Sunday, November 28, 2010

I Have AS...Let's Have Sex.

Sharing a post about intercourse with an aspie.  This is more "mature content," but an interesting read nonetheless.

Nope, I'm not ready to write a counter from a man's perspective.  Still a little too personal.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Ever Think of Saying Sorry Too Much?

Yeah, I have not been updating much lately.  I take a long time to think of meaningful entries.  Sorry about that.  I do say sorry quite a bit, because I have a need for people to think highly of what I do.  I never want to be looked at in a negative connotation when the situation seems to be important or has a consequence.  So I end up apologizing for every little thing I do wrong.

Why should someone say sorry so much?  It's a scared impulse for me.  I get the impression that 'sorry' is a way to absolve yourself from blame for either what you have done or what you are about to do, even if the repercussions are minor at most.  To steal a page from a favorite book of mine, Stuff White People Like, I have some scenarios as to when I would say sorry:

  • When I have a hapless accident, like spilling a glass for milk on the carpet or messing up an effort at work.  I exclaim "Sorry!"
  • When I think I'm burdening someone with problems that should be kept to myself.  The word will come off rather defeatist in this case.
  • When someone else gives me a problem of theirs, and I say the typical "Sorry to hear that." Usually no one says "don't apologize" after this version.
  • When there's bad news about to break, I use sorry before, but usually I wait on the apology until immediately afterward.
  • When I do something shameless, I say it in jest.  Sorry for the shameless Amazon plug.

The common factor here may relate to the desire of the Aspie to stay in good graces with the company around him.  We often envelope ourselves into character roles.  No exceptions with me, as I like my character roles also.  Only if I feel that I am content to play villain do I really avoid saying sorry.  Otherwise, I would not have any problems with that.  Apologies go into this sympathetic character and drive everyone to love him, not necessarily unconditionally, but they have a gratitude for what he does.  I don't really dwell on the character aspect much at all, but I do analyze it a lot more than I care to go into on this blog.

Back on the apology, it isn't as much about the conscious character I'm playing as much as an honest attempt for me to connect with the person I am talking to through a form of sympathy.  I end up overusing it, and people shake their heads.  However, what is good to me is that now people realize that I mean well, and I get the appreciation that I desired.  So in the end it seems like a win when there is an apology.  Nothing to be sorry about there.

Monday, November 1, 2010

I Repeat Myself

I have a great long term memory, storing so many little pieces of data once memorized.  It is ridiculous that I have this ability, and it is something I am proud to admit.

However, I don't always have a short-term memory in terms of what I tell others.  I tend to repeat myself a lot, recalling lines that I dwell on.  I end up having to ask people if I told them the time I did something, because I have only started to realize how often I repeat myself.  It's because I need to let my thoughts out and I'm unsure how to do so.

It's because my mind races three million miles a minute.  I need to let thoughts out, even if I'm repeating them over and over.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Data Data

I name this entry after an eccentric coworker who uses the word "data" so much in conversations that we just like to exclaim "data!"  Then he gets into it and says "give me data, fellas.  Data data."

So where, exactly, am I going with that?  Well, I am a person who likes data when making decisions, and when doing this project at work lately, I might have focused too much on the data and not on the abstract business picture.  I like when I have easily interpretable information in front of me where there is one meaning when it comes time for me to answer some sort of question.  I do like to think about the what-ifs and existentials, but I think of various scenarios that have data as a basis.  Data doesn't always have to be numbers.  It can also be simple factoids that relate to life as we know it.  However, data is tangible and not an abstract prospect, so I'm fine what standard data when I have to solve a problem.

I was always good with math, so that made data rather natural to come by.  So I think that gives me a natural inclination to also rely on hard data, which is easier for me to decipher especially since there are patterns involved.  I like that.

I also like my coworker's data jokes for worse reasons.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

We Don't Fake Emotion Well

I have fake laughed too many times.  I have fake frowned.  I couldn't even act in live theater because my facial expressions were always blank.

I'm not the type who naturally shows his facial expressions without careful thought or consideration the majority of the time.  Maybe the only time I am consciously showing a face without deliberation is when I taste food that I don't much care for...particularly crappy beers.  Often my eyes and face are drifting in thought in some other direction, so it throws people off when I'm looking around, as if my emotion is mere indifference (which it frequently can be) when it's more that I still look around a lot.

People may think I'm actually upset when I make exasperated expressions to be funny.  It's because I don't naturally laugh all that much, but then again that might be a more common trait.  However, my fake laughs can be obvious.  My real laughs I try to suppress a lot and you can tell I find something to be really funny...usually a subject that no one finds funny like I do.  It's like I'm never sure when exactly is the time to laugh, which presents a problem in itself.  People don't think I'm depressed, however, which I love...I'm not one to like constant debbie downers here, to overruse that nickname.  So maybe I have a nice balance of emotion after all once I can figure them out for myself.

This entry didn't really make too much sense by the end, did it?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Most Uncomfortable Scenes in Film

Last week I took advantage of my Netflix subscription to rent Mozart and the Whale, about two Aspies who fall for one another and end up leading this extraordinarily complicated relationship.  One problem I had with this movie is the uncomfortable misunderstandings.  The hardest element of many movies is when something is bound to happen that will be either a total misunderstanding of someone's intentions or when a protagonist finally is forced to tell the truth and is not greeted warmly.  I cringe sometimes at these.

One instance in that movie involved Isabel, the AS girl, and her aversion to metal clanging.  Donald, the AS guy, doesn't think of this and goes to show her the ring toss, which involves the noise.  I started to coil up knowing there would be a misunderstanding of some sort, as he threw these and she started to scream while coiling up on the ground.  Another popular example is from Avatar, when Jake reveals his true mission (the one he now opposes) to the Na'vi tribe.  I knew this wasn't going to go well for the sake of the plot, and I almost wanted to plug my ears as the tribe leaders reacted by casting him away, as they felt betrayed.  It's like I am connecting real life with cinema life, at least in the human elements.  Most of my favorite movies don't have these moments.

I have a problem with scenes of uncomfortable misunderstandings or revelations because I just hate them myself and try to avoid them by twisting my own words.  I am a person who generally holds a strong disdain for confrontation.  I have a fear that these are confrontational and don't want to see someone go through it...or at least I just want to know the effects without seeing it go down.  This does not mean it isn't necessary...if we write these scenes out of every movie I'm sure it would be a total train wreck by the climax.

The irony of it all is that if I was a screenwriter, I would likely include these sorts of scenes in the story if it called for it.  Never saying I could write a great screenplay, but this is just a what-if since I would love to be published for something during my lifetime.  I'll still keep watching movies, of course, but I don't think I won't cringe at these sorts of scenes.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Somehow I'm Not a Big Gamer

Wow, I went 18 days between updates.  I was so preoccupied, and I don't want to let this die before it gets started.

I like video games where I control my own universe.  I guess that's part of my appeal to The Sims, for instance.  I can start my own family.  Then I use the cheats to make them rich and give them a dream house.  I had a house with a family, and a house with just adults, and even started a love triangle.  I think I should start writing television pilots.

I used to want to build really powerful and invincible sports teams as a kid.  I would play Madden a lot back in the day, and I always gave the team members (well, the skill players) quotas for stats.  I totally orchestrated the games and would get pissed when the AI would trip me up.  For instance, I required my QB to go over 600 yards one day because he was the record setting start in his prime.  I wanted my running backs to especially get their rushing yards...2,000 in two seasons!  Crazy!  I was rigid about these stats, and it was not just Madden.  Basketball and baseball had the same style of quotas.  It was pretty embarrassing to see some of my tantrums in the day when something went wrong.  However, I learned to temper that and just started building good teams the right way...well, somewhat.  I don't really play that game much anymore, but when I have I do like to work with a team from scratch and build them into a dynasty, but I don't have to win the Super Bowl all the time.  It tells a better story this way.

However, I'm not big into video games really because I like the control that alternate universe more than I actually can.  The theory that I have is actually very simple...because of limited interests, I go through phases with certain games in particular and then I just quit.  I never got into games like the next game.  Really, the whole point of the entry was talking about the weird things I did with games which turned me into a non-gamer.  I don't have the control in games like Call of Duty or World of Warcraft (which I never understood the obsession over these anyway), so I can't really talk games or play much.  My interests are elsewhere.

Or I like the simple role players: Sonic the Hedgehog, Gex, and Crash Bandicoot will always be favorites.  I think I like the classic animation of Sonic, the one-liners of Gex, and just about everything wish Crash.  Then again, I do love the Tekken series and the original arcade version of Wrestlemania.  I have a PS2 and have no desire right now to upgrade to a next generation console.

That last part isn't all that 'autistic' because others like those games.  As it is, I don't think many autistics are gamers and I can't find research to support it either way.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

What I Know Most About Movies

You know what the first thing I can tell anyone about a movie is?  Likely I'll give you the film's director, the distribution company, and maybe the lead actor/actress.  It's easy facts for me to recall, and something that has always held my interest.  Then again, I just like production logos in general.

Then comes the part everyone else knows...the plot.  I do have the movies that I love for plot, and could talk about them sometimes, like any NT could do.  However, I don't always get plot devices and sometimes my attention span keeps me from really tuning in.  Once I see an epic a few times it becomes amazing.  For instance,  I love the Akira Kurosawa classic Seven Samurai very much, but it took me a few times to really tune into that one since it runs 3:27, the longest movie I have seen.  Thus I rarely watch the whole movie at once, but when I recall this movie it's so fond.  I concluded it was the classic fight scenes, which predated some great martial arts movie scenes (I love martial arts fight scenes), and I related to the tempermental Kikuchiyo.  Problem is that I couldn't really discuss the movie on the fly while talking about specific scenes or each of the samurai characters, and not much about the village itself.

I do try to get into the plot sometimes, but I have a habit of either letting my mind drift or asking too many questions during the movie.  However, other facts are open for discussion to me.  If this Paramount movie was made during the blue screen era, or when they started using the new mountain in 1987...and then another new mountain in 2002.  Maybe it's which Sony studio released a movie; I used to duck from the Columbia Pictures post-1993 into as a kid because the giant "COLUMBIA" lettering looked imposing at first.  A few years later I was over that.  However, I start watching the beginnings of movies by each of these studios on YouTube and now I'm hooked...who needs an actual film?

The other thing I could talk about is the highest-grossing movies in the United States.  I have always thought that they should use tickets sold rather than dollars to determine movie records due to inflation, so it's cool that Box Office Mojo has an all-time adjustments page which I have nearly memorized from 1-20.  The site does its best to get an estimate of what the movie would gross if prices stayed the same lifetime to get an idea of how many tickets were sold, and it's interesting, to me at least, how the high grossers aren't so high.

Even NTs take interest in these sorts of stuff, but I think I pay more attention to those details more so than plots sometimes.  I could watch a logo marathon on YouTube if I gave myself the time...and I have before.  Scary, isn't it?

Monday, August 23, 2010

"An Alien View Of Social Brains"

Via NPR, here's a nifty article about a woman's understanding of neurotypicals from her own AS perspective.  Real intriguing if you ask me.  Especially the whole part about mimicking the show Friends...I never noticed that stuff myself.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Is This Giving Back to the School Children?

I want to help some kids out.  Some of them read it in good books like this one, while some learn from experience.  I'm trying to find the right outlet to help with the latter (since I'm really not enough of an author right at the moment).

I had a membership with the Autism Society of America last year, but I decided that it was not fitting the needs of what I aspired to accomplish, and with that I decided not to return for year two.  Not to say that there isn't opportunities out there, but I didn't think I had the right ones, necessarily.  I do have some opportunities I'm discussing with our local ASCEND group in Philadelphia, and hopefully they can come to fruition if I talk with the right people.  It's not easy taking the first step.

My idea of what I want to do is possibly meet with a child who is currently in mainstream learning (regardless of if the child needs an IEP regularly or not) and ask about their experiences and see if I can relate.  I could even be someone who would talk to a small group of these, helping to build some public speaking experience.   There's also the opportunity to talk to various parents who may understand this better, plus they are talking to the subject rather than the scientist.  It's really a way of showing those with high-functioning autism or another related AS 'disorders' that they will make it.  I graduated college and got a good job, moved into an apartment in the city and was able to take care of myself for the most part.

Then again, giving back was a small part of why I started this blog from the beginning.  I wanted to use experiences and tidbits as a guideline, and maybe ask questions of those reading this blog.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

"Resident Player"

I am part of this autism spectrum volunteer/support group in the area, and the support part happens each month. So this time we were talking about dating and social relationships as the first in a two-part series, since it's a huge topic for all of us.

At one point, the discussion facilitator referred to me as the 'resident player' when mentioning experiences that others had.  I think it stemmed from a comment I made about hitting the dating scene and how I had 'dates with girls' on the dating scene.  The key is that it was plural.

I know they say that most Aspies don't have a lot of dating success.  I can't say I've had a ton of it myself; I still think I lucked out having the same girlfriend for some 4.5 years, which means I spent a lot of time not dating around.  There are some superficial advantages.  Though you can't see a picture (at least now), I believe myself to be a reasonably attractive young man; I also live in the heart of Philadelphia where there are plenty of singles waiting to date a reasonably attractive young man.

That might be another part of why I received such a comment, as I mentioned multiple women and in contrast to some other members I'm seen as one of the ones who could sometimes pass off for an NT.  Most of the group I was with for the support session, the majority (I'd say 80-90%) were not married, and only half of us were in or recently got out of relationships.  Maybe that's what contributed to the comment.  I was able to speak as a nice guy, while some Aspies were convinced that you had to be a jerk to get a female; the females in the place weren't into jerks themselves, but people are just different.  I'm still getting used to this whole 'player' rep that I apparently have relative to people like myself.

It isn't even a rep.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

At Work, My Department Status Is Under Siege (aka Delusional Paranoid Theory No. 24)

Back from a bit of a hiatus.

I work in the operations department at my company, and I've quickly become essentially the next line to the supervisor.  I think of it as a testament to my dedication and aptitude.  However, we have expanded the team lately, which is never bad.  I knew I could potentially help some of the guys along with my experience and ideas, and I was making my presence more known at work through my efforts and questions about how other teams functioned.

Then came the rise of one of our new team members.  There is one colleague who has shown a strong work ethic himself and has caught on quicker than anyone else before him, myself included.  Part of it is because there are now certain responsibilities that he can handle which takes the load off the rest of us.  That's easy to understand.  However, his rise has been fast enough that he's now done more training of the newest team members, and taken the lead on a share of our tools for this major launch.  It is as if he is seen as more of a lead on this project than I am, rather than just an equal.  Even the director asked him for help one day over me when it's usually one me.

I will admit that this coworker is doing a heck of a job since coming in, as he is articulate, dedicated, and has shown a lot of ability while keeping a laid-back attitude for the most part.  He's truly done a heck of a job.

Yet I resent that so much.

I'm a person who likes his territory, much like other Aspies get used to theirs and hate when things are changing against what they are used to, though it's more the case of sudden change than gradual.  I am okay with him being seen as an equal in the informal hierarchy as he deserves it, but I am not comfortable with someone overtaking my place in the hierarchy and I'm struggling to make the teamwork thing happen as efficiently as possible because I see myself as being threatened even more than I am seeing his own abilities complimenting mine.  Even I'm an optimist, and I don't see this as a reflection on the quality of work he shows; I see this as an indictment of the quality of work I don't.

I have not said this to him or other team members, as he's a good worker, not to mention a great drinking buddy (haha).  I'm not trying to sabotage the team dynamic because of my fragile ego.  However, my supervisors have caught on to me being a little more overzealous with ideas than I have been even in the past.  They are aware of my AS (coming out is a different topic for a different day).  They are aware that I do not want to compete with him for the attention of all teams involved in our projects, as I asked to talk with each of them and they showed the same concern about how pushy I'd be on occasion with getting ideas out.

My coworker doesn't demand anyone with tasks even when he is leading one of the units (I lead the other), and he and I have been collaborative, which is a start.  The hard part for me is telling myself that this isn't a personal slight.  I have never been called out on my work ethic or performance, which the supervisors make it a point to remind me, so I shouldn't feel paranoid.  They are trying to do what is best for our team, but I also want to do what is best for me.  I'm not uncomfortable right now, as they do see him as an equal now, but I start wondering if maybe I'm bugged about being seen as inferior to him with his rapid ascension leaving me in the shadows.  Things change where I work so fast that I can't always get a grasp on where I will fit in and how quickly I can adapt.  Everyone in the department (not just our team) knows I do good work.

If only I understood workplace dynamics better.  No young kid, especially one with social deficiencies, wants to find his career hit a crossroads before it can really get started.  So now I find out how I can adapt to the new situations at work.  I still like my job, and I like everyone on the team including this guy.  I guess I'm just way too insecure about my position because they're splitting up what was my cheese.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Sarcasm Detector Needed

If anyone watches The Big Bang Theory, one of the main characters, Dr. Sheldon Cooper, has this inability to recognize sarcasm.  Granted, he has a lot of the traits of Aspies, but this entry isn't about him.  Maybe I'll analyze that later.  However, he's the type who needs a sarcasm sign.

I don't get much of sarcasm.  Everything to me sounds literal.  So if I say "can I ask a question" and someone says "no" I may think they are serious until they do one of those smiles.  Then it hits me that the sarcasm sign is flashing.  However, it would have been nice to banter and not get stuck at a point where it is confusing.

Now, I wonder what a sarcasm detector would look like.  I can't draw out the image, but I can think of some features now:

  • Ability to tell if the sarcasm is meant as a good joke or a tell-off
  • Knowing if a response is appropriate, with a possible cue
  • A ding of approval when the sarcasm is employed successfully in return by the using party (like me)
  • If the sarcasm is directed in general, at you, at another person in the vicinity
  • A shock trigger if you actively question if the recent exchange was sarcasm
  • A pony just because everyone wants one
Okay, we can't really have one of those, but it would be nice sometimes.  A chance to have something freeze time or go off in the membranes telling us "YES, THIS IS SARCASM.  LIKE YOU'RE CORRECT."  Then again, not getting sarcasm has provided for some awesome moments of humor in my life, so maybe it's not so bad.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Knuckle Hair

Simply put, it's my worst habit. I play with my knuckle hair incessantly. It's usually when I'm bored or when I stare at it and realize the hairs are in messed up order.  It really defines my nervous nature and my need to play with something while working.

Why I do it is hard to describe.

Having been caught doing it can be distracting, but I have managed to be conscious about it at the right moments.

Do you have any habits?

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Kind of Videos I Find Funny

I have a thing for studio production logos from my youth and before my youth.  This is something I love, and I get all of the references.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Story About Flirtations in Key West

I finally have time to post that entry I was talking about and never did post.

While I was on said vacation, I showed a sense of bravado which is atypical of a good number of autistic folks.  A part of the trip was two days in Key West, Florida.  While in Key West, we stopped at Margaritaville to have lunch.  We had a cute waitress who, based on my straw hat, thought I had a resemblance to Woody from Toy Story.   I joke that I’m the cute one amongst my friends, though I’m also the most prone to saying the wrong thing at the wrong time.  However, I decided to use this conversation with the waitress to attempt to go for her number.  I asked my friends if they thought I could, and then two of them sneak me money for a bet that I won’t, all while using an extremely corny line.  It took me a long time to get the right moment to ask for her number, and it came out awkward since she knew I was a tourist and was not going to stay unless I got hit on the head and decided “hey, I’m going to stay here.”

Here’s where I relate to the spectrum: when it seemed like I nearly got shot down after taking over six sentences just to ask “what’s your number?”  I started a story by saying “I’m truly sorry, I’m embarrassed now by doing this.  I don’t want you thinking I’m one of ‘those guys’ you know.”  She then tells me to hold on a second, and next thing you know, she gives me her number.  Later on, I gave her a call to make sure it wasn’t a fake; it was indeed legit.

What this story makes me think about is dares, or breaking from introversion.  It’s not like I’m a smashing success on the dating scene, as I am not a great ice-breaker.  I viewed this more as a moment of getting my own confidence back while talking with a cute woman, rather than making this some conquest.  On the outside, it may appear like this is a conquest to some females.  They would think I’m just looking for a cheap thrill only.  I think that’s a valid case.

However, from my view, I look at this as a test of my own abilities.  So she’s not a conquest, but a test case; I don’t know which is considered worse.  However, that's what goes through my mind here.  It's not necessarily any different from trying to get an outside chance with an attractive woman or show off your own abilities with the ladies in front of your closest peers, but rather to see what you can do with your own awkwardness and maybe, just maybe, turning it into a positive.

For the record, if this blog becomes famous and the subject is reading this...well, then the subject is reading this.  In terms of other Key West stories, what happened in the 305 will stay there.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

I'm Back from Vacation!

Sorry for the long layoff; I was on vacation for a while.

I want to post an entry related to the trip by Saturday, so don't be too sad that this isn't that meaningful!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Autistic, Aspie, Spectrum Person...What Name Should We Use?

Really doesn't matter too much, in my opinion.

I notice that I alternate between words and phrases that are similar.  I'm not sure which of these to use most of the time, and I don't think any of us need to use any words in particular.  They are simply a bunch of descriptors for the same thing, or so it seems.

I am a person with many autistic "features" which is why I was diagnosed this way, but as one of that group, I'm among the class that doesn't take offense to being called any of the synonymous terms for autism spectrum people.  Sometimes people can be particular about what version is used simply due to the diagnosis given.  Sometimes people just like the sound of a different word and really love using that.

However, I think there's a good case that some of us just have personal preferences to what we like.  I personally believe this: since I have the traits but I'm not sure which is the correct description, I can use any of those terms for now.  It's another case of nouns turning into adjectives until further notice.

Of course, I just take the label 'eccentric' to keep things simplistic.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Father's Day and Future Fatherhood

I went back to my parents' house this weekend for Father's Day, as my brother and I actually made a full breakfast for the first (and likely last) time.  It's good to know that our dad liked it as much as he did, even if the blueberry pancakes didn't look like the ones on television.  So that makes me think about how I keep telling myself that I won't have children.  Of course, that might be a total lie, because if I feel the need after finding the right woman, then maybe I'll have some.

That's not because I would completely want to be devoid of the greatest responsibility of all time.  It's really  because I do think sometimes that my own Aspie-ness would keep me from being the best father to my future children.  As mentioned in a previous entry, there will be a ton of unpredictability with children.  I would likely have an idea in mind of how my kids should act based on my own childhood and other parents' examples around me.  Then when the child goes astray I would go crazy and possibly inflict more punishment than I should simply because of the hierarchy in my mind (father > child) accurate hierarchy, but something that my passive-aggressive persona would take to extremes.

I used to write down scenarios for kids my age (not real life kids, but imaginary ones), and gave them the right AP Courses and Honors, as if this were the scenarios I could go into and hopefully someone could follow.  I imagined who could be the most accomplished one of the bunch.  I have an idea of how my kids should be at this stage, and I could see two children as honors students with the right group of friends, maybe athletic accolades or debate awards, depending on which route they take.  I would feel like my kids got screwed if they didn't get the award that was meant for them.  I'd be a superficial father wanting the perfect scenario for my child and primarily for my satisfaction of my world.  I used 'my' enough times.  I want lab rats, not kids.

My mind is totally messed up.

It's been driven into me when I hear my dad tell stories about the birth of me, the birth of my brother, and how he became a different person who put the kids and wife first.  There is a natural tendency about me, just like any other people, to be self-centered.  Breaking from that is tough for the Aspie, as we have thoughts on our mind that we have to let out somehow, and it's also been established enough times that empathy is something important part of selflessness.  Right now, I still feel selfish, and I wonder sometimes if I will fully break from that selfishness.

The assessment of my future as a pop, if I ever do become one, is nothing predetermined.  They say that becoming a parent changes you, and maybe that will change me too.  Sometimes, regardless of spectrum or NT, it takes a long time to figure out the whole fatherhood thing.  My dad didn't "give birth" (mom did that part while dad did the support and cheering part) until he was 39.  Mom and dad aren't pushing us to have children just so they can be brother isn't really keen on having kids at this point either.  Historically, I am a late bloomer took me longer to start figuring out myself than most folks.  So I probably wouldn't be ready for fatherhood until my 30s anyway, when I slowly break from this shell.  I know a share of Aspies who managed to be fine parents, more so than stories of those on the spectrum who had problems juggling a lot of important responsibilities tied to parenthood.

This isn't meant to be defeatist, but rather a reflection of why I'm glad I didn't become a dad yet.  I know now I'm not ready, and if I do become ready that it might happen.  If anything, the learning that would come from raising a couple kids and providing for a family would be one heck of a curve, and a challenge to enjoy.  However, it would be just as daunting for me as it would for any other first-time dad.

I appreciate what pops does for our family growing up for than I even recognize I do.  I think we all feel that way about our respective dads.  Happy Father's Day.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

I Can't Answer That Question

Has someone asked you a question simply because they want to hear your answer for entertainment purposes?  You ever have that question you feel like you are being pressured to answer a question one way or another but you can't?  Either that or you're afraid it will come out wrong?

Me too.  I get that a lot more than some folks, as during my school years, people became aware of my social ignorance as I wasn't hanging with the crowds that used slang or double meanings.  Back in the late 90s, for some reason that I still can't wrap my head around today (oh snap, there goes a double), people used the word 'staple' to describe others.  So I was asked "Do ya think this guy is a staple?  Do you think you're a staple?"  My answer?  "I'm not a thing that holds papers together.  I ain't a paper clip either."  The kids looked confused and concluded that I was, well, a 'staple' or something.  Or there was one time I was asked the question about how many bases I ran when the person in question knew I had been talking to this girl the previous night.  I didn't know how to answer it, so I jokingly said all of them.  Combined with my dry delivery, I was taken a little more seriously then I expected.  There was shock and a possibly sarcastic high five, but I had no clue what happened.

What I'm getting at is not as much the terms themselves as whether or not to answer the questions.  In later years I have begun to keep mum, as most of the time I will get chuckled at if people catch on to my weirdness.  So I decide to cope using one of two methods:

  1. I mention that I don't have an answer (or 1a, that I simply ignore the question).
  2. I give them this really weird answer which is irrelevant to the question and throws off the person who is asking such a dumb question anyway.  It's funny to me when I say "well, you expect me to answer it because of your own dull amusement, since you know I won't be able to give an answer that isn't ridiculous.  So I think I'll have a little fun and run on.  You may laugh, but I will forget you even asked.  Memory is selective.  Since I'm a mini-professor and all, you want to sit down for a lecture?  I mean, if you ask that question you probably want a lecture, right?"  I take the chance that I won't get beat up.

I have not been asked as many of these questions now since most of the world has matured.  Nowadays I get asked questions by friends for a reaction on a rare occasion, but in the way that any NT would...or so I think.    People have done it today, but over time I also realized who my true friends were, and they know their questions are stupid but they only rag on the random things I say (which my old roommates coined as 'Vossisms').

However, you never know if a kid in school will be asked a particularly humiliating question.  Sometimes I would have been best to ignore them in the day, as the people asking these questions weren't worth anyone's time.  Thing is, even if you don't know how to answer the question, then just don't even attempt to answer it.  This might leave those 'cool folks' in the dust; you never know.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Utilizing Patterns

I like patterns. I use them every day, compulsively, and I enjoy this sometimes. I do many things in the form of patterns, from deciding how many things to get during a store trip, to how long my lunch breaks will be over the course of a week, to the amount of sets between free weights and machines at the gym, even to what days I should write these entries.

Take work as an example. I sometimes think about what times I enter and the length I work more than I should, though not necessarily more than the actual work. I will say to myself that I'm coming into the office at 8:15 on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday simply because I haven't gone into work at the same time on those three days in a few weeks. This is on top of telling myself exactly how many hours I will work. After working a long week (45), and one less long (41.5), I may tell myself I want to work 44 hours because I haven't worked enough hours that ends in an even number. Ridiculous, yes, but not easy for me to personally break away.

Or there's even some of the records that I have by artists. I love music, of course, but sometimes I force myself to either like or not like an album this way I can own the 1st and 3rd album by the artist, coming up with a quasi-reasonable explanation as to why that second album isn't that great. I do this because I already have a combination of the three albums. Or there's a need to own a max of two 5-CD comps and two 6-CD comps at one time, which I thankfully abandoned.

My personal conclusion about my frequent need to do things according to a pattern is that it relates to my frequent need to do things according to a routine. They are generally synonymous, but I use them differently. I feel like these patterns are a way to use combinations to break from the monotony that comes with routine. It allows me to tinker with my own schedules and give myself the control over parts of my life that I usually can control. The need for patterns comes out of the need for systems, but the patterns are a forced variety. I don't want to compare it to something like affirmative action, but it's similar in that I have quotas I set myself up to have just because of the matchups.

The desire and need for patterns has tied into my recognition of patterns in daily life. For instance, when I was a child I knew which movie theatres in the area could not show the same movies out of reading the movie listings compulsively every week. For instance, General Cinema Northeast and the AMC Orleans could never show the same flicks due to the close proximity. In a way, it's a blessing because I did well in school with this ability. However, it could also be an annoyance for those around me.

Patterns are just something I find rather cool, and I have reasons for using these often. I'm not sure what other way to put it.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Video Clip Time: Intimacy

I post this video just because it's a bit interesting.  Do the rules of intimacy apply to we the Aspies?

On a side note, there is another part of this PBS series which deals directly with Asperger's Syndrome, but that was too cliché to post.

Monday, May 31, 2010

The Autism Speaks Stigma

It's a bit of a paradox as to why an organization that is supposed to profoundly help the autism community is looked down upon with scorn by other groups.  Autism Speaks is the most recognized organization for autism research and awareness.  Many a celebrity (I won't list all of them) has donated and appeared at benefits sponsored by Autism Speaks.  They have a tightly run organization, even with psychologists pointing out signs of behavior and new about autism activism that are linked to the main site.

Of course, there are many folks connected to the spectrum who have major issues with Autism Speaks.  The reasons behind this are that autism is looked at as a "regressive disease" per most language and events by the organization.  Many of those who are high-functioning believe that autism should be treated as a form of neurodiversity.  The videos produced in conjunction with Autism Speaks (look up "I Am Autism") are overblown and make it seem like autism is an end-all type of dysfunction.  They also employ psychologists but are rumored to have no employees actually on the spectrum to provide a crucial viewpoint that would be expected from most non-profit companies with this sort of specialty.

If the last paragraph was any indication, I'm among the latter group who does take issue with the campaigns of Autism Speaks.  There have been a couple moments where I ask myself why I do.  In my own observation, it seems like the focus of Autism Speaks is misunderstood yet not overblown.  My issue with them is that they put so much focus on those with low-functioning autism, which I can understand to a degree, but they appear ignorant to the fact that there are many autistics (meaning we the Aspies) who have blended in with society and have fine traits that would be lost if we were among the NTs.  I think it's a point that doesn't get driven home quite enough behind all of the name calling and protests of Autism Speaks.  I don't necessarily want to see Autism Speaks die a painful death, but I do not like the current way they operate and fail to take the perspectives of the entire spectrum into account.

I apologize for a lack of citations.  It is really meant to be a short opinion.  If there is more to post on this organization or others, which I'm sure there will be, I will have that when there is more time permitting.  It's been a busy Memorial Day weekend.  Cheers.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Expect the Unexpected

I know it's been six days since my last entry.  The wait for an entry may be that long depending on what's happening.  Most of the time you can expect 1-2 weekly blog entries.

I have had anger management issues over the years.  Doesn't mean I'm totally hostile, as for the most part I'm docile.  Problem is that I'm implosive.  It was not until meeting with a psychologist in college that I figured out that the chunk of the rationale behind my anger issues is simply one thing many AS folks don't take very well to: negative unpredictability.  When something happens that I totally don't see coming, I feel blindsided, and I react. This happens too often, as I often play out scenarios in my head and get stuck to them more than I should.

For instance, there was a time I took an exam in college and thought I did pretty good on it, thinking I scored 85-90.  Got it back and I only had a 73.  From there I went on to embarrass myself during the class, going on an attack of all the questions and trying to find every reason why it was wrong, asking hollow questions of "why" and "how" when the answers were in front of me.  I just thought I knew and didn't know that day, but refused to accept it as I already had in my head that I would score near the projected mark.  If I had thought there was a good chance I did badly, I would kick myself but I wouldn't have a mini-outburst like I did in that actual class environment.  The same result would happen after each of the two scenarios, where I would talk to the prof one-on-one about the exam and get tips on improving.  Thankfully, my professors didn't think I was totally psycho (or at least that's what they told me); they just thought I was somewhat intense.

Then there's the part of the unexpected that parents and psychologists focus on so much: the change in plans.  I can deal with these well enough when there is some flexibility expected or if I am only half-excited about something.  However, if I have a vision set up in my head, then there may be a problem.  Just a few weeks back, I was back in my hometown and went with my parents to see Avatar.  We didn't quite get to the theater in time to find three seats, and I had a conniption searching the theater desperately for three seats, because I expected that we would all sit together as a rule of thumb.  After the scare of embarrassment from the parents, I calmed down and took a seat on my own and let them sit together where two seats were available.  However, I was in a state where the impossible was happening, and I was willing to go through a tantrum to keep it from happening...which ultimately failed.  There is also the abrupt change in plans when I am excited and looking forward to something, which became a big sit down conversation with me for those who are close to me.  This is because they knew I likely would not deal with the news well unless it was totally explained to me.

Often I relegate my life to a script inside my head, with a little room for improvisation where I see fit.  Sometimes the scripts are long-term, other times just for a routine part of the day.  This leaves me for a lot of room to be disappointed, as I cannot control the actions of others (ultimately, nor should I).  I never actually wrote down about what I expected from life, except for those goals lists that all people end up doing at various points in the life cycle.  The problem I have with writing down goals are that I consider these goals to be realistic and concrete.  When it feels like the carpet is pulled out from under me, I feel totally screwed and go from this lovable sweetheart of a person to a rampant whiner, complete with baby rattle.  Now this isn't to say I do it often today, but it's a hard part to control.  I can get mad at the big events not happening as planned, or at the smallest white lie going awry.

The way I got around this was through psychology and a series of talks, but it's not something that will just go away, as pessimistic as that may sound.  It's really a matter of me learning to accept that when I play scenarios out in my head, they may not always happen.  Instead, I end up playing the best and worse case scenarios in my head in advance to help me out.  For example, I won't always get super confident that a girl will say yes to a date; I will picture what happens if she says she's got a man, if she is just afraid to let me down, or if she is going to jump back scared and then run into the night...this way I'll know it's coming and won't yell "I'm not trying to be creepy!"  Seriously, though, playing different 'scripts' in my head is the backup plan that I never implemented as a kid (I hated backup plans the same way I hated doing more than one rough draft to a paper).  It's also how I have managed to keep myself sane through the idea that a change can happen suddenly or that what I thought would surely take place did not.  Helps me to keep from that spontaneous combustion moment known as implosion.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A History of Introversion

The autistic is typically an introvert.  (S)he does not talk to people often, especially at large parties, and waits until the appropriate turn to speak.  The autistic is not known for having large circles of friends and can generally be reclusive.  There is generally a threat that comes from conversation, and when the autistic does become more outgoing, it is a frequent occurrence that it is the wrong thing at the wrong time.

Now that I got that National Geographic study intro over with, I will acknowledge that there's no exception here.  So maybe I can end my blog, or explain.  I am a guy with a lot of "friends" meaning that they are acquaintances I know from my college days, know from my high school days, or met at random or through a mutual friend.  However, there are very few that I call true friends...and even I can be afraid to talk to them from time to time.  That's really because my own introversion keeps me from letting people get close unless I choose the time.

Apparently I didn't speak that much when I was a child, as I preferred to stay inside my cocoon (house) with my parents and little brother, the three people I had a comfort zone with.  Thanks to this, mom would set me up for occasional play dates with the neighbors' kids or kids from the preschool camps.  Those broke me out of my shell, and I was especially encouraged to interact with the other kids in my K-1st classes.  I was in a special education unit those two years, as they were unsure how I would function amongst the other 'mainstream' students.  In the special education class I was free to act like me (for the most part) since other students were the same way.  In first grade, this one kid and I would 'plant a tree' right before the end of the day.  We would go to a different spot in the room and do the whole routine.  Sometimes we students would use words in the wrong context just because the word sounded cool but it didn't sound wrong, and I wasn't aware of the concept of being made fun of by others.  I just thought it was school and didn't know that this was anything odd.  That was, until I hit the second grade and was actively mainstreamed in with other students.

The only problem is that introversion became greater during these years.  Don't get me wrong, I made friends, but I was at my most obnoxiously extroverted during my years at Abraham Lincoln Elementary, where I would confuse the other students with some of my actions, talking about making fake movies and coming up with the most literal explanations for everything.  It was starting to hit me that not everyone cared about the crazy stuff that I talked about, and it caused me to hole up slightly.  I did it more so in middle school, as I wanted to be a 'cool kid' like anyone else, but I also didn't feel like I fit in with any certain crowd.  The 'nerds' were too into Pokemon for me, while I was nerdier than anyone, into obscure sports stats and the weekly movie configurations.

By high school I had drifted from some friends while staying close to others.  The interesting thing about high school was that I was definitely acting much more 'normal' than I did in my initial mainstream schooling but even more introverted.  I became very focused on trying to enhance my transcript for college and recognizing my introversion to the point that I turned this into a persona.  I wanted to be seen as enigmatic since I was a little weird, and fell into my own introversion.  So I was talking to people and making friends, but also letting introversion consume me because I was set on getting into the best college possible and 'shutting up the haters' at any cost.

College was probably the best time for me to break out of the shell.  Living in a dormitory and finding more "like-minded" folks involved in classes and programs essentially enforced connections with others.  Also, some of the stereotypes of classes of people further broke apart in college.  I also happened to view college as a fresh start, where I could

Fast forward to three years after graduation.  Since I live downtown in Philadelphia, I am around more people than I have ever been, which allows for some random interaction.  However, I prefer to keep to myself and blend in with the city most of the time.  That doesn't mean I haven't met people within networks, as I have actually become friends with a couple current and former coworkers, and even a couple of random acquaintances who share my interests.  It's really about making an effort to speak to others when I am comfortable, and other times I would just prefer to keep to myself.  I have comfort in my introversion, as I'm sure most spectrum people do.

How do I deal with my own inability to be outgoing?  I guess that's where things are different.  As mentioned, I still talk to myself a lot, and on occasion someone would hear me do this (particularly sharing an apartment with 4-6 others during my last three years of college).  I think even my neighbor upstairs can hear me from time to time.  My other alternative is to start going on and on concerning a subject when I visit a friend, but that can be an annoying habit...ask my parents, my ex-girlfriend, or any of my closest pals.  It's an easy way to talk to others when you have someone that might be able to answer you, compared to yourself.  However, there are some subjects that I write notes on or just talk to myself about, and I've learned to be okay with that.

Not all of us with AS are introverted at the same level, as some may be better or worse than others.  However, the amount of time we want to spent talking to others can evolve as we learn more about social mores and begin to apply them.  It will never be easy for me to break from my shell of shyness out of the fear of saying something totally off-color, but I'm comfortable enough in my own skin that I know when I can afford to speak.  Such as when I write a blog entry about talking to others!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Intensity of Hobbies

Many of the experts of folks around those high-functioning along the spectrum know that there are so many true hobbies for people like me.  We have this intense interest in some 1-3 subject areas where we know minute details and could bore any average person for hours on the subject.  Well, that is true.  However, it's not like we don't follow anything else.  I have a passionate interest in my music collection...a very passionate interest.  It's alphabetized and fully cataloged via spreadsheet and on the rateyourmusic site. One of my worst habits is going past listening and into intense digital collecting.  I get the temptation to pay attention to what patterns of albums I have by an artist ("I can't own the second album since I need to have one artist where I just own the first and third albums") or sometimes want to be different ("I will make this the only album I like by this band just to say that I think their best one is overrated" which is something other hipster types do...yes, I admit to being somewhat of a hipster).  However, music  is something I love more so for sonic reasons, and it became a fixation as I grew up, even to the point that I have dabbled in composition.  Granted, it was worse when younger.  During my elementary school years I had a fascination with reading TV Guide.  I also used to keep track of the movie theater listings, including what two theaters could not show the same movies, and would come up with my own scenarios for fake movies.  Screw plots; I just wanted to picture the biggest blockbuster ever playing on the most screens.

There are smaller term interests of mine that most people would either find boring or just totally ridiculous.  I sometimes like to pay attention to school curricula, whether it be high school or college.  It's almost as if I want to build my own prestigious high school and choose what courses they would offer.  If I ever asked a friend about what AP classes he or she had as the topic came up in conversation, this was why.  I actually find that sort of information fascinating because of the patterns.  I also could go on about the history of distribution company logos, but I realize that no one is going to give a crap with the exception of people in a Yahoo group.  I'm cool with it, too.

One the other hand, I have interests that are common.  I am a guy, and I love sports.  I'm devoted to all the Philadelphia teams, and I especially pay attention to football, baseball, and basketball; difference is I sometimes analyze them differently than others do.  I have some interest in philosophy, politics, finance, and live plays.  It's not that I don't have the same hobbies as others...I have friends who share in my love of 'tortured intellectual' topics, sporting events, independent arts, and nerd culture.  It's just that many of us take these to extremes...I can rattle off enough NBA records to make your head spin.

Reality is that I cannot pinpoint why I get interested in the minute, beyond my remarks about patterns earlier.  I am very oriented towards hard numbers and sequences, which is why I get drawn to the interests that I mention above.  They all involve this sort of hard data.  Even music to me is about the sonic experience, as I will sometimes pay extra attention to chords.  However, a lot of that love is the same love of music as NT folks would have, so that's only so good an example.  It's essentially that I get caught up in some data that really amazes me, and then it translates to my own pretend world.

While I get consumed with my hobbies, sometimes more than I should, it's really because of the Aspie personality...getting fixed on the details of a couple interests in particular.  Now that I have shared some of my interests, I bet I have either inspired people to read on confused people...I'd put my money on both.

Since it's so gorgeous out, I have to focus on another occasional interest that is shared with everyone...the outdoors.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Diagnosis

Way back when I was around six or seven, I thought of myself to just be some kid who ran in circles and played around in the backyard.  I enjoyed playing catch, eating ice cream, and watching Saturday morning cartoons.  However, some of the things I did were not like everyone else, as I knew TV guide listings at a young age and wrote down random words about TV shows within notebooks...well, I was starting to do that at the time.  Some people were saying that I was weird, and I didn't get it.  However, I finally started to sense that everyone else was acting different than I was.  So I had a talk with my mom at random that day, and she revealed to me that I had "something called autism."

From what I recall, my mind went through a trance, and it's not like my habits changed.  Early on, I accepted it, probably too much.  I figured I was just someone who was a little different than the others, but I had learned through those assemblies and programs that 'everyone is special' so of course I had to be as well.  However, all of the strengths of having high-functioning autism seemed more apparent as well, as my teachers had been told of this early on.  While I didn't receive special treatment once I was mainstreamed (I went to a special education class for K-1), what was better is that they knew I had a gift for long term memory, which I can explain in a later post.

I can't be sure how others on the spectrum took the news, but there might have been that same level of shock for many, depending on what age it was revealed.  I just know my story.  From that day forward, I more clearly found myself and adapted to what hand I was dealt.  As it became less of a disease and more of an adjustment, everything felt that much better.  Now it was all a matter of how I would slowly adapt to "normal" society...

The Mandatory Introduction

Hi there.  You found my blog.

Who am I?  My name is Chris Voss.  Some call me by my first name, others by my last.  My middle name is Walter, which is where my tag comes from.  I just began this blog out of a desire to learn more about the autism spectrum.  I was diagnosed with high-functioning autism at age four, viewed as having Asperger's Syndrome by the time I reached high school, and then I came public about my case during my college years.  Recently I've decided to try giving back to those who might be just "normal" enough to function with society, but just "different" enough to be seen as eccentric, or whatever word they use these days.  I noticed that many blogs come from parents of children or doctors, and those who are on the spectrum are publishing books.  However, I wanted to start a blog that would be more free-form in nature.  Over time I'll trick it out slightly.

My goal of this blog is to share some life experiences with the world.  They range everywhere between trivial everyday situations, the habits of the Aspie (well, at least this version), perspectives on the broad subjects that people are curious about, how others have reacted to my oddities, and some occasional news and opinion concerning the spectrum.  I will try hard not to deviate, as I have a personal blog for that.

Some experiences will be more interesting than others, and some topics may border on controversial.  When all is said and done, I hope you get as much out of reading each blog entry as I do writing them.