It makes me want to write a filk song

To the tune of: Mickey Mouse Club

filk flame 31jul99cr
This is the only pic I could find that I took at a filk sing. They don’t usually involve so much flame.


A – Always Means Well: I don’t mean to be rude when I do thing that are considered annoying to people without AS

S – Special Interest: Game shows are my special interest – ask me anything about any of them

P – People Seem Strange to Me: I don’t completely understand how people without AS think

E – Ears Hurt When Things are Loud: That’s my sensitivity, for other with AS it could be light, smell, taste…

R – Rules are Very Important: It upsets me greatly when people don’t follow rules

G – Gets Mad When Routines Aren’t Followed: I have an internal schedule I must follow

E – Every Day Tries Very Hard: I would fall asleep after school because getting through a day was harder for me than most people

R – Remembers Things Very Well: I retain text so well that I can frequently quote passages from books I have read

S – Social Rules are Hard: I have a hard time adjusting to expectations

Literal Mindedness

iu“Children with AS may have an unusually sophisticated vocabulary at a young age and have been colloquially called ‘little professors’, but have difficulty understanding figurative language and tend to use language literally.” —

This is frequently the basis of Sheldon jokes on The Big Bang Theory.  Recently I responded to a friend’s comment on FB and he informed me that he was being sarcastic.  I should have asked him to hold up a sign next time.

But I don’t think I have much trouble anymore with interpreting figurative language or sarcasm.  I’m more aware of the times I’m being sarcastic and other people take me literally.  That happens especially when I say something I think is obviously sarcasm because no one could be that dumb.  They sometimes think I really am that dumb and explain it to me. I’ve given up correcting them.

But this brings up something that keeps getting to me when I’m researching Asperger’s online.  Most of what I find is aimed at parents of kids with AS, things written by AS or non-AS, explaining AS for an audience of non-AS.  I can’t find much of anything to help me understand the way non-AS folks think.

It’s little things that get to me.  I recently tried to find out from my therapist how people can use the word “tomorrow” in an email when they don’t know when that email will be read.  What are they thinking?  Of talking to the person in real-time, and then just writing what they would say in that situation?  Are they unaware that they’re writing an email?  Or of thinking when it will be read?  I would have said that I never use that word in emails, but a search of my Sent file found exceptions.  Looking at the context, however, I notice there’s always some reason I wanted to use a relative term, such as using “I’ll do it tomorrow” as short-hand for “I wasn’t able to get to it today, but I will tomorrow.”  But I would not be capable of writing an email, especially in the evening, saying “I’ll see you tomorrow” which I noticed her doing twice.

I guess I’ve always assumed that everyone wants to speak clearly and could speak clearly if they tried.  Maybe they’re dumb or lazy and unable to speak clearly themselves, but if I’m careful to be clear, surely they’ll understand me.  I’ve tried to figure out the exceptions, the special codes.  For example, if I ask a question like “Where did you put . . . ?” they don’t think it’s a question, but a criticism.  So I guess I need to find some other way to ask it.  Or maybe preface it with an explanation of some kind.  Mostly when I ask a question and the other person is obviously interpreting it to mean something else, all I can think to do is just keep asking the same question in different words until I can figure out the answer from their response.

And in emails, the rule seems to be the only response I can expect is to the last sentence.  Any questions before that are invisible.

But do you see my point?  Even if I figure out what they mean, I still can’t figure out how to get them to understand what I’m trying to say.  I know what I’m trying to say literally, but when I say it that way, they think it means something else.  How can I put it into their non-literal code?  With experience, I’ve learned some of the code, although it’s difficult for me to speak in it, but for so many things, I have no idea how to make people understand me when being literal doesn’t work.

Let me brag about a recent accomplishment, silly as it probably seems to anyone else.  I recently said $1400 as “Fourteen hundred dollars.”  To me, that feels all wrong.  When someone says that to me, it’s like hearing something in the metric system and having to translate it in my head to understand it.  It should be “One thousand, four hundred dollars” and I always used to have to say it that way.  But I managed to say “Fourteen hundred dollars” the other day, because I know that’s how everyone else says it. That’s the right translation into their code.

Even when I was working on the theory that there was something different in my brain wiring, something I thought of as my having a defective “herd instinct” gene, I still couldn’t do things like that.  Somehow, now that I’m thinking of it as part of Asperger’s — part of something that makes sense and fits into a pattern — it’s easier to accept and, ironically, to compensate for.  It doesn’t make me say “I have a medical excuse so you have to accommodate me.”  I don’t have to avoid thinking about it because it’s too crazy.  I can just deal with it.

What is Empathy?

7 ufSomeone told me that the description of people with Asperger’s Syndrome as lacking empathy is a confusion between displays of empathy and feelings of empathy. That may be true, but that’s still not addressing the point I’m trying to figure out. What is it non-AS folks mean by “empathy.”

I can’t figure out if I have too much empathy or too little. For example, one day I was having a conversation. I was sitting down. The other woman was standing and holding a heavy object. I had to break off and ask her if she didn’t want to at least put the object down. Now, she was strong and healthy and didn’t have my back or fatigue problems. She was in no distress. But I don’t just try to put myself in other people’s shoes, I can’t keep myself from doing it even when I try. I couldn’t keep my mind on what she was trying to say to me because, the longer the conversation went on, the more I thought about how my back would be hurting if I were her.

I also recently interrupted a friend in the middle of an impassioned speech to ask “Can’t I get you a glass of water?” She looked at me like I was crazy. “Your throat is dry.” I explained. She drank half a glass of water in one gulp when she got it, so I’m sure I was right, but she obviously was so intense that she hadn’t felt any discomfort, even while I was so uncomfortable noticing her dry throat that I just couldn’t pay attention to what she was saying anymore and had to interrupt.

It used to drive me crazy one place I worked how I kept getting into conversations with coworkers as we were walking down the hall, and when we got to the intersection where I was going one way and they the other, we’d stand blocking the intersection. I’d keep trying to suggest we go somewhere else to talk, or talk later, or at least get out of the intersection, and they’d keep talking, oblivious to the other people squeezing their way to get past us. While I’d be in agony.

I listen to a lot of audiobooks and it really bothers me when the reader has a cold.  I want to tell them to go home and go to bed.  Of course, that’s silly.  Those recordings were made years ago, and they’re usually over their cold before they finish reading the book. It must not bother other people so much or they wouldn’t sell audiobooks with this flaw.

In each example, my interest was in relieving the discomfort I was feeling, not what the other person was actually feeling. So, that’s selfish, right? But I was, almost literally, putting myself in the other’s place, which is, I thought, the definition of empathy. Yet, that doesn’t really seem to be what people mean when they give concrete examples of empathy.

Or am I confusing empathy with sympathy? Sympathy, I think, is being able to say things like “I feel your pain” and “I feel so sorry for your loss” which, to someone too literal-minded like myself, are, well, lies, even though I know you’re supposed to say them. (I fear I surprised someone once when they said “Let me know if there’s anything I can do,” and took it literally and I asked a favor.)  And they just sound so cliche, I don’t think I could force them out of my mouth.  Maybe I should take a page from the Dexter books and practice saying “There, there.”  Great.  I’m making a serial killer my role model.

Does knowing I have Asperberger’s make a difference?

I may or may not write up a vent on my current problem.  I like to use this blog more for looking at the Big Picture.

The Big Picture is that in a situation like this, the worst part is usually that I’m so mad at myself.  I don’t think I’ve ever thought of it in words like this, but if I had it would go something like “If only I were better with people.  If only I weren’t such a wimp I would have asked the right questions, and nagged, and if people liked me, they would answer my questions and do what they say they’ll do and then this wouldn’t be happening.”

This time, I think I did everything I could reasonably do.  I tried to find out what needed to be done and who was doing it.  When the information I was getting wasn’t worth the effort it took to get, I tried to narrow my focus to just the essential questions.  Specifically, I tried “Is there anything else I need to do?”  I never got an answer to that one, either. I made a conscious decision then to avoid stress by giving up and hoping it would work out, figuring I’d find out eventually and odds were good that any problems would be minor and repairable.  I was able to do that because I’ve come to realize that this Social Stuff is more difficult for me than it is for most people, and that doesn’t necessarily mean I’m a coward.  I’ve got to play the cards I’m dealt as best I can.

Although things are messed up that wouldn’t have been if I could have gotten answers to my questions earlier, I don’t think I did anything wrong.  If I can’t make people like me, if I can’t figure out how to communicate with them, it’s not because I haven’t tried.  I’m not sure it’s because of AS, but that would explain it.  I am pretty sure it’s something different about the way my brain is wired.  And it’s not unreasonable to expect people to do what I pay them to do, even if they don’t like me.  Not even if they have really good reasons to not like me.  Although I don’t think they do.  Really, I’m much less annoying than Sheldon, even at my worst.  If anything, I’m being too polite to people I have good reason to be mad at.

I don’t think it’s going to cost any extra money to fix this, it’s just an expense I didn’t know about earlier.  It might not even be a delay, but if it is, it’s just one more, in a long series.  It actually would make it kind of neat, in a way, for it to be just about a year from when I started house hunting to when I get to move in.

Why am I surrounded by idiots?

24o61hhI know “Why am I surrounded by idiots?” is usually a line for tv villains and the answer is usually obvious: “Because you’re a villain.”  But I’m not a villain and I’m not on tv.  And just can’t believe so many people are so stupid.

There’s my credit card company.  I just spent 25 min on the phone with them.  Now they’re saying that the two or three new cards they sent to replace the one just expired have all been lost in the mail.  The person I talked to last week told me that the first two went to a PO Box in Richmond, VA.  But the person today tells me that’s where they were sent FROM.  It’s just a coincidence that two (or three) cards they sent to the correct address got lost in the mail.  But the next one will be sent FedEx, arriving tomorrow or Monday.  And because this has been such an inconvenience to me (I’ve had no working credit card for a month, just when I’m moving and trying to order stuff online), they’re not even going to charge me the $16 they usually do to send a card by FedEx. My that’s gracious, especially since I’ve never asked them to use FedEx.  I just ask them to send it to the right address.  And not expect me to believe it’s a coincidence that one after the other gets lost in the mail.

There’s the folks I’m buying a manufactured home from and all their subcontractors.  I still have no running water.  Last week one made me come out for a “walk-thru”.  He thought the water had been hooked up, but it hadn’t.  He made a phone call that I thought had addressed the problem.  He showed me where the hookup should be.  I wish I’d taken a pic.  As best I can remember there was a trench and I could see where it should be connected, but wasn’t.  Just a couple feet.  I went back this week and the trench was filled in.  I switched on the whole-house water switch, and still had no water.

I emailed them and they said they don’t do the water hook up.  Another contractor said it’s his understanding that the park does that.  I called the park and they said they do not.  They say it’s possible that it could be hooked up now, but not turned on at the meter.  They can’t do that, and should have been done by whoever hooked it up.  I have emails and phone calls in to other people who might know who’s suppose to hook up the water, and am waiting.

I have been trying to get an answer to one simple question: what are the dimensions of a Full-sized Prodigy adjustable bed.  I’ve gotten 4 different answers from 3 different sources.

The manufacturer says they make only one full-size Prodigy 54×80.  Other lengths are custom-made.  That seems very odd since my other sources say 54×75 is standard.  In an online chat with one retailer first said “Full is 54×80 full xl is 54×84” and a few lines later said “Length would be an 80 for an XL That would also take a custom mattress as it is not a normal size”  When I asked about the contradiction I got “I was thinking Californa king, is an 84”  So the second quote from them is 54×75 and 54×80.

My third source gives 3 different full sizes, and confirmed by email the same thing that’s on their website. — 53×74, 53×80 or 53×84 “Those are 3 different sizes we make. 1 inch off is nothing to worry about….some places say 74 or 75 but then when you measure it with a professional measure device its 1 inch off :)”

Uhm, why?  What is “a professional measure device”?  And does this device say it’s one inch smaller or larger?

It says right on the floorplan of my RV that my current bed is a Queen 58 x 74 1/2, so someone seems to think they can measure even to the half-inch.  (Standard Queen is 60×80)  I haven’t tried to measure it with a professional device.  I’m not sure if I have a professional device.  I have tape measures.

10/13/15 — updates: My new credit card arrived. My contractor for steps says he can connect water and sewer.

Reading List for What’s Wrong with the World?

Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain by David Eagleman
The Hidden Brain : how our unconscious minds elect presidents, control markets, wage wars, and save our lives by Shankar Vedantam.
Brain Bugs: How the Brain’s Flaws Shape Our Lives by Dean Buonomano
The Psychopath Inside by James Fallon
The Murderer Next Door: Why the Mind Is Designed to Kill by David M. Buss
The World is Flat — A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century by Thomas L. Friedman.
Exposed: The Secret Life of Jodi Arias by Jane Velez-Mitchell


Video lecture series: Neuroscience of Everyday Life — Professor Sam Wang, Ph.D.  —


Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco Stork
Sirius (1944) by William Olaf Stapledon
Odd John (1936) by William Olaf Stapledon

Having fun

I thought I was unique in this, but maybe it’s a common Aspie situation.  When I was in high school, my mother told me that I didn’t need to get straight A’s all the time.  I ought to go out and have fun instead.  The problem was, I knew how to get straight A’s, but had no idea how to have fun.

I fear I wasted a lot of time in my adulthood making myself do things because I knew other people enjoyed them.  I kept hoping I’d learn to like them.  I was probably in my 30’s or 40’s before I decided I didn’t have to force myself to go to parties.  I was never going to learn to like them, and why should I go to them when I didn’t.

So what if my idea of having a good time is to lose myself in a spreadsheet?  Or if my idea of great art is a really good infographic?  Is that really something so shameful that I don’t dare say it in public?  It’s not like I kill people for fun or something.  I’m weird but I’m not hurting anyone.catfamilyI spent a lot of time making this for my own reference.  It was a lot of fun.  Why should I be so embarrassed about admitting that?

My Big Bang Theory Labeling Theory

The Big Bang Theory has helped me straighten out some separate but overlapping labels. Here’s how I figure it.

Tradition crew and the only pic I have of me in uniform (front left)
Tradition crew and the only pic I have of me in uniform (front left)

Sheldon and I share these 4 labels: 1) Asperger’s Syndrome 2) Geekiness 3) Excessive Intelligence and 4) Science Fiction fan. Leonard, Howard and Raj share 2-4. Amy and Bernadette share 2-3. Stuart shares 2 and 4.

I define “Geekiness” as an interest in something most people find boring. Most often it’s Science Fiction, computers or science, but there are geeks who are into art, history or poetry, too. What crosses the line into an Asperger Special Interest is a desire for exhaustive knowledge of a subject, which can get confused with obsession. The difference is that obsessions are fear driven; an escape from something else. A Special Interest is pleasure-driven; it’s a lot of fun. Yeah, it’s weird because anyone else would find it boring, but it’s fascinating to us.

I figure, if you like Star Trek, it just means you have good taste.  If you REALLY like Star Trek, you’re probably a Geek.  If you memorize Star Trek episodes, watch it at every opportunity, and lip sync the words, that sounds like AS.  That was me once.  It drove my mother crazy.  I don’t think I could do that anymore, but I was watching Blake’s 7 yesterday and lip syncing, which reminded me.  I’m not much into SF anymore, but I have an annual B7 marathon. We once played a Star Trek trivia game with me vs. the rest of the Tradition crew.  At a convention, I won a Blakes 7 Trivial Pursuit Ship tournament. I may still have the certificate.

concertinaI don’t know how typical this is for AS, but, in addition to long-term Special Interests, I have a lot of Sporadic Enthusiasms. Before the internet, they started with an interest leading me to read every book my library had on the subject. Some of mine were one-time things, lasting a few years, some keep flaring up, but then disappear for years. Only Science Fiction fandom and animal rescue have been long-term, continuous interests.

Another test I use is: Can I bore everyone to death talking about this topic? If I can find other geeks who would find me interesting, that’s geekiness, not necessarily Asperger’s. But you’ll regret it if you get me started on animal shelter statistics, media adaptations of books, or the early Roman Empire.  My current thing is variations of The Sweet Trinity.

Are you excited?

in hand wheeThis is another question I agonize over. When I last bought a new car, I got asked that a lot. I realized I was disturbing people by not acting more excited and that the right answer was a smile and as energetic an “Oh, yes!” as I could manage.

I just bought a new house (manufactured home, to be delivered to a retirement park) and got that question for the first time yesterday, but probably not the last. Now that I’ve had a chance to think about it and practice, I’m ready to deliver “Oh, yes!” next time.

I think this fits into what I’m going to call my “Klingon warship theory.” Most people look at a new car, new house, money, a lottery ticket, etc and fill in the blanks. They see . . . something else. Happiness, probably. I can’t do that.  I look at my new house and I see a lot of great stuff, for sure. But I also see a million decisions I’m going to have to make and months of not being to remember where I put things. Most of all, I see an exhausting and stressful month in front of me while I get moved.

If you want to see me excited, come by the next time I buy a new pair of socks. I’ve been buying “The World’s Softest Socks” lately, although sometimes I’ll get seduced by something on sale and soft at Grocery Outlet or Walmart. They’re so soft when they’re new!

Why is a Klingon warship like a good lie?

klingonI’ve been wondering for a while if my fondness for patterns has something to do with Asperger’s, but only a few days ago, I got to thinking that there might be something about the reverse — my not being able to impose order on things that have no pattern, the way other people seem to be able to do.

  1. I could never get into that game of seeing things in clouds.  They’re just clouds to me.
  2. I was very interested in astronomy, but, hard as I tried, I couldn’t see constellations.
  3. I’m SO glad I’ve never been given a Rorschach test.  Except for that Swallowtail Butterfly, they just look like inkblots to me. And the “sex” one looks like a Klingon warship.  Well, doesn’t it?  Rorschach_blot_06

However, after I got to thinking about that, I spent some time researching Rorschach tests.  I found some fascinating journal articles (admittedly, over my head, but the parts I understood are cool) one looking into the question of if Asperger’s is different from High Functioning Autism —

So, it doesn’t look like difficulty with Rorschach is a problem distinctive of either Asperger’s or autism.

iu_011I was telling a fellow Crazy Cat Lady about my Klingon and she said it looks like Bill the Cat to her.  In a racoon coat.  That strikes me as even more amusing than my Klingon.  I can sort of see it, but only if he were skinned and made into Bill the Rug.  Thbbft!

I’ve written elsewhere about my difficulty in lying.  Recently I was up half the night trying to come up with a good lie, and when I told someone else of my problem, she effortlessly gave me the perfect one.  It seemed so obvious, why couldn’t I think of it?

Coming up with a good lie is a lot like seeing things in inkblots.  You look at what’s there, then kind of loosen up and let what you want to be there reshape it.  I can’t seem to do that.  Reality keeps pushing through.

One of the theories about the mechanism of Autism/AS is that our neural filtering is insufficient.  That would explain why I find clothing tags and the neighbor’s lawn mower intolerable.  Would it also explain my literal-mindedness and difficulty lying?