Woo, or tinfoil hats — a swerve into reality

From a discussion on LinkedIn, regarding the term “woo” (as in “tinfoil hat type shit”, not as in “to woo a woman/man”). My friend C.B. wrote:

…[I] looked this up in the Urban Dictionary. 😁 Woo Woo means “of an event or person espousing New Age theories such as energy work, crystal magic, Reiki, bizarrely restrictive diets, or supernatural/paranormal/psychic occurrences; often has studied in an authentic religious tradition such as Hinduism or Zen Buddhism, but now practices an Eastern-influenced yet severely watered-down and Westernized pseudo-mysticism…

(Emphasis mine…Jen’s.)

This is yet another example where someone managed to put into words the thing I was thinking/feeling. So that’s nice.

It’s the idea that “this concept is probably originally genuine, but got watered down to nothing” aspect of “woo/tinfoil hat” shit that bothers me.

A not-so-great example is how meditation is now just a calming tool, where its origins are in a VERY deeply rooted understanding of the self and reality. (I actually AM glad that meditation has been made so much more popular/accessible…again, not a great example.)

But like, when people take acupuncture/acupressure principles without having actually studied them, and just run with them…no, that’s….you can’t use that as a shortcut to anything, brah.

Same for any area of study, really.

Now, someone put this thought into better words: that we can be critical of, and skeptical of, the true experts in a subject like medicine, or yoga, or herbalism, or medicine. While at the same time, we must respect those who have made a true study on the topic…under mentors and teachers.

Not accept as gospel, but respect. More than folks like me, who’ve just obsessed on topics in an amateur way.

Make sense? Someone go say it better than I did.

How to grieve and run a death, if you’re me

The coroner said he’s sorry, but he died.

There’s a confused period between hearing that the car was parked at the apartment, and 14 hours later, where alternate reality film reels play over one another in your head. Here’s a clip of, you got worried in time. Or the doctor caught it during last week’s visit. Or someone saw something in time. Vs, He’s gone. No he’s not. It’s impossible. It’s inevitable. It’s not real. Can I pray to someone?

Then, go sob on your husband. Then call in the kids, and tell them. Hug each other. Give each other space. Check in if they’re 17 and need to grieve alone in their room, but only once or twice. Tell your adult kid in another state. 

Take deep breaths. Tell your Mom.

Then your sister. 

Then your Dad.

Get a text of funeral homes from the coroner. 

Get texts of love and support from family.

Send some back. 

Remember to cancel plans. Mentally note to cancel the week. Those flights. Maybe that trip next month, maybe not. 

Decide later. 

Comfort the kid again. Send the husband to bed. You’ve always taken your sick time about ⅓ with people, and ⅔ on your own. This is the same.  Check on the kid, and he’s asleep with his dog. That’s a good dog. Good kid. He loved these kids so much.

There will be more calls and texts, but not many. It’s late.Some of your best and closest friends and family stand ready, sentinels, to catch you and your grief and your love.  The net of emotion stretches across time and space, nearly visible now, in this time. 

Talk to your newly deceased brother, under the stars. You can call him names, and tell him your love and grief. He knows it, anyway. 

After that, listen to your grief playlist — the one called “Shortly Before the End”, the one you made last year when …when we did all this the first time. Almost like a trainee. Last year. 

You said you rarely have trouble sleeping. Surprise…tonight is one of those times. It’s not a surprise, really. A beer and an edible weren’t a great dinner, so you talk yourself into the mildest of protein smoothies. You still get a headache, jaw ache, and upset stomach. 

It’s okay. You fed yourself, now take some Pepto.

You get a Buddhism audiobook on grief, or something close to it. You listen to 15 minute, and stop.

You sleep. Some. You used the same tactic you’ve used for over 30 years…going to sleep with something on to listen to. Something familiar. Neil Gaiman reads you a bedtime story for the next four hours, while you up, while you’re down.

The sun comes up. Go back to sleep.

It’s morning. Stay in bed a long time. Brush your teeth, go back to bed. Wish you could stop crying, because your head hurts. Be mostly okay with it anyway…except for the hurt. 

Eventually, get up. For Tylenol and tea. Maybe some crackers and nuts. Answer or ignore whatever messages and calls you want. What you want for a while is to only talk to your parents and your sister, as needed. Just so you know? Each one will make you cry. That’s no big deal though.

Write down everything you can think of, every shape of every memory that stars him. That movie, the clip we played over and over one night, giggling hysterically. Those songs. Those trips. Those snapshots. It’s something, anyway. It’s one way to celebrate, just a little, that you got to have him in the first place. Just write it down.

Write down a list. Other people will add to the list, but also? They’re make you write down “Delegate”, and underline it two times. No, three. 

Write down “prioritize”. 

Listen to that playlist some more.Billy Joel, George Harrison, Suzanne Vega, Eurythmics, Nora Jones, “nothing’s gonna change my world, jai guru deva”…

Across the Universe. 

Type out a guide on how to grieve. 

Put your list online. Prioritize. Delegate. Add to it. Keep going up the mountain, rest every few steps. The air is thin up here. You’ve walked up mountains before. You can do this.

Take the judgement from #autism, and put it on colds!

If symptoms of the common cold were written the way autism traits are, the standard list of cold symptoms would be:

  • Makes unusual nasal noises
  • Compulsively rubs nose with a tissue until red and chapped
  • Shows distress for reasons not apparent to others
  • Repeats loud, barking, “cough-like” noises in place of normal, interactive speech
  • Insistence on measuring their body temperature regularly
  • Noticeable extreme underactivity
  • Unresponsive to verbal directions; acts weak although they appear normal
  • Displays extreme distress out of proportion to situation
  • Difficulty in starting and completing tasks
  • May not want to be touched or may not be physically affectionate
  • Little or no activity or difficulty being active
  • Unresponsive to standard social invitations
  • Sustained odd isolating behavior
  • Inappropriate expectoration/expression of body fluids
Photo of a person in bed, with the pillow over their head.

For the record, the actual cold symptoms that the Mayo clinic lists are:

  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Congestion
  • Slight body aches or a mild headache
  • Sneezing
  • Low-grade fever
  • Generally feeling unwell

See how the first list is from an outsider’s perspective? And a negative, judgemental outsider at that!

I wrote the second list from the perspective of the person with the cold. This first-person list offers a MUCH more clear idea of what a cold-sufferer is experiencing.

First-person perspective: Autism

Now, let’s do this with traits that autistic people can experience:

  • I thrive on routine; I find chaos very hard to cope with
  • I speak differently than others
  • I speak less than others
  • I don’t speak
  • I often say the same thing over and over, for my own reasons
  • People often misunderstand what I’m saying
  • People often misunderstand the way I’m behaving
  • Being with people is very hard and/or confusing for me
  • My experiences are very intense (e.g., intensley strong smells, sounds, disorientation, etc)
  • Other people like being touched, but I do not
  • Looking at eyes is VERY overwhelming to me
  • I learn very differently than others, and the teachers don’t teach the way I learn
  • I play my own way, and not like others
  • I love to move
  • I NEED to move
  • I hate to move
  • Moving is REALLY hard for me
  • I develop deep love for special objects
  • I don’t feel pain nearly as much as others
  • I feel pain MUCH stronger than others do
  • I don’t get scared of the same things others do
  • I’m often absorbed in my thoughts or actions, and I don’t hear people talking to me
  • I hear people talking to me, but I can’t(don’t want to?) answer them

Note that this list doesn’t define any given person with autism; it’s a list of traits that autistic folk may have.

That list above is my rewrite of this “outsider’s perspective” list, which is extremely negative and judgemental. Let’s take just a few from the full list, with the negative words in bold:

Photo of a serious looking young man (somewhat fuzzy focus) pointing an accusatory finger at the viewer (hand in sharp focus).
  • Insistence on sameness; resists changes in routine
  • Notable language deficits
  • Repeats words or phrases in place of normal, interactive language
  • Tantrums; displays extreme distress out of proportion to situation
  • Sustained odd play
  • Inappropriate attachment to objects
  • Unresponsive to verbal cues; acts deaf although hearing tests normal

Words matter.

I understand that the people who diagnose autism sometimes don’t have the option of getting answers from the source. But there absolutely has to be a better way to phrase these traits than insistence, deficit, [not] normal, odd, and inappropriate.

Those words are just begging everyone to treat autistic traits as intentional obstacles.

On self-hate and negative self-talk

You know what self-hate and negative self-talk sounds like, so I won’t give examples here.

You know you should stop. That’s understandable.

But, that self-talk isn’t an enemy.

It’s a version of yourself, who is hurt and scared and lashing out.

Hurt You is saying these things, and they do need to stop! But the way to stop them isn’t to smother them, of course. The way to stop them is to recognize them, acknowledge them, care for them.

That part of you needs you to love them. (It’s okay if you can’t love them right away…start by just being kind to them.)

Like a child who is hurt and tired: They need love, comfort, understanding. They need someone to get down to eye level and offer loving understanding. Offer hugs, if they want hugs.

Like that.

Further reading: Taming the Tiger Within: Meditations on Transforming Difficult Emotions, by Thich Nhat Hahn

On leveling up – part 1

On April 30, 2022, I wrote a Twitter thread to start the process of putting into words a bunch of shapes-and-feelings that are in my head. Here is that thread.

I’ve spent 2022 so far, and the last 6 weeks especially, LEVELLING UP MASSIVELY.


It’s been near miraculous.

I’m posting about it now in general terms, to prompt myself to talk about the problems, the process, and the results.

This won’t be a continuous stream. Just, I’ll post as I think of things (or as folks ask questions).

Something like this is, I’m finding, tough to write about. Not because it’s personal or upsetting…just because it’s big.

And because everyone starts in different places. The things that changed for me won’t be what changes you (the universal “You).

For now I’ll just CTRL-C-V the summary I wrote for a friend:

So like, what do you do when you do a full level-up in life and you have a whole new level of enlightenment and understanding?

I mean, other than living at the new level. Write a book? (It’s me. I’m talking about me.)

Said friend asked me for the Reader’s Digest version. Me:

Precursors are long and varied.

Recent precursors include 1) starting with an online workspace (Flown dot com), that’s made me productive.

[I’m not affiliated otherwise, just a customer…if Twitter’s interested I might have URL]

2) My friend @jenstirrup Recommending the book “Unstoppable” (Pete Wilkinson), which made me understand setting a vision & setting objectives/goals for it…

And definitely 3) regular meetings with friend-mentors.

So then I start reading/getting coaching that changes my entire outlook on sales. (“How Good Humans Sell”, Catherine Brown. Thanks @blythemorrow for this!)

Through Flown, I met a woman who offers woman-empowerment style life coaching.

I had a 1:1 trial session with her. The discussion of essentials turned into an incredibly deep exercise that has allowed me to entirely let go of a piece of 30 year old pain.

Wasn’t expecting that!

There are other things too, but the result is a clarity of thought, vision, purpose, optimism. It’s not like all my problems are solved. I just…had this huge, giant level-up.

I’ve been thinking about it, and the theme for a LOT — if not all — of the precursors have been about being open, and connecting with others on purpose.

To a degree, I’ve spent my whole life vacillating between “hermit” and “overshare”. The last 6 years has intensified that.

The longer view of precursors includes

  • all of the above, which can be grouped into “networking” and “Business/sales/my biz vision”
  • a casual study of secular Buddhism
  • the tools I’ve developed over time to figure out/manage myself / my ND brain / the world …

Put those four things together: tools, Buddhism, networking, business.

The evolution has come in knowing that ALL OF THESE THINGS go in two directions…not just inward to me, not just outward to others.

It’s all – ALL – about real connections.

I really could write a book about this all, but I don’t think it would be much clearer than these 500 words or so I’ve typed here.

Talking about internal brain stuff is HARD, the way that describing a color or a smell is hard, if you’re not allowed to name another color/smell.

Neurodiversity, cost, and reducing cognitive load

In today’s journalistic ramblings, I was considering cognitive load, and “spoons”, and why some things are more difficult for me.

THAT led to the question: When we say cognitive load, or ‘this task costs spoons‘, how much does a thing actually cost?

So I’m trying to quantify that.

Thinking about Mark Watney needing a new standard unit (“Pirate-Ninjas“), I fairly randomly decided that my measure would be Blocks. E.g., “my cognitive load for running errands is 20-50 Blocks. the load for a shower is 50-100 Blocks.” (Unlike Pirate-Ninjas, “Blocks” are a very subjective measure.)

(Note that I’ll use “spoons” and “Blocks” almost interchangeably in here. It’s the same basic idea.)

A cognitive load list

My full list of THINGs is a bit personal, but I can share a shorter, example list:


  • Background microtransactions (low but ongoing):
    • Clutter: general, kitchen, table, desk, car…
    • The world – pandemic, war, bigots…
    • Not enough sleep
  • <5:
    • Journaling – 0
    • Taking meds
  • 5-10 – doable but not effortless:
    • Reminding kids of chores
  • 20-50 – doable, but needs impetus:
    • Errands


  • 50-100 – difficult:
    • Yoga
  • 100-200 – more difficult:
    • Lift weights
    • A bill/piece of UFO mail


  • 200-500:
    • Cleaning dog poo


  • 500-1500 – home improvement
  • 500-2000 – dealing with the DMV on the car license


There are a few observations and conclusions that come out of this.

First: the scale can be subjective and relative

I decide that “medium” cost means ~ 50-200 Blocks, and pick something that’s solidly medium cost. From there, the relative “low costs” and “mega high costs” fill in fairly easily.

Second, context is vital:

  • There is the THING (to do, or that exists…whatever), which costs effort/spoons.
  • Then there is the CONTEXT of the thing, which can sometimes cost even more.

For example:

  • The THING: Homeschooling my kid is difficult.
  • The CONTEXT: Homeschooling my kid is MORE difficult because we don’t consistently seize upon the time of day where my energy is up AND his energy is up.

Third, microtransactions exist, and are a drain on the system.

Not everything on my list of “Block costs” is a task. Some are passive drains on the system, which goes something like this:

[Living room/kitchen area, day]

[Jen enters and sees the overflowing recycle bin]

Jen's brain: "Ugh...something's gonna fall and make noise. Or I'll just have to put stuff on the floor next to it. Should I take it down? Oh, the bin is out by the road. Should I get Em to do it? She's sleeping. Hm, I guess I could dump this into a bin downstairs...but it's in the inaccessible part of the garage..."

Jen [unaware but slightly anxious]: "Mmm, coffee time..."

Fourth, the availability of Blocks (or “spoons”) is variable.

Everyone has days that are better, and days that are worse. Folks who are ND, or who suffer chronic pain, have variable resources in the extreme.

Think less “supply and demand”, and more “the weather”.

  • Today I have good energy, and I can take my ADHD meds
    [is equivalent to]
    Gorgeous and 72F, with a light breeze.
  • Today I have medium energy
    [is equivalent to]
    It’s partly cloudy out, with a strong wind.
  • Today I have NO energy and it’s an Adderall “break” day
    [is equivalent to]
    Overcast, oppressive, hot, and humid.

There certainly are things we can do to help influence what kind of day we’ll have. Even when it’s horribly hot and humid out, you can stay inside with the air conditioning and humidifier (if you have them available). But you can’t control the weather; you can only deal with it.

>> Addendum to this point…

Devising workarounds – i.e., the ability to “deal with it” – also depends on the energy and resources you have available!

A person who lacks a support team (family/friends), and/or healthcare (including medications), and/or the ability to meet their own basic needs? That person is already in “spoon debt”, so it would be 100x harder for them to improve their situation.

That’s why folks can’t “just go to the doctor”, “just get a prescription”, or “just” anything. Imagine a man who was laid off, whose house was foreclosed on, and who has 50k of student debt. That guy can’t “just buy a new house”, y’all.

Fifth, mapping these costs out is an opportunity to search for cost reduction.

When a person has the resources to do so, they can make a list like this and then look for ways to lower costs. Let’s take some examples.

>> Cost reduction: hike

Going for a hike is super enjoyable, but costs me ~150 blocks all on its own. It costs more than that when I consider 1) I feel like I should coordinate with others (which means taking far more into consideration), and 2) nobody else in the house is pushing to go on a hike.

I know that I can clear away some of that “context cost” by setting a time and making an announcement: “Hey family, I’m going hiking Sunday at 1pm, on the XYZ trail. Tell me now if you’re going to go, and I’ll pack an extra sandwich. Bring your own water bottle and jacket.”

I avoided extra fretting and/or negotiating by:

  • setting a time and place (relieving me of ongoing “where/when?” uncertainty)
  • announcing/inviting instead of asking (relieving me of more uncertainty)
  • doing so in text chat (relieving me of possible discussion and microexpressions that come with an IRL conversation)

>> Cost reduction: homeschooling

Homeschooling is especially difficult with an ND parent + an ND child. Without going into a full analysis of all factors there, I know I can do a few things to reduce the cost:

  • Set firm guidelines on sleep/wake times.
  • Find the time of day when we’re both “up”, energy wise.
  • Make a list of resources we like.
  • Make a “school day template”…a kind of flexible routine. E.g. “first a video, then some looking at the math or science book, then audiobook or video, and finally educational game”.
  • Make tracking easy. (I’ve got my homeschooler the Daylio tracker app, for ease of use.)
  • When ideal, outsource! (My homeschooler is signed up for a recurring online class, on a topic that interests him.)

Note that all of these fall under the umbrella of “planning in advance”, which is THE BEST core strategy I have.

The End

In short:

  1. Things cost.
  2. WHAT things have a cost?
  3. How much do those things cost?
  4. Why?
  5. What can I do to reduce those costs? Decide in advance, outsource, and whatever other strategies we can find.


“What do you do when you’re down?”

The big answer for me is “sleep”. Because most of my sad these days comes from ambient sadness (ongoing grief, pandemic, the world is on fire) and end-of-day chemical levels. Too bad I can’t fall asleep at 5:30pm.

A therapist suggested I use a sunlight lamp for 15-20 minutes at the first sign of sadness each evening, kind of like using pain medication at the very first hint of Ow after a surgery.

Also I made a list of 20 things that might distract/absorb/help me, in the evenings. I roll a d20 and if I don’t like the answer, I roll again.

The list is VERY me-centric:

  1. Lift weights just a little
  2. Clean a room
  3. App gaming
  4. Steam/Minecraft gaming
  5. Listen to a podcast
  6. Read or reread something
  7. Journal
  8. Stretch
  9. Booze or tea
  10. Meditate
  11. Watch an absolute fave movie
  12. Go for a drive and sing really loud
  13. Go Wikipedia diving
  14. YouTube
  15. Doomscroll
  16. Tarot (which is like meditation for me)
  17. Look at the stars
  18. Do something fibre-arty
  19. Eat chocolate
  20. Have a planned sulk (my friend Karen’s term)

Squint-and-pinhole perspective

My son showed me a YouTube video this morning. The video consisted entirely of a dude making an excessive amount of fun of a TV show.

The TV show, to be fair, contained an INCREDIBLE amount of very “woo” claims and demonstrations. “Pseudoscience,” says my son as I read him this.

I’m trying to figure out how to explain the thing that pisses me off most about these kinds of things. The simplest way is just, “You’re telling the truth (sometimes), in so many layers of lies and bullshit, that you may as well not bother with the truth.”

(Son, agreeing: “Yeah, if you dig deep enough, there’s truth in this!”)

Let’s take an example.

Really, too-big claims

On the show (the one being made fun of) there’s this guy who calls himself Iceman. He’s made a decades long practice and living out of breathing, meditation, and getting cold AF.

He claims that he was injected with e. Coli, and that his body “fought it off”. With the power of his mind.

One? No.

But two, I like to know what exact form of truth or bullshit people are handing out.

Credible sources

Finding credible sources on these things can be harder than one would imagine. Everyone and their dog wants to talk about the magical e. Coli guy, but nobody wants to talk details.

Oh! Except Men’s Health!

In 2013, scientists at the Radboud University Medical Centre in the Netherlands injected volunteers with a dead strain of e.coli to promote a flu-like immune response.

Ahhhh, a dead strain of e.Coli! Yeah okay, that clears things up a little bit.

Two very small groups participated. Half of them were the control group, and as for the test group?

…for 10 days they [the test group] undertook an intense programme of meditation, breathing techniques and cold exposure.

This is what “Iceman” is talking about when he says he does amazing stuff with the power of his mind. The power of his mind, which let him choose a regimen of physical activities that have physical effects.


Wait, no. Not it’s not.

My point

The mis-direction is awful, yes.

The outrageous claims are awful, yes.

It’s the end result that really makes me want to scream: waving the flags around magical, seed-of-truth-in-mountain-of-crap ideas completely hides the real truths we could gain from these practices and studies.

There ARE benefits to meditation, and breathing techniques, and cold therapy. People could absolutely gain benefits from adding these things to a health regime, or a treatment against illnesses of various kinds.

But the way profiteers present these messages makes the populace believe in magic, and eschew medecine. Science. Vaccines.

The bullshit has accumulated enough to cost an awful lot of lives.

Default setting: hatred

You know, I haven’t studied these things in depth, but I think people “cancelled” Yusuf Islam (Cat Stephens) just because he converted to Islam, and hated Yoko Ono because they were racist.

I think a lot of the things I was aware of people hating on (when I was a kid) turns out to be solely due to awful, intolerant attitudes.

I resent having been brought up that way. Not by my family, mind you. By America.