Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Legwork and Life, week of 1/10/18

So Long, Renting!

So first things first, house hunting.

The night before I left on my business trip to Washington DC for the government work, my spouse and I went to see one more property for sale.  A condominium this time.  It was priced relatively low, and had fewer bedrooms than we'd been looking for, but it was cozy and spacious at the same time (somehow.  I really don't know how that works).  We liked the place a lot, and decided to put an offer on it.  Our realtor kindly handled most of the gross paperwork.  Did you know you can draft and sign house buying and selling paperwork online now?  I just found that out.  It was very handy, because I went off to DC the very next day, and wasn't around to sign anything in person.

We offered pretty near the asking price, as it was well within our budget and we really liked the place, with an escalation clause.  That basically meant we were willing to automatically offer a bit more than an offer higher than our starting offer, up to a stated amount.  But it turns out we didn't need to: our original offer was accepted.  We still have to get the place inspected and make sure there's nothing horrifically wrong with the place, but I'm optimistic at this point.

Reviewing Autism Potential Research

In other news, I went to Washington DC this week.  Or I guess more correctly, I went to Reston, Virginia.  I think if I actually got too near the capitol proper, I might go hunting politicians in order to verbally lambast them for the events of the last year or so, and that would end poorly for everyone involved.  This trip, anyway, was unrelated to national politics.  Over a year and a half ago, my spouse sent me some information that showed up on John Elder Robison's Facebook page.  Information about how to apply to be a consumer reviewer for autism research.

I firmly believe in the self-advocacy mantra: Nothing About Us Without Us, so I set about volunteering myself to do this work.  To my somewhat surprise, I was given an interview, and then offered the opportunity to join the government's pool of consumer reviewers (that is, people directly affected by the subject under study).  I accepted, and heard nothing for over a year.

This year, the program apparently changed hands, and I was called on to serve.  This involved a lot of prep work, the trip to DC, and roughly two and a quarter work days worth of intensive discussion of each proposed research study.  For the prep work, I was assigned ten research proposals to directly review beforehand, and had to write a critique on how I thought each one would affect the autism community.  Three scientific reviewers were also assigned to each proposal.  There were at least 30 other proposals that the other consumer reviewers dealt with.

When the time came to actually discuss the proposals in person, the program paid for my airplane tickets there and back, which left me paying for a baggage fee (which will be reimbursed later).  Naturally, the shuttle that was supposed to take me to the hotel broke before it could pick me up, so I ended up standing out in the cold (17F) and wind (26mph) for about 50 minutes waiting for the next one.  I was, suffice it to say, quite miserable by the time I made it to the hotel.  Fortunately, they'd flown me in a day early, so I was able to just crank my hotel room's heat up to 85 and roast myself back to a normal body temperature.

The next day, and each day after that, everyone was put in the same room, roughly 20 of us in total, and each proposal was discussed, one at a time.  There were microphones and special computers for doing the final review and critique process.  Everyone was remarkably polite.  What startled me most about the whole thing, I suppose, was how incredibly diverse everyone talked.  Everyone was fluent in English, of course, but there were German accents, a French accent, a really really British accent, a mild Brazilian accent, one or more Asian accents (I can't differentiate between Chinese accents and Korean ones).  From the US proper, there was at least one Texan accent, a very strong New Yorker accent, a Californian accent, and some subtler ones I couldn't identify because they didn't stick out as much to me.

Somewhat bewildered, I asked the organizer whether this was normal, and she told me it pretty much was.  So apparently Academia is just chocked full of diversity.  Or at least this sample of Academia was.  I wasn't expecting to have to sort out so many different ways of speaking!  It was a bit of a struggle.  Which isn't to say that any of these people were terrible or something.  I just normally have difficulties with conversations, and having to sort out accents in addition was an unexpected challenge.

Something cool, as an aside.  There were only 7 consumer reviewers for this year's iteration of research proposals, and one of them was Liane Holliday-Willey, the author of a book I reviewed  about a year ago.  Turns out she lives within an hour of where I live.  In retrospect, my reaction to recognizing her name was comical, inside my head.  I kept looking at her name badge in disbelief, thinking something like, "Wait, she's a live person?  And right here in front of me?  Really?"  Turns out she's pretty cool, and has a lot of good things to say in person as well as in her writing.  She was assigned to the other research panel, so I didn't get to chat with her a whole lot, but the conversations with her and the other consumer reviewers were rather enlightening.

Anyway, I have the contact information for her, a couple of the other consumer reviewers, and a few of the scientist reviewers also.  It's certainly not social-butterfly level networking, but considering my limitations and the relative shortness of the meeting, I think I did a pretty good job.  I am, however, going to have to make a lot of reminders to myself to follow up with all those people, because that is something I am demonstratively bad at.

This entry is backdated, because at the time of posting, I will be somewhere between South Carolina and Michigan on a hopefully not minuscule airplane.  (The plane that went between my home airport and DC's airport had 12 rows of miserably tiny seats.  If I can avoid that on the way out, that would be awesome.)  Either way, I'm getting up at 4:30 am to make it to the airport on time, so wish me luck.   


  1. What wonderful stuff happening for you and BY you!

  2. Pam Liggett, Autism Support of Kent CountyJanuary 10, 2018 at 12:41 PM

    Great news, Sarah! So glad that you are participating in that research group.

    1. Check your inbox. : ) Sent you the official press release.