Thursday, December 18, 2008


I think I may have Asperger's Syndrome (aka, high functioning autism).

This past weekend I was at an autism group in Second Life, although not because of how I identify. They were talking about accessibility technology and I was invited because I know about devices the Deaf community uses (my partner is Deaf). While there I noticed a poster of Einstein (one of my heroes when I was a kid) and looked up on the web why they would have a pic of him. I noticed some similarities to my own story and found more once I started researching the topic.

So I guess that places me in the self-diagnosed category, but I plan on talking to my neurologist about it next month. After that either another appointment or a referral to a psychologist (I have already picked one out I want to see). I really *hate* being in that grey area, especially since I can not do a proper diagnosis from inside as it were. For example, even though transsexuality is something people self-report as, I was unable to fully identify as such until a therapist agreed with me.

I tend to obsess about something (I have sucked up lots of info on this the past few days) but am lousy at social interactions. Good for computer programming but not so good when I need to interact with people, be it work or otherwise. Recently my partner needed to get our clothes from the laundry room: I said just a minute, and I was still on Second Life when she returned.

There are a triad of impairments for diagnosis:

Social Communication: I repetitively miscue how someone will react to what I say. At work usually I am instructed not to speak directly with customers/clients/superiors. I moderate several email support groups and when I actively moderate them usually a flame war erupts with people telling me I took the wrong action.

Social understanding: I really take things literally. When I get tasked with something I follow instructions to the letter, even if there was a mistake in what I was told and I knew it. I tend to avoid groups (parties and such) and when I do am not quite sure what to do or what to talk about.

Imagination: I time my walking patterns to hit lights exactly when they change or get on the right point of a train to make my transfer. Recently they keep changing the timing of the lights on my route to work -- this causes no end of stress. Another thing is over-compensating in planning: maps to walk a few blocks, building in *way* more time than is needed to get somewhere (so usually waiting for everyone else), notes to myself about things I would know to do, and doing "dry runs" in advance to get somewhere, and so on. Even this post was over-planned: writing it, editing it, checking it for completeness, repeat as needed.

I have been diagnosed with a host of things that are associated: epilepsy, giftedness, hyperactivity. Whether or not transsexuality is co-morbid too is a matter of debate. Maybe I should list a few things from my past too, bear in mind people with Asperger's are typically great at focus but lousy with social cues:

Grade school:
* Drew a spaceship -- including the detail of adding time travel devices to it. Yes, in 2nd grade I had already grasped the problem of long durations in traveling to other planets so knew I had to find a solution to it.
* At the urging of other students matter-of-factly pronounced to the cafeteria cooks the food tasted like dog food. I was shocked when they actually took offense.
* Took an IQ test and got classified as gifted when it was somewhere north of 130. Which they found odd because I had also been diagnosed as hyperactive. I enjoyed it: it meant a tutor, summer day camp, and a special class when I got to middle school. All where I was encouraged to explore whatever I was interested in (which is how I knew how to program before middle school).

Middle School and High school:
* A relative died. My 1st reaction when I got home? To program my computer to spit out quadratic equations and then start solving them as fast as possible.
* I was falsely accused of yelling an epithet at a cop. When my parents confronted me about it I replied that I could not state I didn’t (how do you prove a negative?). They assumed I was trying to weasel out of it and that earned me the same punishment as if I had actually done it.

College and Graduate School:
* My first degree was in physics, having been interested in science as far back as I could remember. I went through what is typically a 5 year program in 4 years. Then decided to hop over to computer science in the short span between looking at grad schools and applying to them.
* I accidentally (honestly!) found some ways of doing things on computer networks I was not supposed to be able to do. Usually because I was so intent on doing something else or just exploring. Generally to the consternation of systems managers. Their solution was often to tell me not to tell anyone else how I did what I did. An early boss challenged me to break into a new computer: I informed him he should take back the challenge.
* The last thing in grad school was a comprehensive exam covering all of my classes. We were instructed to read all of the instructions -- I glanced at them and raced into the exam, being one of the first ones done. Only afterwards did I find out I had answered everything and the instructions had said to pick which questions in each section to work on. I was so tunnel-visioned on the questions that I did not notice that in the instructions.

One of my favourite work anecdotes:
A client made a change request to a design. My response was to tell him "Why would you want to do that?" and then list all of the details of the design (which was huge!) that would need to change and how 90% of what he wanted was already there anyways. I did not realize it sounded like sarcasm until I was told so. I just reasoned they were paying me for my professional input so I had to be honest. My boss at the time (who was new) learned the hard way that I was not the person to drag to a client meeting and agree with everything that was said.

So does it sound like I meet the criteria?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Change for People with Disabilities: Time to Email Obama!

My partner, Andrea Shettle, wrote the following and is circulating it:

Change for People with Disabilities: Time to Email Obama!

On November 4, 2008, millions of people with disabilities across the United States and around the world joined our non-disabled peers in watching the United States election results. Obama supporters cheered or wept to learn that the next US president would be Obama. Then we cheered or wept again when Obama mentioned people with disabilities in his acceptance speech. History was made–not only for America, not only for Black people, not only for Kenya and all of Africa, not only for Indigenous peoples, but also for people with disabilities.

But we cannot afford to allow the moment to end here. Whether we supported Obama, McCain, or another candidate, we all know there is far too much work ahead before we can say, “Yes, we have made real change for people with disabilities.”

It is time for people with disabilities, our loved ones, our neighbors, and colleagues to join together, across ideological divides, to reach out to Obama. We should all send an email to Kareem Dale, Obama’s National Disability Vote Director (at, WITH COPIES TO Anne Hayes, a volunteer on the Obama Disability Policy Committee (at

First, we should thank Obama — and also Kareem Dale — for mentioning people with disabilities in Obama’s acceptance speech on November 4. Ensure that they understand how much it matters simply for us to be included. How did you feel when Obama mentioned us? Share your story.

Second, we should tell Obama and Kareem Dale that we are aware of Obama’s disability platform. He promised to increase educational opportunities; end discrimination; increase employment opportunities; and support independent, community-based living for Americans with disabilities. And he promised to sign the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), the first international, legally-binding human rights treaty for people with disabilities. Tell Obama and Kareem Dale that we are ready to call Obama to account if he fails us. But more importantly, we are ready to work with him for change for people with disabilities.

It is important to send your disability-related emails to BOTH Kareem Dale AND Anne Hayes ( AND between now and inauguration day. Kareem Dale’s email address may change between now and January 20, 2009. Anne Hayes can help ensure that emails sent to Kareem Dale are not lost during this time of transition.

Both Kareem Dale and others who have worked on disability issues within the Obama campaign are ready to receive YOUR emails on disability-related issues for US President-elect Obama. Emails are welcome from across the United States and around the world. If you are a US citizen, then please say so in your email.

Learn more about Obama’s plan for people with disabilities at:

Yes, the video is captioned. And if you scroll down to the bottom of the page, you can download Obama’s Full Plan for people with disabilities in PDF format (62 Kb).

Read Obama’s acceptance speech at:

Want to read someone else’s letter to Obama before you write your own? Come to:

Learn more about the CRPD at

If you wish to contact Obama’s staff on some topic other than disability, then you can send an email via his web page at

Please circulate this email freely, or post this at your own blog or web site.

This text was first posted at The most updated version will be here, so please consult before cross-posting.

“It is the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, DISABLED and not disabled — Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been a collection of Red States and Blue States: we are, and always will be, the United States of America.”
–President-Elect Barack Obama
Acceptance speech, November 4, 2008; emphasis added

Monday, November 03, 2008

Remember, Remember, the 4th of November ...

The two days are right next to each other, fate?

Guy Fawkes evening: (Nov 5)
Marked in a former world superpower (the UK) between two groups (the Catholics and the Protestants).
A person (Guy Fawkes) representing one group (the Catholics) went on the attack (tried to blow up Parliament).

Election evening: (Nov 4)
Marked in a current world superpower (the US) between two groups (the Rebublicans and the Democrats).
A person (John McCain) representing one group (the Rebublicans) went on the attack (produced negative ads).

Guy Fawkes failed in his attempt and the UK marks his execution. See where this is going?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Linking Dual Identities and Disability Issues in SL

I have noticed an interesting upswing in the number of correlations on the net between Second Life and disability issues recently. Blogs (like this), alternative SL clients, talks at SLCC, Second Ability, more disability groups in SL constatly springing up, and so on. It almost looks like a meme.

Given my own connections (having a Deaf spouse who works with disability issues and my having epilepsy) it only makes sense that I would want to reflect on the question of how this relates to my two characters. Maybe also delving into the dichotomies between them.

My older character (Kara Spengler) is pretty close to myself with a few tweaks. Okay, so I am not a humanoid cat, but otherwise we are pretty similar. Unless my last name comes into it, someone talking to my avatar is pretty much the same as someone talking to my RL self. [btw, when I say Kara below I mean the character rather than just not using 1st person when talking about myself]

At the beginning of the year I also created another character (Caitlyn Clawtooth). After a few days I decided to have her be a child. I have written about that decision elsewhere and will probably repost it here at some point too. Kara occasionally takes on kid-form and looks pretty close to Cait and the two have some matching things in their wardrobes.

It is almost like they are two completely different people at times. Their personalities are quite different and I tend to interact with SL differently depending on which one I use (for Kara SL is more a tool she uses a lot to extend reality, for Cait SL is a completely different world). The ties between the two are very close though. For example, Kara walked away from being an officer in one thing when Cait was not welcome there, Kara is extremely protective of Cait, and kid avatars in SL in general.

Now that I have wandered way off course how to get back to the main thread …

For purposes of simplification we are dealing with two populations in SL: disabled users and non-disabled users. While the former group tends to immerse themselves into their second life, the latter views it as just an extension of how they conduct their RL. It is my position that Cait represents the first view and Kara the second. Kara likes SL but as that character SL is interesting but just another electronic communications medium. Cait only exists in SL and things relating to it.

Interesting how two characters that you would think would be similar have some pretty fundamental differences.

Monday, September 08, 2008

These Old houses

Well, it must be fall since I am feeling reflective.

When I was growing up I lived in an 1800s farmhouse in New Hampshire. Well, technically my first year or so were in 2 other houses, but my memories of those were only because of there being pictures of me at them. It was a nice relaxing place: 60 acres of mostly woods and a few fields. Leftover buildings from when it was a working farm. Little traffic on the road. My cousin’s family within walking distance. Basically the kind of place a kid would love.

College and graduate school were a succession of dorms and apartments. Some great friends there, but the buildings were no more than where to keep my stuff. After that I lived one place for a year, then in another for the past 11+ years .... but both of them I call ‘home’ only by default. I have been living in Virginia since 1990 ..... but will always consider myself a New Hampshireite and my apartment here just where I happen to be at the moment.

It is more about the area than the specific building, even though it holds memories. When my parents sold my childhood home I did not come forward to say I wanted it .... but I get misty-eyed when I visit their new home up there the moment I start seeing rocks that are not down here.

In Second Life I built the house I wanted (even though my building abilities were rudimentary at the time). As much as possible it was built to blend into the environment. To the point where someone would be walking through what they thought was a park (my roof, actually) and get startled when they walked over a skylight. Some of the features:
- grass coloured walls
- large flat roof area (trees, rocks, a fire circle, etc)
- built to look like part of the landscape around it
- most of the inside was one huge room, which had trees, a large rock, and the ground being the floor

The pics of that house are at .

I was tweaking it constantly. The biggest annoyance was some ads near me spoiling the tranquil atmosphere but I was working on that. As I was making progress an ad tower much larger than the others cropped up. It was a huge setback, but not a complete defeat.

I became deeply involved in setting up another SL project earlier this year. With being there all the time, I was rarely at my house. Paying the monthly cost of it almost seemed pointless, but I still liked the place.

Then I reached the last straw,

One of the ad farmers bought a plot next to me and put up a huge monstrosity. A big green thing spewing particles 3000 meters in the air, spinning xxx ads, and lagging the area to 1/3 of the speed the area was at before it was built.

Ok, that was it, I was out of there. The ironic thing was she always goes on about her being part of the native american culture, a culture that respects the environment. But who was littering the landscape and forcing something meant to be in harmony with it to be taken down and sold? Right now I am living on a sky platform near there and continuing my original mission to clean up the area, but I do miss that house.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

They're Coming to Take Them Away, Ha Ha!


Finally Linden Lab is cracking down on advertising in Second Life. After allowing them to do whatever they wanted for years, they will put new stringent rules (including licensing for any they want to continue) in place on Octber 1.

Many parties will probably be slated for that day. :)

News headline it would have been nice to see 8 years ago

"After a recount, Gore wins in Florida"

Friday, August 22, 2008

Blast from the past

While browsing around I found some of my old entries on a blog I completely had forgotten I even had here. I need to start keeping track of things like that.

Decisions, decisions ...

Andrea and I currently have Sidekicks that are now contract-free,

The iPhone is out.

The Sidekick 2008 is out.

The first Android-based phone is rumoured to be due this fall.

A phone for mobile ASL over existing networks is being tested.

Now the hard part. To stat pat or decide what toy to buy.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The sidebar widget says it so it must be so

blog readability test

Blogs 'n me

When I first started blogging it was at livejournal four years ago. Eventually I also had one at Free-Association and quite a few other places. It certainly was a whole lot easier than my old manually editing HTML all the time! I blogged about all kinds of stuff: from a diary of my SRS trip to geek stuff to daily observations to memes.

Because I was using livejournal so much I bought a paid account. I did not really need it, but I liked the ability to post by mail and wanted to support the company. Within the past year I created two more livejournal accounts for my main two SL characters.

Then LJ went downhill. The blurring between paid and basic accounts. The usual corporation sale to someone bigger. The creation of a new account that paid for itself with advertisements.

Finally they went too far. The announcement that free accounts would show advertising unless you were logged in. Not only that, you would have no idea what was being advertised using your work if you were logged in when you looked at your page.

Bye-bye LJ.

I am stuck choosing between blogger and wordpress though. While I like the wordpress software, I do not like the support I am seeing at the site ("I have never heard of twitter so it must not be popular" from an employee). With blogger though I am seeing lots of things I like, including features I was paying for at livejournal (like posting via email) and ones I did not even have access too (the various connections with twitter for example). Looks like blogger won the contest to be my new blog site. I have created another blog here for one of my second life characters and will combine the other (Kara Spengler) into this blog.

Hello Blogger.

Some of the features I like here:
- third party integration, so I can hook up things for blog notifications to my twitter and archive my twitters here
- all sorts of gadgets you can use, including non-listed ones like having my recent tweets
- an extensible framework
- posting via email is free, including attaching pictures
- a thriving beta features program with a real discussion area about anything on it
- what looks to be good support in general
- integration with one of my existing logins *and* openid
- owned by a stable company so I do not need to worry about someone coming in and changing policies
- I am sure I will realize others as time goes on

Now the question: I do not want to leave livejournal with content they can use as advertising pages.  However I do not just want to throw away 4 years of writing either. Anyone have any good ideas? I have set my mail blog there to be friends-only, but that is only a temporary measure.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Am I a bit too hep about blog integration?

blogging via email? check

attaching pictures to those emails? check

blogger entries being twittered? check

twitters in my blogger sidebar? check

daily blog of my twitters? check (first one is tonight)

filtering out said post from my twitter updates? mulling ideas

Try this again ... Pic of me

Will this work?


"The code is more what you would call 'guidelines' than actual rules" -
Capt. Barbossa

Test from sidekick

Hopefully this works
This is a test post

is this thing on?

this is a test posting via email