • Dispose of someone’s collection of favorite objects or hobby materials because it is “not valuable” to others
  • Disregard protests of innocence, because obviously someone is bullied or abused because they “asked for it”
  • Disrespect spouses or partners
  • Divest any involvement and wash hands of the problem


Last ngiht I had an absolutely BRILL idea for a blog post. Even came up with a catchy title. Thought it would be a good way to remember it. Didn’t write it down, owing to having finally warmed up my spot on the bed and it being past midnight, so I didn’t want to climb out of bed and grope around in the cold and dark for writing materials.

And, then of course the next morning I couldn’t remember it. Still by evening I can’t remember it. The idea seems to have leaked out my ears during the night. So it goes. Maybe it’ll come back to me — this time, I’ve a pencil and paper at bedside.

Meanwhile, here’s a lovely little Minuscule vid that I’d not seen before. It’s part of an animation series done in France, short little stories with natural scenery and computer-modeled invertebrates (insects, spiders and snails). The funny stories have no dialog, just some light background music and humorous sound effects. (No captions needed.) The physics are just spot-on, too, with only slight exaggerations for effect.

This one has a fuzzy black house spider that has taken up residence in the kitchen of a country house. Alas, the sink drips, drips, drips. The sound clips we get from the spider’s perspective sound horribly loud … maybe it has hyperacussis.

Anyway, enjoy the story as our protagonist seeks to create some “Silence”:

Pain “All-Sorts”

Damn anthocyanins!

See what a college education does for you? It allows you to cuss using polysyllabic words.

This morning I awoke with an “icepick headache” type migraine as well as stiff arthritic joints. Then as I was pulling my large, soupy bowl of near-boiling oatmeal-with-blueberries from the microwave, I spilt it all over my hand and wrist, the shelf, and of course, the cream-colored carpeting. After running cold water on my hand for a couple minutes (it’s fine, if tender — I’m not wearing my watch for a couple of days), I had to go back and swab up the spill. The purple anthocyanin stains from the dried-then-rehydrated blueberries will be quite the test of my carpet-cleaning spray.

Meanwhile, the physical pain of ice-pick migraine has bugged me off and on all morning. The good news is that although it’s horrible and intense, it lasts no more than a minute. The bad news is that it tends to repeat periodically through the day. Made a point to take some more medication before my exam tonight.


Glancing through newsbits was less entertaining — there’s a reason why I usually read blogs in the morning and news in the evening. (I do glance over the headlines in the morning, just in case western California decides to crumble into the Pacific or something.)

Oh the conceptual pain … it’s sort of thing that Stephen Kuusisto calls, “the neurological equivalent of a foot cramp”. This is from Time magazine, “Huckabee’s Texas Evolution” (hyperlink is to single-page, text-only version), which describes US Republican presidential candidate Huckabee and his support for intelligent design, and the upcoming Texas State Board of Ed elections (emphasis mine):

Republican Barney Maddox, a urologist and ardent supporter of creationism. … Maddox, who declines media interview requests, has posted his writings on the web at sites like the Institute for Creation Research and has called Charles Darwin’s work “pre-Civil War fairy tales.”

Now there’s some irony as heavy as a falling Acme anvil.

Sorry — I didn’t realise the clipping was an animation — hit your ESCAPE key to freeze the action.

(Picture description: this is a pop culture reference to Roadrunner cartoons. Wile E. Coyote was always trying to do in the Roadrunner, including dropping an Acme brand anvil on him. In this cartoon clipping, there’s a pile of birdseed in the middle of a road, with a sign stuck into it saying “Free”. The road runs underneath a natural stone arch somewhere in the US desert Southwest, and hanging below the apex of the arch is a heavy iron anvil. Presumably the unseen Coyote has a hold of the rope tied to the anvil, and is waiting for the likewise unseen Roadrunner to come running by. Of course, Coyote never succeeds, as Roadrunner is way to smart for him. Beep-beep! )


Just to complete this triad of pains for the day, I realised that I was wearing a new turtleneck for the first time. Normally when I get new clothing I remove the sewn-in brand name, size and laundering tags. Clothes-tag irritation is not as much a strict dermal irritation (there’s no rash), but rather is a constant hypersensitivity, a small but chronic sensory pain.

So before I washed this turtleneck I used my seam-ripper to carefully pick out the threads holding the labels at the collar seam. But by this mid-morning I realised that I had missed a tag, a big long one with laundry instructions that was unexpectedly sewn to the seam just below my ribs. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the spare time to sit around partially-disrobed in a toilet stall and employ my Swiss Army Knife scissors to the task of snipping a line of tiny stitches.

You would think that after a little while my brain would habituate to the sensory input and I would forget all about the silly tag. Well, it does, for a few minutes. But then I twist to do something, and I notice the annoyance all over again. Repeatedly, all day long. ARRGH!


Well, it’s time for me to wrap up my day soon. The icepick headache hasn’t shown up for a while. My wrist is less tender. It was wonderful to yank off the turtleneck and put on my soft, old honeybee pyjamas.

I aced my test this evening. And the last fix-it job I did on the dishwasher seems to have worked — we have machine-cleaned dishes, and I didn’t have to pay someone to come out and fix it, nor “hold vigil” for a repair person who would supposedly arrive “between the hours of eight and four”.

Oh joy, there’s the tinnitus popped back on again. And I’m getting another canker sore in my mouth. Well, can’t win ’em all.

Facts aren’t enough

“Wow, you take more pills than me,” hubby remarked as I filled up my daily pill-minder for the next week.

I paused for a couple seconds and then answered, “That’s a bit misleading — you take more inhalers.” A bit later, I added, “Besides, a couple of those pills are just calcium supplements, and there’s one prescription I take twice a day.” With the HRT patch, that’s just four daily prescriptions. Going by numbers of pills swallowed isn’t a very good comparison of the numbers of medications we each take; it’s probably close to an equal number, just different kinds of meds and different kinds of delivery systems.

Maybe I was being a trifle pedantic. Then again, the phrasing of the comment made it sound a bit like I was popping a lot of drugs. I don’t think that my hubby meant the remark in a negative way; it was just an off-hand remark meant to fill conversational space while I was puttering around getting ready for bed.

I might not have even noticed — or responded — had I not run into similar comments over the years, comments that were meant to make negative implications. These kinds of statements really bother me, especially because they are a misuse of otherwise good forms of factual communication. There’s an old joke: Read the rest of this entry »

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