December 18th, 2001


Lack of access

For those worrying (or caring) about the lack of updates yesterday, it all boils down to work's internet access vanishing.

At 11 O'clock, we lost internet access. I was about to phone our ISP when I got a call telling me our second building had lost access to the server. As our internet access is routed through this second building, it seemed likely that we'd lost connectivity there.

We're linked by a pair of radios, so it seemed likely that one of them had broken. That kind of thing being beyond my ken, I called our "4 hour callout" maintenance people. Fiveand a half hours later, at 4:30, the guy arrived, confessed to never having sen our kind of setup before, unplugged one radio and plugged in a spare, frowned at it, told me it was too dark to go on the roof and left again, promising to return the next day.

This morning at 9:00, he arrived again, and we took a look at the radio in the second building. Which had no flashing lights on it (in the computer world flashing lights are a sure sign that something is working). So we traced the power cable from it, and discovered the plug on the floor, next to a socket that was now plugged into.....a heater! Seems that someone (we never found out who) had decided that heat was more important than anything that might happen to be plugged into that socket. I have no idea why people think that anything they don't understand must be unimportant, but that's the way it seems to go.

One quick socket change later, all is working again, I have a shitload of emails to read and about 150 news stories to catch up on and can finally update my livejournal again.

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Autism - somewhere down the line

Another one of my beliefs is that most of the traits that people have are variants. That there is no "autism" as an on-off problem, but rather that people diagnosed as autistic are ones beyond a certain point on that scale. Of course, the scales we measure on are entirely human inventions, and I suspect that over the next few decades, as our understnaind of both genetic and neural processes increases, we'll have a better understanding of what scales to measure on.

That is, I don't mean to say that "everyone is a bit schizophrenic", as much as "everyone has certain tendencies/character traits that when taken to extremes are the syndrome known as schizophrenia". For instance, I wouldn't say that everyone has an obsessive compulsive tendency, but I would say that everyone has a tendency to worry about things and/or have strange little rituals they engage in when stressful, and that when these are extreme enough they are identified as obsessive/compulsive disorders.

Anyway, I was thinking about it because of two Wired articles, one of which is an autism test and the other talks about the high occurence of autism in Silicon Valley and discusses the possibility that many 'geeks' are borderline autistic (or as I'd put it, further along the autism line). After all, the inclination towards abstract ideas rather than socialisation, the ability to concentrate on ideas for hours while ignoring all around them, all of it starts looking suspiciously like in order to be that kind of inventive person you need to be partially autistic.

Except that I'd put it a different way: Everyone has a trait (or set of traits) that makes them less inclined to socialise and more inclined to abstract thought. Those with very little are not inclined towards mathematics or writing, but more towards a strong socialisation and group activities. Those with a larger amount are inclined towards maths or writing or other activities that require a pair of spectacle held together by sellotape. Those with very large amounts are inclined to sit in the corner, focus internally and not notice the world outside of them except as it applies to their obsessions.

This, then gives some kind of explanation for why autism exists (if there's a normal distribution for 'abstractness', then you'd expect a certain percentage of people to be autistic).

It is better to travel indefinitely....

This evening I head from Glasgow to Bridge of Allan for a game. I get off in Stirling (because the Glasgow->Aberdeen train bypasses Bridge of Allan and goes straight to Dunblane), hang about on the platform for 20 minutes and catch the next train to Dunblane (which does stop at Bridge of Allan).

I read my book for 5 minutes, gaze out the window and realise we're in Bridge of Allan. Leaping fruitlessly for the door, I watch the station retreat into the distance. I sit down, musing that at least Dunblane is only 5 minutes further on, and I can just catch the next train back.

As we pull into Dunblane Station, I notice a train coming the other way, so I grab my bag, sprint over the bridge to the other platform and board the train with moments to spare. Puffing, I collapse into a chair and the conductor asks me for my destination. "Bridge of Allan" I tell her, only to be told that this train doesn't stop at Bridge of Allan, it's next stop is....Stirling.

Alighting at Stirling Station, a mere 22 minutes after I left, I am forced to stand in the cold for 10 minutes before catching the next train to _definitely_ Bridge of Allan, which just happens to have Neil on it, on his way to the same game.

I tell him what I've been up to.

He laughs at me.

We make it to the game.
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