Category Archives: Daily Life

Autism and Savant Syndrome: A rant

In the US, ABC is premiering a series this Fall entitled, The Good DoctorRe-making a Korean series, it stars Freddie Highmore (of Bates Motel should-be fame) as a physician with autism and savant syndrome.

I have a burning hatred of savant stories in popular culture.

I think I’ve put my finger on the problem today. There are two things.

In virtually all movies and series foregrounding a person with autism, that person also has savant syndrome. Maybe 10% of people with autism, at least in Western studies, also show savant skills. Maybe half of people with savant syndrome have autism. (Source and source). But in pop culture, it’s close to 1:1.

(That’s not quite true: Most movies about child prodigies without autism also show them having savant skills, even though that’s not really a thing. I’m looking at you, Little Man Tate.)

Now, savant skills are often very showy and easy to highlight in media. I get that. But it’s to the exclusion of stories about the lives of any other people with autism (Temple Grandin is a rare exception.)

Why am I so touchy about this? I don’t have autism, though I do have a number of associated traits. Perhaps I have well-compensated Asperger’s. I don’t know and I don’t need to. And I do not have any savant skills. But I do have a ridiculous IQ and was a child prodigy. Some of my bitterest memories from childhood are when I was asked for what amounted to performing tricks for educators, evaluators, and friends of my parents.

So yes, a deep-seated loathing of a focus on “performative intelligence” (versus ability), paired with the distorted representation of people with autism. I don’t think I’ll be watching this.

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Posted by on May 20, 2017 in Daily Life


Mother’s Day

For Mother’s Day, Jalan wanted to go to a local hands-on science museum with Dragonlet. (Oh, yeah, we’ve procreated since I last posted. About four months ago now.) Dragonlet’s day-care provider–“part-time nanny” would probably be more accurate while we’re her only client–takes him frequently and meets up with a play-group there, but Jalan had never been, and nor had I since my elder son was young.

We now, unsurprisingly, have a membership. It pays for itself in about three trips per year, and they’ve expanded their little-kid stuff since I’d last been. Oh, and tax deductible as an educational non-profit. One of the key benefits of a membership is that we won’t feel we have to stay long enough and do enough to get our “money’s worth” on any given trip–a real advantage with the CFS.

Jalan and I also talked today about kink. Some in the specific–I described a fantasy to her. I generally only do that when it’s not something that could happen in the moment. Partly because otherwise would feel like I’m saying I’m dissatisfied with that we are doing in the moment. It separates sharing a fantasy and a desire from topping from the bottom.

We otherwise talked about integrating play with having a child as he gets old enough that he’d notice something odd. Now, I often like being left bound for unpredictable amounts of time between interaction, but that’s a very specific kind of scene. But we’ll also still have the nanny time when Jalan is on break from work, as long as we can find the headspace during the mornings. And eventually a date-night baby-sitter. We also talked in general about possible hardpoints in the bedroom in the new place.

Oh, yeah, in addition to having a baby since I last posted, we’ve found a new rental house (same city). One of these things led to the need for the other.

But there will be more options when he’s no longer sleeping in our room, though of course he’ll still have urgent needs at unpredictable times. The master bedroom in the new place is down three concrete steps from the rest of the house, so there will be a baby gate. At least we won’t be walked in on by surprise in the first couple years!

Life is good.

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Posted by on May 14, 2017 in Daily Life, Dragonlet, Play


A paean to Elderly Dog

Just because I’m in the mood 🙂

Jalan and her first husband adopted Elderly Dog from the pound in Spring, 2000. She’s a pound mutt. Clearly some Chow, the rest might be Spitz or Collie or who knows what. Weighs around 35-40 lbs.

Sweetest dog. 16.5yo or so (something like our 90 for a dog her size), and still gets as excited as a puppy when we come home, when we pick up her leash, or pretty much anything else–sometimes just making eye contact.

Every month, she sleeps longer and deeper, stands up more slowly, has more trouble with the stairs, has more trouble with bladder control, and is increasingly senile (she was never overly bright). She is almost totally deaf and losing her vision and smell, but is still Just. So. Happy. Every time we interact with her it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to her. Until the next time.

When Jalan and I got together in 2011, Elderly Dog immediately switched loyalty to me, which I tease Jalan about. She’s a “velcro dog.” She’s content as long as she knows where her people are and is nearby us (especially me–sometimes when Jalan is home alone, Elderly Dog will still sit and watch out the front door for me).

With her failing senses (and intelligence), she’s also the world’s worst watchdog. A year or so ago, when we were dealing with an emergency, we had a friend come in and check on her. He had a key to the back door. So he went in the back and watched her (and photographed her) standing in the hall, barking at the front door. She didn’t notice him until he came up and touched her.

She doesn’t like men in hats. When service people come over, we ask them to remove their caps, and that usually settles her barking. That’s less of an issue now that she can’t visually distinguish the hats as easily. I can only imagine there was a pre-pound history of abuse.

She’s never noticed the cats except Senior Cat (whom we lost last month), even when she could see them easily. Just totally oblivious. Runs right over them sometimes. Senior Cat came home from the pound the same day and took care of Elderly Dog while she had pound sickness. He pretty much raised her to be a cat. When she could still remember to, she would do her level best to bury her messes, though was terrible at it (might walk off and take a right turn first).

And while her general faculties are declining with age, she’s not sick. Her only medication is for bladder control, plus a joint supplement. She’s not dying of anything. At some point in the not-too-distant future, she’ll probably get to where she can’t stand up due to loss of muscle mass in her hindquarters, and that will be time to say goodbye. But we never thought she’d make 15, then never thought she made 16, and she keeps surprising us . . .

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Posted by on July 24, 2016 in Daily Life


Draconic Self-Care

Not Draconian self-care.

For the first two or three years Jalan and I were together, she wasn’t working and I worked almost exclusively from home. We were joined at the hip. Two nights apart when I was traveling for work were pretty much the limit before we were both feeling strain from it. She does work now, but that includes from home, and we treasure our time together, generally choosing to be in the same room when possible. And I almost never travel for work since getting sick, in any event.

That lays context for how odd it is that I told her I needed to head out to a coffee shop this afternoon at least in part because of how she was going about her day.

Before my friends worry, let me say up front that this does not indicate a problem between us.

For many reasons, some in my personality, some in my mental illness, some in my personal history, I have often had trouble rolling with changes in plans. I’m far less uptight about this than I was even a few years ago. Much of that is because of my fundamental trust in Jalan. And she’s worked on helping me get away from the maladaptive, compulsive element of this–by things like not telling me her plans. Especially early on, I’d find out where we were going for dinner when we got there. Asking while she was driving generally went un-answered, except when she could see that my not knowing was causing genuine anxiety or agitation. That pressure to need to know the plan rarely comes up these days, and I seldom even feel driven to ask. I trust her. It works for her needs, as well, in that not telling me the plan leaves her free to change it to suit her mood without risking distressing me.

This is the last day of her week off of work, and she started the time off with a fair bit to do for her job before returning tomorrow. She hasn’t worked on it this week–she’s taken much-needed leisure instead. But an hour or so after the second time she told me she was coming downstairs soon to work, I started feeling my old discomfort with not knowing what’s going to happen, and especially discomfort with plans being changed without notice.

So I went upstairs, sat with her on the bed, and explained that, while I trusted her to get done what she needed to in a way that worked for her, the way the day was going meant I was getting twitchy. I took care to explain that this was in no way a rebuke for how she’d spent her week, or the fact that she was changing her plans for today as she wrestled with the best way for her to get to it and get it done. Rather, I needed to go out alone for my own self-care. It wasn’t about her; it was my decision as to the best thing to do to meet my needs. After some kissing, I was on my way.

As I’ve remarked before, we communicate with such quantity and such care that most people would probably see it as exaggerated and might even find it too much to handle in a relationship.

But it suits us perfectly.

That, and I can pick up Chinese food on the way home.


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Posted by on April 3, 2016 in Daily Life


Overly familiar D/s usages

This is most of a Twitter conversation I had with MintyBaubles this morning about what I consider overly familiar D/s terminology among people not in a negotiated relationship. It’s a pet (NPI) issue of mine.

Posted with permission.

Screenshot 2014-11-10 06.43.04

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Posted by on November 10, 2014 in D/s, Daily Life, General / Overhead


Getting to know the bastard (health)

In the aftermath of the sprained ankle, I’m learning more about how the bastard — aka Chronic Fatigue Syndrome — is affecting me.

What I’ve noticed is that when I’m almost completely sedentary, I don’t need any more rest/sleep than anyone else. But doing anything triggers fatigue way out of proportion to the exertion. I have no reserves.

This is, in its way, useful information. It helps me plan around bigger days. But my CV fitness is plummeting during this period, too, as I notice any time I use my crutches. I really need to get into physical therapy for both the ankle and for upper-body-based cardio maintenance, but that’s tough to do in the midst of a long-distance move.

I’ll call a prospective primary care provider in NC this coming week to try to get an appointment for the next.

So, the new information about my CFS is good to know in a general, epistemic way, but I don’t particularly like the implications.

But the bastard didn’t ask my consent. All I can do is manage and adapt.


Posted by on April 26, 2014 in Daily Life, Health


Changes, Part I: Quitting my job

There are a lot of major life changes going on for us right now. One of the first came to a head this week.

I make no secret that I’m a university professor. It looks like a slack job when people look at things like hours in the classroom — and, to be honest, the perks and working conditions can’t be beat, even if the salaries are low relative to training — but it’s really a very stressful job.

I’m at a “Research I” university, meaning the pressure to stay on the grant-funding treadmill is enormous. Deadline after deadline, with very low success rates (5-8% at National Institutes of Health these days) . It’s especially bad right now with the ongoing federal funding cuts and meddling in funding policies from politicians, very few of whom know or care anything about the process of science. So it’s a high-risk high-reward strategy, and to hit most people submit several per year. And they’re not trivial to do.

That’s aside from teaching. As a research university, we have lower course loads than teaching-based places, but my department’s is still higher, with more irritating policies, than many of the universities we’re aspiring to join.

To get back on track, I met with my department chair on Thursday to tell him I’m leaving before Fall term starts. I’m already on disability this term. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is aggravated by stress, and I don’t know if I’ll ever regain the stamina to successfully teach in the classroom (something I’m not especially good at anyway).

I don’t have a full income replacement income set up yet, but I’m determined to make it work. Yes, I’m giving up a tenured position to get on the soft-money (i.e., grants) track. After all I said about grants, if I’m not faculty, I don’t have to lead them. Just have to support other people, some of whom are much better at writing them than I am. And in the grant game, success breeds success. It’s much easier to get a grant if you’ve already had them. I’ve had one great one that ends this Summer, but a lot of misses before and since.

So I’m negotiating with several institutions (two of which I already moonlight for) to come on as part-time, hoping to build over time to full-time (or at least full-benefits threshold) at one of them. I’m also working up to actively marketing my consulting business — the full website should be online within a week, as well as an updated resume’ for freelance sites. I haven’t written one in decades, relying on the long CV academics use.

These are not low-stress things, but better than I’d be expected to do come Fall. And they’re things I’m better at. I’m a great supporting player, not a great lead. And I enjoy the supporting role. And I’m very good at a high-demand niche specialty.

And, bless (some of) those politicians anyway, the Affordable Care Act lets me do this ( #ThanksObama ). With my health problems, I’d never have been able to leave a secure job. Even with the ban on pre-existing condition exclusions, I could never have found coverage on the private market before this year’s implementation.

All that said, I feel good about this. This week was a horrorshow before Thursday in terms of stress and anxiety — but I’m also (with Jalan’s support) better at managing that than ever before. A rough stretch now is not remotely comparable to a rough stretch two years go. And the meeting went better than I could have imagined.

This is one of the few major decisions I’ve made as an adult for the primary goal of making my own life better. Fleeing to a different state from the first wife was one. Marrying Jalan was another. But this is another big one. And it’s for my own sake.

I’m proud of myself. Jalan’s proud of me. We will make this work. And I feel better already.


Posted by on February 9, 2014 in Daily Life, General / Overhead, Health

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