Don’t call self-diagnosed autistics liars

Electronic music pioneer Gary Numan (real name Gary Anthony James Webb) has a new album out. During the course of promoting it, he’s been talking about having Asperger’s syndrome, diagnosed in the UK as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). But Camilla Long, a columnist at the Sunday Times, did not believe him.

There is absolutely nothing about Gary Numan and his stupid facepaint that is “autistic”. An insult to real sufferers

The autistic community called her out immediately. In Long’s defence, Numan is self-diagnosed. Having said that, her tweet was unbelievably obnoxious and she deserved the pillorying she got.

If someone mentioned to me that he or she believes he or she is on the spectrum, my first response would be to ask “why do you believe that?” I certainly would not call him or her a liar, unless I had good reason to suspect dishonesty (e.g. if I knew the person in question is a known fabulist). Long, instead, jumped straight to the conclusion that Numan was lying. And the fact is, Numan’s description of his symptoms closely match autism.

There are a few lessons to be learnt here:

1. Don’t arrogate to yourself the role of spokesperson for the entire autistic community, especially if you yourself are not on the spectrum. If you’ve met one autistic, you’ve met one autistic.

2. Don’t jump to the conclusion that someone is lying or bullshitting about being on the spectrum unless you have an exceptionally good reason to doubt him/her, and even then, be extremely careful about levelling an accusation of dishonesty.

3. Do not call us “sufferers”. We suffer from society’s prejudices more than from our condition.

Long has fallen silent. Hopefully she has learnt from her misstep and won’t make it again.

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Posted in Autism Awareness | Tagged , , , ,

The crackdown begins

The subheading of the Vox article says it all.
Countries like Italy and Australia are tired of measles outbreaks — so they’re moving to fine anti-vaccine parents.
The article reports that Australia and several European countries are fed up with handling outbreaks of vaccine preventable diseases caused by parents not vaccinating their children, so now they are tabling laws to make vaccination for diseases mandatory, to increase the number of vaccines on the schedule, to make proof of vaccination a prerequisite for school, and to fine parents who fail to get their children vaccinated.
It is unfortunate that these countries felt it necessary to take that step, but recent outbreaks of Measles that caused deaths were worsened because large numbers of unvaccinated people allowed it to spread rapidly, confirming the value of vaccination as a tool to prevent disease.

Posted in Anti-antivaccination | Tagged , , , , ,

Autism Speaks is losing revenue

According to a news report, the organisation “Autism Speaks” suffered a big drop in revenue in 2016.

This follows on the heels of several resignations of high-ranking staffers, as well as the death of Suzanne Wright. I feel indifferent. For years, “Autism Speaks” used the tagline “It’s time to listen” while simultaneously ignoring and silencing autistic voices who were unhappy with the path the organisation took. Perhaps now, things can improve.

Posted in Uncategorized

Oh, the joys of dealing with government bureaucracy

Yes that’s sarcasm. I am sick and tired of the inefficiency and incompetence of government offices.
Earlier this year, I got a letter in my postbox from the SABC Licencing Department.
For the previous owner.
Who moved nine years ago.
This isn’t the first time they have done this. Or even the second. In 2009, they had lawyers send letters of demand to the previous owner until I wrote back and notified them that he had left. They stopped sending letters until 2010, when they started sending more. Infuriated, I wrote an indignant letter back repeating that the previous owner had left and to kindly stop sending letters of demand to him at my address. They complied. Until a few months ago, that is.
What is most annoying is that I have a TV Licence, so it would be very simple for them to do a database lookup and find that there is a licence listed to me at my home address.
I’m trying to get my municipal statement sent to me by email but I’m hitting problems. So I get it by snail mail. And I mean the “snail” part. The bill for July arrived in my postbox on the 14th August. The latest I’m supposed to settle my account is the 7th of the month. I used an old bill to pay, but when the new bill arrived, I realised the fee had increased, so I’ve underpaid. I now have to hope that penalties won’t be applied.
Thank you so freaking much South African Postal (lack of) Service.
My old Identity Document was destroyed, so last week I applied for a new one. It took several hours to get my details.
One major change is that they take a picture at the Home Affairs office. When my number was called to go to one of the photo booths, I went there only to discover that the photographer had gone on break.
“So why did you call my ticket?” I wanted to ask.
Eventually my photo was taken by the other photographer. All in all, the process took around two hours.
I also needed to renew my Driver’s Licence, so on Tuesday I went down to Edenvale Licencing. There was already a queue, and signs warning that there were problems with the system, so I knew it would take some time.
How long did it take for me to get to the desk to take the vision test? Two hours? Three?
Try seven. And yes, I’m being serious. I got there shortly before 9 o’clock, and left just before four o’clock.
Today I went back to Home Affairs to collect my ID Card. Learning from my experience on Tuesday, I arrived shortly before eight and joined the queue. It still took more than an hour and a half before I left with my new ID.
If the relevant people could do their jobs properly and sort things out, I would greatly appreciate it.

Posted in Life | Tagged , , , ,

Thoughts on electrically powered vehicles

Volvo has announced it plans to switch over to hybrid and electrically powered vehicles by 2019. The United Kingdom declared its intention to ban internal combustion vehicles by 2040 at the latest. Last year the German Bundesrat (Federal Council) passed a resolution calling for a ban on internal combustion engine vehicles by 2030. I first thought that these were silly ideas, but then my memory dredged up something I read almost 30 years ago.
In the late 1980’s I was reading a book I got from the Library about power sources. One of the things mentioned was that we had only 60-70 years before the supply of oil ran out. The oil companies stepped up exploration and internal combustion engines have been getting steadily more efficient since the 1970’s, but there are far more of them today than 30 years ago.
A few years back, I saw the film “Fuel” by Josh Tickell. In it, Tickell said that it takes more energy to extract and process a barrel of crude oil than you would get out of it. What this says is that the remaining deposits of oil are of lower quality. It’s a warning sign that the current fields we have will soon be spent.
There are alternatives to crude oil. One is to produce oil from coal. Various methods to do this exist. The Bergius Process was invented by Friedrich Bergius in 1913 and is the oldest such process. Nonetheless, all coal to oil methodologies are expensive and only economically viable in times of high oil prices.
A second alternative to crude oil is biofuels. Concerns about food crops have led to the investigation of making biofuels from grasses like switchgrass. These can be grown on soil that is not rich enough to sustain crops, so don’t threaten food security. Other sources of biofuel include expired food, microorganisms, sewage, and plant material like wood chips. Yet it seems unlikely (but still possible) that these will produce enough fuel to supplant crude oil.
The bottom line is the world’s reserves of oil will be finished within a few decades at most and we don’t yet have adequate replacements for oil. Changing over to electric powered vehicles before that happens would be a wise thing to do.

Posted in Segue | Tagged , , , , , ,

Autistics testing software

It appears that autistics are disproportionately good at software testing.
The Israeli military uses autistics as intelligence analysts and software testers. Ultra Testing, a software testing firm based in New York, is actively hiring autistics as testers. SAP has a program going to hire autistics as developers and testers.
I presented on autistics and software testing to the SIGiST. At the time, I was the only person I knew on the spectrum involved in testing software.
On a more interesting note, I am involved in a pilot project to introduce Selenium WebDriver to my new employer. If all goes well, I’ll report back here.

Posted in Autism Awareness, Life, Work | Tagged , , , , ,

Corruption Fatigue

It’s just too much now. Over the past few years, story after story about corruption and state capture has broken, and nothing has been done to fix matters. I’ve even blogged about it a few times. And that was before the latest revelations.
Several weeks ago, a trove of hundreds of thousands of emails from Gupta owned businesses were leaked to investigative journalists. What they reveal is that the extent of state capture and looting is far worse than even the most pessimistic individuals suspected.
From Dairy Farms at the provincial level to contracts at State Owned Enterprises to Cabinet Ministers’ appointments, the Guptas have captured the state completely and extracted huge amounts of money for their own benefit. The revelations are shocking and enraging. Large sums of money have been spirited abroad, confirming that when South African banks closed all accounts linked to companies confirmed as being owned by the Guptas over suspected breaches of the financial Intelligence Centres Act (FICA), they were correct.
One of the most shocking items was the Optimum takeover. The Optimum coalmine, owned by Glencore, had its contracts with Eskom placed on “review”, threatening its sustainability. Eventually, Glencore folded and sold the mine to a Gupta owned firm. All of a sudden, the issues with Optimum miraculously resolved. In addition, Eskom advanced large sums of money to the company, helping speed the sale.
If even half of what has been revealed in the emails is true, Glencore could probably sue Eskom for millions.
And in the midst of it, the ANC heads towards another conference. Discussion documents have been circulated and are available for download on the ANC’s website. Disappointingly, the documents show that the ANC either doesn’t care about the severity of state capture, doesn’t “get it”, doesn’t have the courage to confront and fix the problem or some combination of the above.
When will it end?

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