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What I Do Here

If you are here for genealogy, try this:

I write about whatever I am thinking about. It helps me think about it and remember it later. Because I live far away from many of my longest term friends, we don't always get to participate in each other's daily life; sharing my blog is a second-best.

My interests change over time, but at any given time, I am usually very intensely interested in a few things. This might look more organized and logical than it really is. I have two children with autism spectrum diagnoses, and they seem completely normal for my extended family; if I were a kid growing up today, I'd have a diagnosis, too. Try to keep that in mind, if you're trying to figure out what kind of person would write the kinds of things I write.

Tesla Test Drive

I originally had a ton of time to get to the test drive, however, R. discovered that I wasn't the only person having trouble with the sleep/wake button on my iPhone 5. There is warranty work. So the phone is in the shop and I have a loaner (weirdly like cars), and that process got wedged into the time I had between T. getting home and the test drive.

R. came along, and if I had it to do over again, I might ask that R. get his own test drive, because I suspect that I wouldn't not have had such a profoundly negative test drive experience if I had not sat down in the back seat. But I _did_ sit down in the back seat. While there is adequate leg room, there is not adequate head room, and it there are some other problems as well.

First, a note about me. I am a bit over 5'7" tall, and as you would expect, I have more of that in my legs than in my head, neck and torso. In general, if I set down in the back seat of a car, I don't experience any kind of headroom issue, unless it is some weird sort of not-a-real-back-seat situation, but I haven't been in one of those since I was a teenager -- I don't think I'd considered this as a possible situation in the Tesla because there is optional _third row seating_. I will concede that the years have added additional padding to my ass, and therefore additional height while seated, but this is not actually that significant. I wound up leaning towards the middle of the back seat to avoid my head touching the ceiling. Strike one.

Second, I have some neurological problems that manifest in a variety of ways and a couple of them are relevant here. I'm prone to headaches in bright light, particularly if the light is coming in at a particular angle. At least this Tesla had, in addition to a sunroof, a smoked glass? or something ceiling/roof behind the sunroof, so it kind of was not possible for me to get fully out of the sunshine in the backseat. Ouch. In conjunction with a headache associated with too-damn-much-stuff-in-one-day, very, very painful. Strike two. Presumably, this particular issue is resolvable through appropriate options selection when ordering one.

Third, my husband's theory of test drive involved doing things to the car that makes being a rider somewhat unpleasant. If I hadn't been in the car while he was doing this, I probably would have enjoyed the test drive more. Not really Tesla's fault.

Okay, so I have a headache, am feeling a little crammed in, have had unexpected sun exposure, my son decided to sit in the middle seat in the back (not helping with the claustrophobia) and yell about a variety of things during the ride, so by the time it's my turn to drive, I'm not necessarily overjoyed. It's a nice car. The seats are okay, but by no means the Mercedes level luxury that the Mercedes level ride of the Tesla might lead you to expect. Because believe me, everything everyone said about what a joy it is to ride and drive this car? Basically true. That's a great screen. You really fucking _need_ that rear-facing camera, because the visibility in this car is more or less the shittiest I have ever experienced and I used to drive a CRX. The windshield is so heavily raked it distorts your view forward optically, albeit subtly. The rear view is forced right up against the top of it (along with the toll transponder). The visor is this weird, thin thing, because the amount of windshield you can block and still see out of it at all is extremely limited. I wear a brimmed cap to deal with sun in my eyes; when I turned my head, it bumped, even in the driver's seat.

Now, you might think (I know I did), well just lower the seat! Alas, I was already unhappy with the angle of my knees. Not as bad as when I owned the CRX -- but I was a decade (more than!) younger when I sold that car.

I will say this for the Tesla: you won't mind its limited range, because you'll get sick of sitting in the damn thing long before the charge runs out. Never in my life have I been so excited about something, and been so disappointed. It is a gorgeous piece of machinery, which I apparently find so uncomfortable I cannot imagine owning it. By comparison, it was a joy to sit back down in my Fit, even with its honestly inadequately padded, benchlike seats. My knees didn't hurt and my head didn't bump.

The i3, so far, is winning, but I have yet to drive the Leaf.

ETA: Here is the i3 test drive description:

Foolishness about book hoarding

h/t Nate Hoffelder over at the Digital Reader

I cannot speak to whether the author of the piece in question is a book hoarder. I _can_ say that this is silly:

"How many books does a person have to own to officially be labeled a book hoarder? According to Shelfari’s Compulsive Book Hoarders Group, the answer is simple: 1,000 or more."

Please. While I am happy to say that 6ish years into reading primarily e-books, the p-book collection is under 1000, but I wasn't a hoarder before. I know, because this is a decent source on the topic of hoarding.

FWIW, I do, actually, know what houses of hoarders look like. There are lines of undrivable cars in front of them with no license plates, flat tires and moss growing on them. There are piles of things in the yard or driveway, but definitely _outside_ the house, covered only by a tarp, that remain, seemingly unmodified except to grow in size, for months. If there isn't any exterior indication and you are trusted enough to enter, there are paths between towering piles of stuff that otherwise fills the rooms top to bottom. There are _some_ paths -- some rooms are completely filled and in order to enter them, you would have to pick your way through the pile at the entry, or come at it through a window, perhaps.

1000 books does not make a hoard.

There is some reason to believe the author of the piece has a more realistic idea of what constitutes hoarding, and perhaps her description of books and her difficulties with them given a peek into the interior life of a hoarder. But that one hard number at the beginning, so powerfully mistaken, makes it hard for me to assess the piece with anything like fairness.

In Which I Receive a Followup Phone Call

Sudbury BMW called me today. The sales guy I initially set the test drive appointment up with wanted to know how it went. I said very positive things about the test drive, the people who helped us, and the car. I also said that, as I had already told him, I was going to be driving two other cars, one on Wednesday, and I was still waiting to hear back on the third. There was a brief pause, and then he asked if it would be okay to call back again in a week or two. I said that would be lovely (because it would be).

After I hung up, I contemplated my various car buying experiences. They have overwhelmingly involved flustered car sales guys who were having trouble dealing with someone who knew precisely what she wanted, the capacity to pay without financing through them, accurate knowledge of the effective price of the car (alas, always list, because the cars I've bought new are not available for meaningfully less than list -- I resold one of them for more than I paid for it 4 years later, which was really weird) and a desire to close the deal immediately, with a substantial capacity to refuse dealer treatments. They always made me wait a few days, for a shipment to arrive or a car to be transferred from someone else or whatever, which I also had no problem with. This is the first time I've been in to a dealer with a specific intention not to buy until I did research via test drives (yes, I bought three cars new without any kind of comparative test drive process. I was pretty happy with all of them, too). I guess, based on horror stories of buying cars that one reads or hears, that I expected more pressure. There really hasn't been any.

Not sure if that's because there's going to be a multi-month wait for delivery after this or what. We'll find out, I guess.
As noted in an earlier post, my son wanted to go to church, so I took him to our UU parish church in the next town over and it was a super awesome Tai Chi introduction with some lovely readings from various translations of the Tao te Ching. What's not to love? I had this book on my shelves from _before_ I started doing any martial arts and I never actually read it until today. To be completely honest, I skimmed large chunks. It really is pretty horrible trying to learn martial arts from books; videos are only somewhat better, but web videos are awesome, because they can chunk it down to exactly the right size and pair it with a written description and link it to related information/videos. Obvs, in an ideal scenario you go to a class and have a 1-1 teacher student ratio and your teacher is highly competent but ideal scenarios are not easy to stumble into.

So is this book worth anything at all? Well, it suffers from the usual chatty writing style of this series and the other one with the yellow covers. It benefits from the here's-what-I'm-going-to-tell-you, now-I'm-telling-you, here's-what-you-should-retain structure of these two series, bracketed by motivational stuff at the beginning and a little push out the door at the end. The pictures are black and white, and like entirely too much martial arts photography and video, the background and clothing is poorly match to create contrast to enable the viewer to understand what's going on.

Here's an example of _much better photography_ that makes it extremely clear what is going on:

There's a lot of stuff out there; much of it is _nuts_ because this is alternative medicine/philosophy/wtfery and martial arts, and the field is just rife with wacky ideas. And unsafe advice, I might add.

Douglas _does_ say you should adjust stuff and not force anything, but but but but. He says it in that way that is going to make a lot of people try too hard anyway. I don't understand why people do this (actually, I do, but when I do, I get mad, and I don't like being mad, so I forget why people do this, and then I go, why do people do this? round and round). So he gets a B- for safety.

Several chapters are, mystifyingly, devoted to mulan quan. I'm not sure why! On the one hand, this is probably the only book out there with mulan quan pictures and descriptions in it, so one hesitates to say it shouldn't be here. On the other hand, why? I mean, that's a little odd.

Douglas' style is Kuang (or Guang) Ping Yang. Seattle is a bit of a mecca for martial arts, but there aren't any certified teachers of this style there (altho there are apparently two in Walla Walla That makes this book a bit of a misfit for someone who is shopping their local tai chi choices and using this book. The general advice (how to find an instructor based on compatibility, for example, is good, altho at times a little non-specific) is fine, and there is obvs a lot of overlap in the movements, but, but, but.

I skimmed the QiGong, because, well, I will give you an example.

"Bone Marrow Cleansing" this is a heading that falls between "Mindful Movement vs. Mindless Exercise" and "Becoming Elegant with Mulan Quan". Bone Marrow cleansing is a set of movements (there are numbered steps and 4 not terribly helpful photos) with this claim: "the energy is encouraged and allowed to flow through the body, even the bone marrow, to cleanse this tissue of frantic energy. The tissue can function at a higher, clearer level if not burdened by old stress."

I don't have many opinions about my bone marrow, but I don't feel that it suffers from frantic energy or old stress. Perhaps this could help you, if you feel differently.

[ETA: A way better discussion of the topic can be found here, which I am much less motivated to mock, because it actually makes some sense to me. _Some_. I don't necessarily really believe it, and I'm not sure if we are supposed to.]

There's a box (one of the punch line boxes) in this section, which claims, "Sometimes in class, students express their concern for the environmental repercussions of releasing their heavy or toxic energy down into the earth. Look at this like our physical human waste, which becomes fodder or nutrients to the earth."

Clearly, Douglas is sincere, and this is a set of ideas that works for him. This set of ideas does not work particularly well for me.

Also, I didn't much care for his warmup exercises. Another example of risky stuff that he kinda sorta accepts has risks, but then brushes those risks aside. He's got a hip rotating warmup. "Close your eyes as you rotate the dan tien. At first this may challenge your balance, but you'll get better." That's not a great way to handle a balance issue at this point. Better to handle it by opening the ideas for the first n times, and then as one becomes accustomed, practice closing the eyes. Given how much tai chi is marketed to seniors, and given that this is a hip rotating warmup, you would _think_ there would be some recognition of the nerve issues associated with hip replacements, but, nope, nothin' here. Go check out Dr. Paul Lam, instead.

oh, and this is one of the all time best surveys of things-you-should-look-out-for-as-an-instructor that I have ever seen for any instructor led activity:

I'm very happy that I was finally motivated to read this book. It helped me navigate through a bunch of topics that are handled much better on various websites, but I would have had trouble structuring that exploration on my own. Now that I know a bit more about it in an orderly way, the book is of no particular further use to me, and I would recommend finding a more current and relevant overview if you want a book to accomplish a related purpose.
This past week, T. asked to go to church. I thought about trying to find out who brought church up, because it was probably someone at school, and then Having Words with them, but then I thought, hey, let's just roll with this. So T. and I assessed the Concord and Acton/Stow UU churches for this Sunday and decided we'd try our own parish which had a Tai Chi service. I mean, seriously: how cool is that? I get to restart martial arts AND go to a UU service AND satisfy my kid's curiosity about what this whole church thing is, in one compact hour, traveling a very small number of miles.

We had a great time. We knew a couple people there from preschool pickup/dropoff. The service was pleasant and T. was very patient. And now I had some energy to think about finding a teacher out here, which I have meant to do for ... years and ... haven't.

I eliminated one possibility, because whenever reviews of a dojo emphasize how tight the "family" there is, it makes me nervous. This is because I am on the autism spectrum.

I eliminated another possibility, because the woman instructor there does great outreach ... that involves references to fitness boot camps. While my sister-in-law luuuurrrrves them, I Do Not. Actually, that is an understatement. I have great injury paranoia and boot camps trigger it. BJJ instructors who do boot camps make me tremendously avoidant.

Which left me with a scattering of hard styles, a couple of kenpo shops (tempting only when I am at my most mindlessly aggressive, which I honestly try to avoid) and a very traditional operation which, if it weren't _so_ traditional kung fu, I would go for in a heartbeat. I probably will give them a try, because they sound like the right kind of people with the right kind of attitude and a very good pedagogical style. In the meantime, I got out a bunch of books I haven't looked at in a long while. I started with _The Complete Idiot's Guide to T'ai Chi & QiGong_, which I apparently bought in August 1999 from (about eleven months after I left and right around the time I started wing chun do). The first part of the book is motivational: Tai Chi is great and will fix Everything!!! This has better support in reality than a lot of things, but the tone and lengthiness of the rah rah is a little exhausting. Part 2 is about why you need a class, how to find a compatible instructor, what to expect from a class. Around about chapter 9, in part 2, he's (Bill Douglas) talking about the Dan Tien:

"Now tighten your sphincter muscles, as if you were pulling up your internal organs from within, and then immediately relax. Repeat this over and over, until you experience a subtle tugging sensation inside, just beyond where your fingers are pointing in to your upper pelvis or lower abdomen."

I don't really know anything about Dan Tien, but that sounds a lot like a kegel to me.

So then I googled Dan Tien kegel. You should give this a try. It Is Hilarious. If it were just tantric sex websites, it wouldn't be that funny. It's the combination of tantric sex websites with post-pregnancy advice, with advice for postmenopausal women. I mean, that is _excellent_. And it gives a whole new meaning to the martial arts jargon "internal style".

Excuse me while I giggle helplessly for a while. It's been a really great day.

ETA: Oh, meant to say that I debated for several minutes (a long while for me) what to wear to church and discarded the skirt as too JW and the shorts as inadequately respectful. I went in capris. Every woman there was wearing capris. When we arrived, there were a half dozen cars there. Three of them (including mine) were Honda Fits. I _so_ picked a good church for us to go to.

ETAYA: This particular one that showed up on that google search is spectacularly awesome. I've never had this problem, but I think I know people who did/do, and it really sucks because it tends to get dismissed.

A Few Words about Kindle Unlimited

When Kindle Unlimited sorta-leaked and then launched, there was the usual blast of coverage: here's why it will fail, here's how we should take advantage of it, etc. Lots of foolishness. There was also this:

Gaughran can run on a bit, but he really did ask the right questions, some of which are interesting to me, in particular this paragraph:

"So which kind of readers will it attract? Will it be all the bargain-hunting readers that swamp sites like BookBub and make limited-time 99c sales so effective? Will it gobble up the freehunters that make permafree such a winning strategy? Will it wean the power readers off box-sets? Will it increase the amount of reading (and, by extension, payments to authors) by those on tighter budgets? Will it be used by readers in addition to their normal purchasing habits, or will it replace them? Will it make short fiction and serials more attractive to readers? All interesting questions that will be answered over time."

I meant to ask my sister if she wanted this, and if I had been smart, I would have done so immediately and not only started the 30 day free but also saved the approximately $9.39 that she spent on a book which turns out to be included in Kindle Unlimited and by itself more or less justifies a full month of the subscription at the paid for level. Now, to be fair to my sister, she does not ordinarily spend that much on books (I encourage her to do so; she's just Real Cheap); she buys a lot of free books, 99c books and box-sets. I had looked over the Kindle Unlimited selection and concluded that I was reading too much academic press nonfiction and TradPub genre fiction that wasn't included, and too little of what was included, to bother with -- but I also noticed that I recognized some titles that she and other readers I know like her had really enjoyed over the last few months/year or so.

My sister finds the books she wants to read/buy by surfing through various recommendations and reviews on Amazon and other websites; her description of this process is one that I've read many times on other blogs. The goal is to feed the maw of time-to-read while keeping the cost-of-reading low enough. I, too, used to do this, only I don't any more, because I can buy any damn book I want (barring getting into antiquaria), so now I buy stuff when I hear the author being interviewed on NPR or watch them on the Daily Show, or the next book in a series I'm reading comes out or one of my friends on FB raves about something or WTF. Or I'm pursuing some nerd obsession and surfing through citations and bibliographies and notes and looking for books by people who are quoted in news stories or whatever.

It is in Amazon's interests to help its customers find value in the Long Tail; that is where it shines compared to All Other Retailers, who inevitably focus more on the bestsellers and the Known Quantities and the things which have already made it through layers of gatekeepers like slush pile readers and editors and buyers for the chain. Amazon needs people to read its Universal Slush Pile and successfully find stuff that they like. By differentiating, in Unlimited, between people who read more vs. less than a sample chapter (10%), and because they have recommendations engines that can mine the information they collect of how far into the book the buyer read, they have an opportunity to use their broke-ass customers to build a database that helps their not so broke-ass customers know which books are good for them.

Will it work?

Hard to tell. The problem with it is the one that Amazon's recommendations have been up against right from the beginning. Books are a large universe with sparse coverage. It's hard to find patterns, because it's hard to find overlap among customers that isn't just recommending bestsellers to everyone. But Unlimited helps customers: those who can now consume a lot more, at the price of 1-2 Real Books a month; they essentially have zero risk now in terms of experimentation, and possibly those who benefit from the behaviors of the voracious cheapskates. If voracious cheapskates have definite preferences and Unlimited lets them find more of what they like and abandon what they don't, then that information can percolate up to people who don't want to waste time or money on something they aren't likely to enjoy. Unlimited helps authors stuck in Long Tail purgatory: if they don't get _some_ kind of traction, they may never see more than the onesie twosie sales to people who already know them. Unlimited helps Amazon; those customers weren't going to spend much more money than that a month anyway, and they completely control the monthly cost.

I wish there were some way to find out whether the recommendation data coming out of this system is useful or not. But I have no intention of ever going back to work for someone else again, so I'm probably never gonna know. I mean, unless someone who does know feels like sharing, which seems unlikely, and probably a violation of their NDA.

Test driving a BMW i3

Since we will shortly have power being produced on our roof, I thought I would test drive some EVs and see what they are like. Yesterday evening, I went to Nissan and Tesla's websites and requested test drives. I had trouble with the BMW form (couldn't find the i3 on the mandatory model selector) so I called them this morning. T. and I drove to Sudbury (new dealership) to drive and ride in an i3.

We arrived early (we left a little early and then it took a lot less time to get there than I had anticipated) and spent some time sitting in the front and back seats of the i3 and looking at the cargo space in the rear. We looked at the wall mount device. We did not realize there was a small frunk, so I didn't look at it. I was pleasantly surprised at the general shape of the i3. I'm not great at understanding how a picture of a car will feel like when I'm next to it or in it, but this one was particularly hard to imagine based on photographs. There is lots of legroom and a good amount of adjustability. It is sort of a coupe, with no pillar between the doors. The back doors open backwards and you cannot open them without opening the front door. There seem to only be two seats in the back, with the space in the middle taken up by cupholders in what otherwise is a bench. It is an interesting choice. I have mixed feelings about the loss of that fifth seat, but R. seems to think that since we never have a fifth person in the car anyway, it doesn't really matter.

Our test drive started a little bit late. We met the person we talked to on the phone, the sales guy who backs him up, and ultimately took the test drive with a third man, who is the i3 expert at this dealership. He does not appear to be a sales guy, altho I am imperfect at detecting this. He was quite low key and calm. Later, I realized they didn't even ask to look at my driver's license, which is a little startling. I'm assuming they ran a relatively full background on me, since they had my first and last name with spelling, home address and both phone numbers; if a car dealership doesn't know what the credit bureaus and the DMV thinks of me based on all that, well, they just aren't even trying very hard.

We did not go on a freeway; this was a low speed test only. We spent some time in the parking lot after discussing how this -- and most EVs and probably hybrids, too -- differs from an ICE car. Basically, if I get this or a car like it, I'm never gonna touch the brake pedal again, because as soon as you take your foot off the gas, the regenerative braking slows the car quite dramatically. Obvs, because electric, great torque and a lot of power right away. When we were ready to leave the parking lot, the test drive guy ("dealer supervision") hung a dealer plate on the back, covering the backup camera. Fortunately, I had an opportunity to back up and around a corner in the parking lot (someone else was blocking our path) and thus I experienced the extremely video game like camera picture with superimposed green and red stripes to indicate where your path is. Later, when I backed up with the camera blocked, I got fairly close to another car (I knew this was happening) and thus had the opportunity to experience the audible indicator that I was getting pretty close to something else.

This car is the shit. I'm sure anyone who doesn't drive cheap cars (I've had two Honda Fits in a row, preceded by a 2002 WRX, which was fantastic, but very noisy and actually not that great on highways, and before that a used CRX) has already experienced wonderful technology in vehicle, but I have not. The camera was way better than the one in the 2007(?) Odyssey that my husband drives. The navigator is amazeballs and, if the Dealer Supervisor is to be believed, you can get the navigator with the option to show speed limits.

There's a compass (NNEESESSWWNW) indicator on the rear view mirror (which is not so obtrusive as to be annoying). You start the car by having the fob on or near you in the car, and then pushing the on/off button. There's a button to go into park, and then a gear shifter for DNR. I didn't use the horn and I didn't touch the wipers so I cannot speak to those. I did not use the sound system. There are climate control buttons, so you don't have to go through the iDrive for that, which is nice. The car locks as you gain speed. We did go over some bumps in the road. Compared to the Fit, the result is cushy without being squooshy (sorry -- my internal vocabulary. I don't know the Technical Terms for this). I suspect anyone used to riding around in, say, a Camry, would be bitching at the impact/stiffness. The seats were comfortable without being distractingly padded; again, this is compared to a Fit, so hard to know what a Normal Person would think.

I was surprised that there was any cargo space at all, honestly; I had low expectations. Of course it will be a huge disappointment vs. what I have now, if I decide to buy one. The roofline seems much higher than the Fit; not sure what I think of putting a bike rack on top of this. I may do some investigating.

The drive around town was very uneventful. As with my experience driving someone else's 3 series back in the late 1990s, it's easy to speed in a Bimmer.

The model I drove did not have the range extender; apparently you just cannot test drive them, partly because the US version is not "on demand" but kicks in when the battery is low.

The eucalyptus dashboard is pretty. The color range available for interior and exterior is really limited.

On balance, this is a car I would love to own and drive. I am not sure whether I would insist on the range extender. It's a tough call. It adds weight, and the engine's fuel economy is not as good as my current one. If I never used it, I'd be sacrificing performance for nothing. I have good confidence this thing will do my monthly trip to Mayberry without any problems, and while at book group, I could probably get permission to plug it in anyway. It is easily the most easy to drive car I have ever been in: no fine motor demand of inserting the key into the ignition (no, I'm not making a drunk joke), really only need the one pedal, the steering is incredibly precise and responsive. I feel like if someone learned to drive on this thing, switching to a typical ICE would be a big step, maybe not as big as driving a manual, but enough to maybe cause an accident. They are that different.

Amusingly, while I was parking the car back at the dealer, my phone rang with a Palo Alto number that wasn't in my Contacts. I said, I don't know who that is so I'm not going to answer it right now, but I actually did have a good idea who it probably was and they left voicemail. It was a Tesla person calling to schedule my test drive. T. and I will be going to Natick on Wednesday to give the Model S a try. T. is very committed to the i3 right now, but he has been similarly committed to the Tesla and the Leaf, so we'll have to see what he thinks. I've asked to at least get a look at/a chance to sit in a version with the optional third row seat, but they have made no promises. I did not specify engine size because honestly, I don't really care for test drive purposes because they aren't going to let me explore the relative performance on a test drive anyway.

I do not intend to test drive the Chevy Volt, because I'm a snob who thinks the all electric range of 38 miles on that thing is Not Serious. Realistically, I probably should just Get Over It; in practice, I don't see any reason to be realistic, since I don't have to be.

ETA: BMW does not intend to support a bike rack/roof rack for the i3. Hmmm. This is an interesting dilemma. Sure, you could fold the rear seats down (they fold flat! It's a true hatch!) and put one bike back there if you take the front wheel off, maybe a kids bike unmodified, perhaps even two. But yeesh. This is an issue.

ETAYA: Tesla options seem more extensive.

ETA some days later: Here is the Tesla test drive post:

Initial Surface Pro 3 Review

I probably should have warned my long time readers first; I willingly bought a Microsoft product.

A little background first. My older sister interviewed at the Squish in 1984, give or take a year. She loathed them, and went off to Bell Labs instead, then took a deep dive into JW end times prophecy and one of those chronic, exhausting, possibly psychological illnesses that so characterize my family. My father put some of his IRA (back when those were still kind of a new thing) money into Microsoft stock and all through the time I was at Amazon, he kept trying to convince me to go work for Microsoft instead. No amount of arguing about the long hours, bad treatment of women or Has Been nature of the Squish would change his mind. I did work on their campus for a few months, part time, when I was on the DEC Alpha NT C/C++ compiler project.

But I would have flipped burgers before I bought Microsoft products back then. I did fork over for the Mac Office for Students or whatever back in 2007 or 2008. I was on a board and that was the expected communication form. My husband has a desktop and that's where we do our taxes every year. My efforts to figure out a non-PC solution for that particular problem are not yet successful, altho I am beginning to feel optimism.

When I realized just how ignorant I had become of the Microsoft ecosystem AND started to believe they really were actually going to survive the transition we're in the middle of, I thought I'd better stick a toe into the muck again. So I picked up a Surface Pro 3, since review volume is finally substantial enough and positive enough to justify experimentation. I also bought Office 2013, without Outlook.

First things first: I LOVE the kickstand. My friend R. who visited in February had a different Surface, and the kickstand was enormously attractive. Apple's case decisions have permanently confused me, and the kickstand is the kind of thing I wish they were doing. I also LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE the keyboard. It is comfortable. The keys behave well. And there is none of this bluetooth mysteriously deciding to quit working crap that I've been dealing with for years now.

The pen is interesting. I keep forgetting it exists. I like the touch screen, altho I tend to forget it is a touch screen part of the time.

My efforts to get LastPass plugin working with IE have not been very successful, so I downloaded Firefox and everything is just brilliant with that.

Second, Complaints! I have them. Setting up a Microsoft account was not difficult, and it defaults to an administrator while setting up the machine. But the instructions for setting up a child's account online and while doing it got me to a point where I was told I needed a parent to set this up so go online (no link supplied!!!) to fix that.


I went through the few pages on FamilySafety that exist. I asked R., who shrugged -- he knew nothing about this. Eventually, I thought to just create my son's account on the login website, where it worked. It sent me through a whole credit card .50 verification procedure -- which I approve of -- and required me to obvs have an account of my own already set up to be the parent, which could have been confusing if I'd done things in the wrong order. I don't have any problem with this system beyond the TELL ME WHERE TO FUCKING START YOU IDIOTS part of it. I suppose it's nice to know that some things never change. If you want to use Microsoft products, you'd better already know how.

I had trouble with the camera. I was able to find it when I wanted to add a picture to my account -- but I couldn't find a button to press to make it take the picture. R. said just touch anywhere, and indeed, that worked, which is pretty amazing. But again, you sort of have to see someone else use it first or already know.

I downloaded the FB app. It seems fully functional. I downloaded the ancestry app, and I don't think it'll draw a tree for you, no matter what you do, which makes it less functional than the one on my phone. Weird. I keep thinking I must have missed something? Of course I can just use the web interface so no harm no foul.

I'll be working on connecting more accounts, probably, maybe downloading more apps. I may explore OneNote, altho I'll have to see how that plays in other ecosystems before I consider switching. I'll also be looking at how Amazon video plays. R. claims I can connect this thing to my Apple display. I'm not sure I believe him. (I have the Thunderbolt display. He would be right if I had the Cinema display.) I'm excited that this thing has ftp, since I use that for my website and I don't have it on my Chromebook (I use Cloud9 if I'm dumb enough to update my website from something other than my Mac.).

The rationale for buying this had several pieces:

(1) Oooh, cool gadget. I want one.
(2) In my real life, it is important to me to understand the future prospects of a variety of companies. In particular, I need to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the dominant mobile computing platforms (google/android, apple, amazon/kindle) and recognize when the field changes. I had no visibility into Microsoft's offerings, and they suddenly started looking plausible.
(3) I have kids; they should have at least some experience with anything they are likely to need to know about as they get older.

The Pro is already satisfying these three desires. Next up will be deciding whether it is a better travel option than the Chromebook. On the negative side, the Pro is so fucking expensive I might as well just bring the Mac with me. On the positive side, I sure love this screen. For the purposes of someone reading this review, if you aren't already quite dedicated to the Microsoft universe, I don't see a lot of reason to switch from any of the other universes, especially given the price point.

_Hokey Pokey_, Jerry Spinelli

If someone had told me this was kinda like Teletubbies, and kinda "Baby SF", I would absolutely have given it a shot. But that's not really how it is being marketed, which is sort of a pity. It kinda _isn't_ like Teletubbies or "Baby SF", because it's more a Buddhist metaphor for dying (which as near as I can tell is completely escaping most reviewers awareness), and I'm pretty sure that is not going on in Teletubbies.

Book group up in Mayberry (<-- not its real name) picked this one and due to two weekends in a row out of town, and a little confusion on my part about the book (I had it mixed up with a different book, the name of which I cannot now recall), I hadn't tackled it earlier. But wow, it was a crazy fast read. Like, 1 hour. Spinelli is _not_ wasting your time. That said, I don't understand how this is a kids' book. This is a book about childhood, aimed firmly at adults, and specifically boomer adults contemplating, reluctantly, their own mortality, so Spinelli is sort of spoonfeeding it to them so they'll start working through the end of life process (giving away their treasures, passing along their wisdom, turning over leadership to the next crop of kiddies, communicating to the younger set the things they loved when they were younger), instead of persisting in avoiding it (sharpie'ing the tattoo back on their belly = attempts to extend youth/deny aging, trying to get a new tattoo = experiments at rebirthing?).

Spinelli's heavy hand shows through twice. First, and other reviewers noticed this, with Harold "the Destroyer". Jack is entirely too savvy in the way he walks Albert through the fear that Harold understands so well that he has become an expert on inflicting it on others. First Jack has the Destroyer clicker him. Then twice more. Then Jack self-clickers repeatedly. And only then does Jack ask Albert to destroy the Clicker. Is Jack a leader in Hokey Pokey? Sure. But seriously? That's a bit over the top. Even Harold has a moment of redemption, now that he can be perceived as justanotherkid again. Second, Jack perceives the movement towards adolescence, or at least awareness of tomorrow and the possibility of directed action over time to accomplish goals, as something which is out of his control, a ticket to get on a one way train and he doesn't know what is at the end of the journey. His primary response is to Make Sure He Sucks the Marrow Out of This Life in Hokey Pokey. I don't think I've ever met a kid like that -- but that is utterly characteristic of many people who engage in conscious life review as part of a dying process, whether it occurs early in life through a disease process, or due to old age.

But you know? It's an engaging little SF novel that takes its world seriously. Are there elements of Is It a Dream or Is It Real? Sure. Are they a bit worn (the yellow ribbon in the pocket)? Yeah, but you know, I think that may have been part of the point. Hokey Pokey is an attempt to get adults to treat the world of their children with a little more respect by reminding them that they once lived in another place, even when their parents were nagging at them to do their homework or put their dirty socks in the hamper. It is reasonably successful at that. And even better, it is an attempt to employ all the warm, fuzzy nostalgia of the childhood transition to Having Executive Function to make the further transition to whatever happens after our life here is done just that little bit less bad scary, and a little bit more okay.

Obvs, if no one else is talking about this interpretation, YMMV. If you're having trouble getting into the book, just start a few pages in and it should go fairly smoothly.

Oddly, I liked the book better than anyone else at group, which is the opposite of the way it usually works.

Here is someone else's review, that I thought was pretty good, but which has a somewhat different take:

On a gender note, we have identified some issues. First, the group didn't much care for the Girls. They seemed like GirlBoys -- rather than having girly characteristics such as sitting around and braiding each others hair. I played a lot with the boys, but I still did the hair braiding thing; it is a gap. Second, I had an issue with the idea that Jubilee's time came after Jack's. They supposedly showed up in Hokey Pokey at the same time, battling it out on their trikes. But girls stereotypically mature earlier, so Jubilee's time coming second seemed wrong. OTOH, I could view it as support for my death theory; stereotypically, women die older/later. Third, Jubilee has a younger brother in Hokey Pokey, Albert, who she prides herself on snuggling so he doesn't need the Snuggler, and feels envy when Albert admires Jack, and as she moves toward "her time" to leave Hokey Pokey, begins to have more distance from her brother. This is a big ole mismash of nurturing female, gender norms, gender dichotomies and For Women to Be Real Adults Their Nurturing Nature Must Be Suppressed. So, bleah. All around bleah, from every perspective. I feel like if you're gonna do gender norms, where is the hair braiding?

Finally, as Jubilee matures, she digs a trench to try to break into the Forbidden Hut. But as Jack matures, he climbs a hill and grabs the moon and almost misses the train. I'm too tired to get into dichotomies and things which are associated with female/femininity vs. male/masculinity. It was a little annoying.

But Spinelli managed to write a book that read really fast. He does not waste the reader's time. I really respect that.
Long ago, I used to use "nutter" as a login, a handle, a userid. I used it because I absolutely adored Gaiman and Pratchett's _Good Omens_, and in particular, I adored Agnes. I did also recognize that I was self-labeling as crazy, and I was really good with that part, too.

Because I grew up as a JW, and because my father was sort of top-end working class (electrician), and because my early childhood occurred in the 1970s, my encounters with the "helping professions" and other mental health professionals were profoundly limited. That is, our primary care doctors tried to get us to counselors and our parents said no, because our religion said that that would cause us to lose our faith. So suicide attempts, anorexia, bulimia, depression, and what were, in retrospect, psychotic breaks (not all of this was me, mind you) went entirely unmonitored, untreated (well, I think there may have been vitamin B shots for the anorexia) and poorly managed. Just as it took a while to get the hang of voting and otherwise engaging in good citizenship, it took me a while to get the hang of caring for myself mentally and emotionally, after I quit being a JW. But eventually, I paid attention to my problems, deployed my considerable cognitive resources, and somewhere along the line a boyfriend (possibly more than one, if I'm being honest with myself) asked me if I knew about autism, and when I finally paid attention, I went, hey! There's a particular kind of crazy that is Me! Woot! I had some issues (still do, some days) with whether this is legitimately a disorder in all cases vs. an alternative way of being, and I am a Fervent Believer in the Good Things associated with neurodiversity. But while I continue to believe that age-peer, highly regimented schooling is Not the Best Way to Raise Kids, I also recognize that we live in an imperfect world and that we maybe don't have infinite resources to make everything absolutely the best it can possibly be for everyone all the time, and sticking 20+ kids in a classroom pointed towards an adult at the front to learn stuff in a well-defined and consistently presented way is not an unreasonable compromise.

I like to think this is reality based thinking about how to do things. I sort of disapprove of idealism/True Belief/ideology/faith (cf. raised a JW and am not any more).

Statement of perspective out of the way, I'd like to introduce you to this gentleman:

He has written a book which has generated a lot of seemingly favorable (no zero star, many 4 star) reviews on Amazon.

The lone 2 star review is remarkably restrained: be really careful with this book; it might lead to a delayed dx. But even the 4 star reviews contain statements of this nature:

"I have a kid on the autism spectrum (yeah, I'm pretty sure) and yesterday his brother said "Do you think he's really autistic? Or is he just weird?" It's a fine line, sometimes. If you have a kid with difficulties, this book is really worth reading."

So, basically everyone else's kid is over-diagnosed, even tho the reviewer accepts the legitimacy of the dx for their own kid.

"However, I feel that the author takes the enormity of the mis/over-diagnosis and mis/over-medication crisis a little out of context where he fails to take into account how utterly powerless many parents are to change their child's experience in the classroom -- which for many is over-regimented and abysmally lacking in the normal physical outlets required by healthy, active children - without resorting to seeking out a literal *label* that is the ticket to getting needed accommodations or educational assistance. In other words, teachers are overburdened, budgets are shrinking, all that boring stuff..."

That's really a surprise to me. I was told, right from the very beginning, that the reason to get a dx for my kids was to ensure they received appropriate support from the school system. It has _always_ _always_ _always_ been about integrating with services. It wasn't about drugs. It wasn't about defining pre-emptively what might or might not be possible for them. It was about making sure that they didn't get slotted into some category like "bad kid", when there was something going on with them that wasn't about how hard they were trying, or whether they were from a good home or whatever.

But here's a real doozy (again, from a 4 star review!): "Unfortunately, Gnaulati doesn't work very hard to help distinguish real ADHD/bipolar/autism from false forms: after complaining about fuzzy, over-general definitions from other professionals, he explains the difference mostly in terms of how interacting with different children makes him feel. Likewise, after regretting the tendency to seek medical rather than psychological explanations for child behaviors, he turns to evolutionary psychology and theories of inherent gender difference, as though these aren't based on similarly overblown notions of how much we understand about the workings of the brain. If there's a solution to the problem of over-diagnosis, it's actual scientific rigor, not trading one set of facile assumptions for another."

So despite some extremely serious criticisms of this book, reviewers nevertheless really want to believe what is on offer here. Again, from a 4 star review: "I agree with him, so I have a bias to like the book, I suppose."

This is quackery. I know that a lot of people really, really, really wish that the higher rates of autism diagnoses "proved" that these weren't really autism at all. But I know that my kids are basically just like my sisters and I were when we were little. And our parents when they were little. And aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents and the more genealogical research I do, the more pervasive this shit looks in my family tree (also, the research that says that ADHD and autism and schizophrenia all tend to show up in relatives of each other? Alas! I have entirely too much anecdata to argue with that thesis.). And while many of us grew up and paid our bills and got jobs and were able to sustain some relationships, we didn't stop being autistic, just because we very carefully avoided ever encountering mental health care, much less getting a diagnosis. We were just miserably bad at social stuff and had weird neurological problems (seizures and migraines -- hell, even the men in my family get migraines. I didn't even know that was _weird_ until a year or so ago) and epic sensory problems. Epic. I spent a lot of time when my kids were young and I was working actively on my reproductive website stuff laughing my head off at people who had a kid with allergies or sensory issues and how difficult it was to find detergents and shampoo and wtf without fragrance. I had to find all that stuff for myself -- and a husband that was the same way so we wouldn't drive each other nuts (well, not nuts in that way, anyway).

So the next time you're wondering what's going to happen when all these little kids diagnosed with autism are All Growed Up, well, remember that there have been untold generations of people with autism before them who didn't receive any accommodations or assistance or supportive therapy. Hopefully, what we are doing will help, at least a little. If, on the other hand, you quail at the idea that the world has that many fucked up, broken, crazy people in it, well, try very hard not to be one of the fucked up, broken, crazy people by descending into denial. Diagnoses are descriptions that offer opportunities to make a better world in the future, through actions we take today. Sometimes that's a prescription for pharmaceuticals. Sometimes that is a suggestion to try therapeutic riding, or a placement in a substantially separate classroom that can be modified in a way to enable a child to learn who isn't able to learn in a mainstream classroom. Sometimes it's a recognition that we'd better pick a career, friends, and romantic partners who are compatible with our particular makeup. (Perhaps someday soon, we'll have data on the efficacy of Disney therapy!)

Is that such a bad thing?

If you think it is, you're just a different kind of nutter. Or, to take a moral perspective, rather than a therapeutic one, a crappy human being.

The last thing I want to point out about Gnaulati is that he exhibits an unusually clear case of how diagnostic communities behave. There were practitioners who would ONLY diagnose autism in conjunction with ID (intellectual disability, you know it by other words that Polite, Well-Educated people don't use any more, altho the abbreviation, MR, is still occasionally deployed). After all, Very Intelligent People must not be Like Those People. There were other practitioners who would ONLY diagnose autism in the absence of ID. You could think of this as more or less like refusing to diagnose pneumonia in someone who had asthma, or requiring pneumonia before diagnosing with asthma. If you squint just right, it sort of looks reasonable, but anyone who has internalized the idea that autism is primarily a disorder of social communication, with a need for routine and some assortment of sensory/neurological stuff going on, is going to realize that autism and substantial intellectual capacity are more than merely compatible -- but often occur separately. That relentless focus on details turns out to be pretty incredible in some contexts, but does not insure measurable intelligence, nor does measured intelligence require a lack of social skills. Gnaulati has outlived his diagnostic community, and is thus forced to take his approach (if you're smart, you must not be autistic! Bad diagnosis!) to the lay public, as he has lost the battle at large so thoroughly that all those efforts to keep Asperger's (with its mandated normal or higher IQ) separate from autism have definitively failed.

When I started thinking about writing this post, I was In a Mood. I stumbled across the Salon excerpt when I was trying to better understand what people meant by the term "introvert" (it's not new to me -- it has just always bugged me and I was trying to articulate why I thought it wasn't a good category to someone and failing), and it just made me angry. I felt like the 2 star reviewer: this is a dangerous book, a dangerous commentator who might well encourage a kind of denial that is bad for the person who needs help, bad for the family trying to help that person, and bad for future society that must somehow manage that person if they do not receive effective assistance in learning to live in the community without hurting themselves and/or others. And I wanted there to be someone to say, hey, this guy is awful. Don't listen to him. What I kept seeing instead were these seemingly favorable comments. But when I drilled down, I started to understand that the favorable comments really didn't take Gnaulati's thesis all that seriously. People really believe in their kids' diagnoses, and they believe that diagnoses are a reasonable real world strategy for connecting kids to the help they need to learn. They just sort of wish that we could all live in a world that let us be our own, nutter selves without having to interact with other people in a structured way. And I guess I can't really argue with that wish, only observe that wishes aren't plans.