My little Mosquito: finished at last

For the last several months I’ve been hard at work on a very special project: making a replica of my grandfather’s Mosquito bomber.

Jack's army (RAF) ID photo

Jack’s army (RAF) ID photo

The genesis of the project, and my startling discoveries about my grandfather (whom I’d never met and of whom I have only a couple of photos), are detailed here in this blog, and here on my other non-Asperger blog.

Long story short, for those of you who won’t click, is that when I met my birth mother, nearly 30 years ago, she gave me several photos of my grandfather, saying only that he’d been a Mosquito pilot in WWII. Early this year I started to research him in earnest, with an eye to building the exact Mosquito he flew, and discovered, to my immense shock and pride, that he’d flown with an elite RAAF squadron, Squadron 464, known as the Gestapo Hunters.

It’s been an interesting journey of discovery — of my roots, of a grandfather I never knew (he lived through the war but died shortly before I met my birth mother), and of previously unknown wellsprings of patience as I worked at something I’d never done before.

(The exception to that patience came yesterday when I was affixing the itty-bitty serial number decals, which had to be cut, soaked, detached, and applied individually. With tweezers and a magnifying glass. ARGHHGHGHGHHG…..)

Anyway, without further ado, here below are the pictures of the work in progress, and the finished product.

My next project will be a replica of the Spitfire flown by the late husband of my dear friend Ann, who has generously loaned me his Pilot’s Log Book and training manual. As soon as I have done my research in same, it’s back to the table for me.

I’m hooked.

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Kinsey Millhone and Captain Picard to the rescue

It’s been a god-awful couple of weeks in Asparagus-Land. Maybe it’s something in the air — my friend John (aka. Hugo the Dirigible Driver) told me yesterday that he, too, has been debating packing it in and moving to the outer Spiral Arm of the galaxy.

Yup, it feels like this.

Yup, it feels like this.

For me, “god-awful” of late includes escalating night-time serenades courtesy of the Ancient Yowling Cat with whom I share my home, and a misunderstanding of epic proportions between me and a couple of people whom I’d really grown to like over the last six weeks or so as we planned (I thought) a big project together.

I can’t say too much here because the wound is still very fresh for me and things are utterly unresolved, but suffice it to say that the project is dead in the water, which is hugely disappointing. Worse, I was made to look and feel like an ass (all in a day’s work in Aspie-Land, some might say) by people who know I have Asperger’s and am thus prone to NOT communicating or understanding the “big picture” well at the best of times — they had one thing in mind, and my understanding of that, as it turned out, was entirely erroneous. Not only were we not on the same page, we weren’t even in the same book. Or possibly in the same library.

What he said.

What he said.

And when I pointed this out (probably not as politely or tactfully as I might have, had I not felt so betrayed and angry) I was brushed off, given the tight-lipped HR Smile, and ultimately invited to more or less put on my Big-Girl Bathing Suit and go jump in the lake. “Best of luck in future challenges” is not something one wants or expects to hear from people who, only 24 hours previously, one had (possibly naively) considered friends.

Anyway, the wound is still very, very fresh, and as such it’s somewhat odd to be writing this piece at all — partly because I rarely write about unsolved issues, and especially ones that embarrass me so deeply; and partly because writing this piece was actually the suggestion, weeks ago, of one of the above-mentioned parties.

We had been discussing coping mechanisms in times of stress and pain, and I pointed to the Sue Grafton novel I had open beside me (G is for Gumshoe, if you want to know). I’ve read it two or three times already but when I am feeling lousy, I love nothing more than to pick up one of her mysteries and follow my buddy Kinsey Millhone (Grafton’s cheeky female detective) around for a while. While not exactly predictable, Kinsey is dependable, routine driven (three-mile jog in the morning, shower, cereal and coffee, wash cup and bowl in sink… the occasional Quarter Pounder with Cheese…), and just the sort of friend I’d like to have, actually.

My homies in times of trouble.

My homies in times of trouble.

In addition to Sue Grafton’s novels, I have been burying myself in Star Trek: The Next Generation (or STTNG, as Trekkies call it). Again, I’ve seen the episodes countless times, but I am soothed by the familiarity of the characters, by the fact that things WILL work out, as hopeless as they seem, and by Captain Picard‘s kindness and wisdom. I once heard it said that every office needs a Jean-Luc Picard; seems maybe some Aspies do too.

I’ve also been known to play my DVDs of Big Bang Theory more or less constantly, on low volume, in the background while I work, read, or answer emails. I have the first five seasons. This can (and does) go on for a long, long time.

Last week, as the fecal matter was really hitting the fan, I was astonished to find myself playing Angry Birds on my iPad for hours and hours at a time. (This is not as easy as it sounds when you’re bawling like an infant, I discovered.) I first downloaded the game onto my iPhone a couple of summers ago when I was meeting a friend in Washington, DC, and was (correctly) anticipating hours waiting in airports. I played obsessively for a few months and then completely lost interest, so it was a surprise to find myself obsessed with it again. Although, like my other “self-soothers,” it provides repetition, repetition, repetition. Aim birds, kill piggies, smash bricks, repeat.

Anyway, I’m sure that this, too, will pass. I’ve coped with worse, and let’s face it, my coping methods are pretty tame and fairly unlikely to land me in rehab, prison, or a wooden box. Although much of my stress actually comes of being an Aspie, I’m also thankful, ironically, to be an Aspie when the chips are down because I’m that much less likely to rely on booze, drugs, dangerous driving, violence, or risky sex to divert myself from the problems at hand. The worst that will happen to me, God willing, is eye strain and the mackerel-like pallor that comes of sitting indoors licking my wounds for weeks at a stretch.

If you’re so inclined, leave me a comment below and let me know how you cope when all around you is turning to poop-on-a-platter.

If you need me, I’ll be over here with Kinsey, Sheldon, and Jean-Luc, keeping the world safe from little green pigs.

–Asparagus Girl, out.

Angry birds

Model behaviour

Aside from our wit, intelligence, and charm (*cough*), we Aspies are also known for having what is sometimes termed Special Interests, meaning that thing we just can’t seem to get enough of, long after our dear friends are tired unto death of hearing about it.

Over the course of my lifetime, my special interests have included (in no particular order):

  • cats (one of my first words was “kitty” and when I was eight I wrote and illustrated a cookbook for cats. That’s “for”, not “with”);
  • insects (thanks to my best friend Scott, who had a field full of same behind his house);
  • license plates, prime numbers, and phone numbers (still ongoing…);
  • the harp (like Amy Farrah Fowler on The Big Bang Theory, I actually do play one. OK, two); and
  • King Arthur.
Special interests: they start early.

Special interests: they start early.

Over the last couple of years, though, my down-time has dwindled to nearly none, thanks to far too much work (see “The Cure for Urgent,” which I wrote several months back when I discovered that all work and no play makes me a resentful girl…). And with that went any Special Interests, other than collapsing in front of the TV at the end of the day.

And then… a happy series of little coincidences led to the discovery that I love — LOVE, I tell you — to build models. I was given a Cylon Raider model kit for my birthday, shortly after Christmas, and found to my absolute astonishment that although I am infamous for being testy and impatient at the best of times, just put a model in front of me and I will sit quietly for hours, happily at work, toothpicks and tweezers in hand, peaceful as a Buddha.

Let me tell you about Mosquito Bombers.

Let me tell you about Mosquito Bombers.

From the Cylon Raider, I moved on to assemble a model Mosquito Bomber, of the kind my grandfather flew in World War II, and that in turn led to discovering a wealth of information about who my grandfather actually was (he flew with the elite 464 Squadron, aka. The Gestapo Hunters, and spent his war years cheerfully bombing the crap out of the Nazis) and becoming fascinated with Mosquito Bombers in general.

The full text of the blog I wrote about this discovery is here, on my other blog (I have two — this one deals with Asperger’s, the other one is for non-Asperger topics), if you care to look.

And for those of you who have already read that, or just want to get to the meaty bits, here below are the photos of my little model Mosquito, from start to nearly finished. I just put the bulk of the decals on her yesterday, and now just have to order the specialized insignia letters and numbers to make it my grandfather’s plane.

And now if you’ll excuse me, a bowl of water, a sheet of microscopic decals, and a pair of tweezers are calling my name.

– Asparagus Girl, out.

Diagnosis and Beyond: My Story (because you asked)

Since I started this blog, many of you, and many of my “in real life” friends, have asked how I came to be diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome.

It was a long process, with many steps, and so, in the manner of my recent post in my other blog about my bomber-pilot Grampa, I will write about this one using bullet points as well. I find it easier to keep it short(ish) that way, and I know my Aspie friends often find bullets easier to follow.

Disclaimer: Let me say at the outset that I am a HUGE believer in getting things properly diagnosed by a professional. Self-diagnosis, or “self-DX” as these folks like to call it (whether the DX be Asperger’s, allergies, whatever), is dangerous on any number of levels: you can misdiagnose yourself with something that is actually masking something far more serious, and self-treatment can be a recipe for disaster (e.g., cutting out foods you decide you’re “allergic” to can lead to serious malnutrition). Don’t get me started. If you hate doctors, go to a wholistic practitioner. But don’t self-DX.

Buckle up -- here we go.

Buckle up — here we go.

So now that that’s out of the way, here you go. Buckle up. 🙂

1. When I was quite small my parents became increasingly concerned with my odd behaviour: toe-walking, hand-flapping, echolalia (repeating things from radio or TV, or what people said), terrible tantrums/meltdowns, hating to be touched or held, preferring to play alone. Off I went to the local children’s hospital for testing.

2. The diagnosis was “emotionally disturbed,” the same diagnosis Temple Grandin was given as a child. It was a bit of a catch-all for a lot of conditions, but top of the list was autism. I actually was totally unaware of any of this on any kind of meaningful level until I was about 14 or 15 — see Step 7.

3. Unlike Temple Grandin, however, I talked and had some friends. The ultimate decision was to leave it alone & see if time & social pressure faded out some of the weirder behaviours. In large part, yes. My mum tolerated some of my behaviours (she didn’t mind me lying on the floor listening to the fridge motor, for example) but forbade some of the others (like flapping). (This was in stark contrast to my dad, who enjoyed my intelligence — I was reading by 2 and a half — but hated the rest of it & used to beat the bejesus out of me.)  At school, I used to jump up & down and squeak if I was excited; my schoolmates mocked that out of me pretty fast. Another friend taught me how to walk properly when I was about 12. She told me “you’re doing it wrong,” showed me how to land heel-first, and there we were.

Welcome to the Mother Ship.

Welcome to the Mother Ship.

4. When I was 8, I was streamed into the Gifted classes at my school — talk about Asperger Heaven. 🙂 We were all kind of weird. In many ways, I fit in like I’d been called home to the mother ship.

5. But I still knew I was pretty odd: my public behaviour was OK but it was a struggle. I was “eccentric,” you could say. As Asperger’s expert Tony Attwood says, the double-whammy of Asperger’s is that we’re weird — and we KNOW we’re weird.

6. While other kids were starting to notice the opposite sex, I was quietly reading medical textbooks and trying to figure out what the hell was wrong with me. And then when I was 12, Reader’s Digest published an excerpt from a book called “For the Love of Ann,” which was a father’s account of raising his autistic daughter. I read it and knew immediately what was wrong with me. But FFS, why had no one bothered to tell me?? I did not ask. I was increasingly scared of my parents, who (like John Elder Robison‘s parents, oddly enough) were travelling

No, you go ahead & swoon over boys. I have some research to do.

No, you go ahead & swoon over boys. I have some research to do.

down their individual roads to hell: alcoholism (dad) and mental illness (mum). No point rocking that boat.

7. When I was 14 or 15, I overheard my mum talking to a friend on the phone about me: “Well, of course, she’s emotionally disturbed, you know.” My “inner DVD” blinks off again right after that, but (as the designated scapegoat of our family) I remember feeling intense shame and anger: sure, try to pin your adult problems on me.

8. I begin to read avidly, secretly, about autism — anything and everything I can lay my hands on. I am eventually placed in a group home (after my parents implode completely) but no one there picks up on my struggles either. I am doing fine in school, after all, and there are 10 other kids to keep an eye on. And “autism” doesn’t quite fit: the kids I read about mostly don’t talk, and are really, really disabled. Maybe I’m just making shit up. Ultimately, since I already know how to toe the line & do chores & keep my mouth shut, I simply do more of the same until my “release” to university.

9. Fast forward thru university, relationships, jobs. I am hitting all the “marks” in life, but just barely. I have a kickass academic record, a really good CV, and some relationships under my belt. I look great on paper….

10. … but my social skills and decision-making are appallingly immature and I am floundering as I try to figure out the increasingly complex world of adult life. I make increasingly stupid, disastrous decisions regarding work, relationships/dating, living arrangements, anything involving the “big picture.”

What Asperger's feels like while you're trying to look normal.

What Asperger’s feels like while you’re trying to look normal.

11. I try psychotherapy. Having had quite a bit of social work/therapy as a teenager (see “group home,” above) and going on my now habitual assumption that I’m broken, sick, “not trying hard enough to fit in with others,” I think therapy is What You Do If You’re Screwed Up. One therapist manages to get through to me that my childhood was actually pretty abusive on every level and I now focus on trying to “heal” from that. Hell, maybe that’s the root of all these wonky emotional problems after all. Yeah.

12. No. It’s not working. I change therapists and try Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, concerned that I’m becoming OCD and that my private temper tantrums and constant misanthropic irritability are becoming worse. Surprisingly, CBT is more helpful than I’d ever imagined. It is very intellectual in nature, focused on solving problems in the here-and-now. I get some much-needed relief.

13. But not enough. Fast forward again to October 2008. Yet another ill-starred relationship crashes and burns. I’m living in another apartment I hate, above another nutcase neighbour (pothead mother of two), and struggling along in another job I’m not suited for. The meltdowns (which I call “rage attacks”) are worsening, I hate everybody and everything, and most of all myself. I feel like a massive washout, a loser, a colossal fuckup.

There is no Ground Control...

There is no Ground Control…

14. I go back to therapy with my regular/familiar therapist. She’s some help but I seem to be entering “total systems failure.” I stop talking to people or looking at them. I go into work at nights so I won’t have to encounter humans.

15. I start thinking about suicide. I actually have a plan. It falls apart when I realize that I don’t know what to put in the note — how can someone so “successful” and “smart” and “talented” and all that crapola be such a lost puppy, such an underachiever, such a bloody failure? Did I just not try hard enough? Do I just need more/better/different therapy? Am I copping out?

16. Something, somewhere deep in the recesses of my brain, whispers  “Asperger Syndrome,” and for whatever reason, I listen. As I did when I was a teenager, I start reading obsessively about autism again. Asperger’s, which entered the public/therapeutic lexicon circa 1992, is now on my menu as well, although mostly I’m still thinking, “Nah, not me. Stop being such a drama queen and just learn to fit in, fergodssakes.”

17. Monday March 9, 2009. I watch a film called “Autism: The Musical.” One of the scenes shows Steven Stills’ little son Henry, who has Asperger’s. I sit up sharply: there, on the screen, is me as a child. The exact, eccentric — and surprisingly charming — way of talking, moving, laughing. I sit there completely stunned — and oddly filled with compassion and understanding. Fuck me. Maybe I’ve got Asperger’s after all.

The little guy who made my "Aha!" moment.

The little guy who made my “Aha!” moment.

18. I take a couple of online Asperger’s tests over the next few days. This is the Internet age, after all. I score surprisingly high, no matter how many times I try to skew the tests to what I think of as “normal.”

19. March 20, 2009. I gather up my courage and call the Asperger’s Society of Ontario, which refers me to the Redpath Centre. I leave a message. One of their counsellors calls me back at work. I take my cellphone out to the parking lot and stand in the snow talking to a gentle, soft-spoken man about what I think, maybe, might be my problem. And for the first time in my life, someone else is speaking my language: I don’t have to struggle to make myself understood. Everything goes very calm and quiet in my head.

20. March 30, 2009. I go in to the Redpath Centre for my “assessment” with the Nice, Gentle Man. It is the most gruelling afternoon I can remember in a long time: this guy asks questions about parts of me, my behaviour, that I thought were only mine to know. At the end, heart in my mouth, I ask, “What do you think?” And he says, “I think it is very probable that you do have Asperger Syndrome.”

I phoned home, apparently.

I phoned home, apparently.

21. The next few days pass in a sort of stunned haze. My diaries from that time are sparse. “I have no idea what I’m feeling,” crops up several times.

22. April 2, 2009. I return to the Redpath Centre and meet with the Nice, Gentle Man to hear about my results. I’m afraid of both Yes and No. If “No,” it means I really am just weird and broken and “Not Trying Hard Enough,” and will probably be spending the rest of my life in therapy trying to figure out why I refuse to get with the program — or just killing myself. If “Yes,” then… well, I actually have no idea.

23. It’s Yes. I take notes as the Nice, Gentle Man talks about his findings (i.e., me) and we talk for a couple of hours. To my horror, I begin crying uncontrollably. I am not a crier. The nearest I can come when Nice, Gentle Man asks what’s happening is “Oh my god, how is it that NO ONE EVER KNEW AND HELPED ME WITH THIS???”

Life with undiagnosed Asperger's.

Life with undiagnosed Asperger’s.

24. I spend the next few months talking about this, and other bits of fallout, with the Nice, Gentle Man. His approach is that Asperger’s has definitely left a trail of destruction in many areas of my life, but that it has also given me many gifts. My job, he tells me, is “to change what you want to change, and keep what you want to keep.” My reading of Temple Grandin and John Elder Robison, in particular, confirms that this is a good solid approach that is, oddly, do-able.

* * * * *

And so ends my Diagnosis Story. At time of writing, it’s been nearly four years now since the last bits of it — the ultimate diagnosis — took place, and I have to say it’s been quite a ride. For the first time in my life I’m OK-ish in my own skin. I know what the “monster in the closet” is, finally, and have thrown some light on it, looked it right in the eyeballs, and learned to more or less work with it.

Not to say it’s easy, obviously (the other entries on this blog would be testament to that), but there is something to be said for living authentically. It’s like having the correct eyeglass prescription for the first time in my life. It has taught me to look fearlessly — and with surprising compassion — at myself and my life. I have made apologies to people where that’s been warranted (one treasured boss, for example, who experienced some of my “backsplash”), and I have slowly but surely been putting safeguards in place to avoid making Asperger-related “operator errors” in future, if at all possible. Knowledge is, indeed, power.

I will end this here, because this is getting horrifically long. If you’ve stuck with me for the whole thing, I thank you for reading and for your interest.

And one last time — if you think you or someone you know has Asperger’s Syndrome, go for an assessment. No matter what, the Monster in the Closet is not nearly so scary when you switch the light on.

Any questions, just ask.

Cheers,

Asparagus Girl

PS. There was no good place to put this, but after I got home from Diagnosis Day, I fell into a dead sleep for two hours. When I woke up, CBC Radio was playing this song, “Everything is Moving So Fast“, by the Great Lake Swimmers. I went straight out and bought the CD, and every time I hear that song I think of Diagnosis Day.

It's often not as bad as you think.

It’s often not as bad as you think.

Zugzwang

Zugzwang. (n) [TZOOG-tsvang] German for “compulsion to move.” A situation found usually in chess … where one player is put at a disadvantage because he has to make a move  … that will significantly weaken his position.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I’m a fan of the TV show Criminal Minds. Good acting, excellent scripts and story lines, well-developed characters. Two of my favourites, Spencer Reid and Penelope Garcia, appear to be Aspies, or some variant thereof, and that is also a huge draw for me.

In a recent episode, one of the characters used the term Zugzwang, and before you could say “…and now Dr Reid will explain that,” I had Googled it on my ever-present iPad.

"Zugzwang" is a term meaning... oh, never mind, you've got it.

“Zugzwang” is a term meaning… oh, never mind, you’ve got it.

(iPads, by the way, are an excellent way for Aspies to learn to follow plots. I have enormous trouble with this [difficulty seeing big picture] so I often record/PVR shows so that I can pause them and look up plot twists or obscure characters or terms. Aspie advice, there — you’re welcome.)

Anyway, this quickly led me down the Google rabbit-hole into the subject of chess, a game at which I am complete rubbish and always have been. (Again, a big-picture/Aspie problem, I think.) Paradoxically, my little brother, who had a learning disability, was (inexplicably) given a plastic chess set for his seventh birthday and turned out to be an absolute bloody genius at it. Time after time he beat me — supposedly the Poindexter Mega-Mind of the family — and quickly moved on to beating kids much older than himself. He was also really good at strategy games like Risk, and spent hours happily arranging little plastic men and tanks into complicated battles on his bedroom floor.

Over the years I have tried with no success at all to learn chess. I’ve read books on it, watched movies and documentaries about chess geniuses, and am still complete rubbish.

However, knowledge is power — even (or especially!) knowledge of the areas in which you’re complete rubbish — and during my Great Sudoku Addiction of 2010, I discovered to my delight that the game was helping me to learn strategy and “thinking several moves ahead.”

Friend or foe? Remains to be seen....

Friend or foe? Remains to be seen….

The recent Zugzwang episode, and the run of really lousy weather we’re having lately, which has led me to be more or less under house arrest, is all the impetus I need to tackle the game of chess once again.

I’ve downloaded an app, called simply Learn Chess, that leads newbies through the names and functions of the pieces, the basic tactics, and the terminology. Aside from failing miserably at the little demo on “boxing in the king,” I’m finding it intriguing.

With any luck, in a year or so I should be able to stroll into any local daycare centre and win a game against one of the kids there.

Stay tuned.

A.G.

Just let me finish with this truck, and then I'll come and teach you how to get to Checkmate.

Just let me finish with this truck, and then I’ll come and teach you how to get to Checkmate.

The cure for “Urgent!”

As an Aspergian, I have until now found freelancing/working from home to be an almost ideal way to earn a living: no office cliques, no need for small talk at the cooler, no having to paint fake eyes onto my glasses and pretend to be awake at meetings.

However, I’m realizing that it does have its downside: very little job security (meaning one always leaps at any project that is offered), and no vacations, benefits, sick days or (increasingly) days off at all.

La vie freelance...

La vie freelance…

This year has been particularly gruelling, and over the last two weeks (that period known as “The Christmas Holidays” in a former life) it’s finally reached critical mass.

Here is what I wrote this afternoon about the experience — plus a lovely gallery of photos (if I do say so myself) at the end, showing how I blew off some steam yesterday & (at least temporarily) restored what’s left of my sanity.

Frequent readers will note that I often “share” entries between my two blogs, copying the text and re-inserting each photo. However, in the interest of not spending any more time than necessary at this computer, I’m taking a shortcut and simply providing the link (again, here).

Back to the Space Channel’s “Star Trek: The Next Generation” marathon I go!

–Asparagus Girl

Celebrity City

“I sense you’re feeling a bit burned out.”

The freelancer’s little helper

As many of you know, I work from home as a freelance copy editor and writer. It is a job that suits me, in a location and format that REALLY suits me: no office politics, no colleagues dropping by to bore me with monologues about the latest exploits of their incredible uniquely named children, no listening to the guy in the next cubicle eating a bag of baby carrots with his mouth open or the perfume-soaked receptionist having another scream-fest with her ex-boyfriend over the phone.

“…and in just a moment, I’m going to enjoy some raw carrots!”

I am by nature a pretty focused and organized person, but every so often, for whatever reason, I have what another freelancing friend of mine calls a “SQUIRREL! day” where for the life of me I can’t keep my mind on my task for more than a second. I am not ADHD, I hasten to add: to paraphrase Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory, “I’m not ADHD! My mother had me tested!”

Loss of focus is, of course, one of the primary hazards of working at home — even in a household without kids or pesky spouses, there is nothing more alluring to the bored/restless freelancer than the siren call of a sink full of dirty dishes, a bathtub ring, or an unvacuumed carpet.

This is, of course, great if you’re looking for the Good Housekeeping Award, but not so fantastic if your deadline is tomorrow morning.

A little while ago, however, my friend Karen, who is also a freelancer, told me about a little iPhone app called the Pomodoro (Italian for “tomato”) that helps keep her on track, even on SQUIRREL! days. (Disclaimer: I don’t work for the Pomodoro company, and I don’t get kickbacks for mentioning them on my site.)

Anyway, the concept is simple: it’s a little ticking timer, like one of those little kitchen timers–-not coincidentally, the inventor of the app/concept had a little tomato-shaped timer in his own kitchen that gave him his idea.

Typical freelancer bathroom.

It ticks for exactly 25 minutes, after which it goes silent and counts down another 5 minutes for your break. During those 5 minutes, you’re meant to get your bum out of your seat (ideally) and go do something else, but you can also use it to goof off at your desk, answer emails, check Facebook, play your next move on WordFeud, whatever.

Then the ticking starts again, and you work for another 25 minutes, after which you get another break, and so it goes. After a few rounds of this, you get a longer break–-like, say, lunch.

You can also pause the timer for an interruption like the phone or a pestering cat or a house fire, and stop it when you finish the task at hand. I have the free version, but I understand the paid version has loads more little features, for which I have no use at the moment.

My little ticking office buddy.

At any rate, for people like me, who are very goal driven, this is perfect beyond belief: after just a couple of weeks I now know that the ticking sound means Work. No switching screens to reply to emails, no SQUIRREL!ing whenever I’m notified that it’s my turn on my online game. And the vacuuming just has to wait.

And (just to make you really want to barf) I’m actually using those 5-minute breaks to stretch and do sickening things like sit-ups. I know.

(I jest only a little here: it is really, really, REALLY bad for the human body to sit in a chair for long periods of time. Study after research study has found that getting up for just–surprise!–5 minutes every half hour and moving around greatly reduces your risk of obesity [duh..], blood clots, diabetes, and all those lovely things just waiting to kill us like fish in a barrel.)

Anyway, do give it a whirl if you’re so inclined. Worst to worst, your housework might suffer a little bit, but your bottom line (and, let’s face it, your bottom) will be a lot healthier.

Oops… gotta run. Tick, tick, tick…. bye.

It’s time for your sit-ups, Mr Atlas!