Friday, February 27, 2009

Only scary people and crazy people talk to me

When my spouse, H, goes to the gym, she doesn't go to socialize; she just wants to work out and go home. But strangers -- usually men -- interrupt her workouts to talk to her. H is a friendly person, but she feels that she's at the gym on business -- to complete her workout -- and it breaks her concentration when people interrupt her. Besides, she's not all that comfortable talking to random people in English.

It's been a problem for a long time. She's tried lots of ways to avoid it: avoiding eye contact, wearing headphones, etc. Nothing seems to work. People still interrupt her workouts to talk to her.

I don't have that problem. When I go to the gym, only scary people and crazy people try to talk to me.

I suppose I need to explain that. See, I look more or less like this:
I don't wear shades in the gym, but I don't need shades to look intimidating. My default expression is grim and affectless. It's a look I've actually cultivated over the years, because I'm uncomfortable talking to most people, and I've found it keeps strangers from approaching me.

This is even more true at the gym, because I tend to frown when I concentrate on a task (such as lifting weights) and I'm semi-angry when I lift anyway. (I motivate myself in part by thinking of each rep as a contest between me and the weight I'm lifting, and the weight always wins in the end, which kind of pisses me off.) And, of course, I'm about six-and-a-half feet tall and weigh over 250 pounds, which some people find intimidating in itself.

So I'm not very approachable-looking at any time, and especially not at the gym. But other scary guys will talk to me. By "scary," what I mean is big and strong. The largest guys at the gym have no problem talking to me. There's no one at my particular gym who has quite the same combination of tallness and heaviness that I do (AFAIK), but there are guys who are more muscular than me and guys who are stronger and guys who come close. Dudes like that aren't scared of me. No reason to be -- we're sort of peers in bigness. We say hello to each other (remind me to write about the Alpha Male Nod sometime), and sometimes they'll ask me to spot for them or whatever. (And I'm fine with that. I'm not an actual misanthrope, I'm just uncomfortable sometimes.)

The other kind of people who'll come up and talk to me -- pretty much the only normal-sized people who will -- are mentally ill people. I'm serious. If there's a crazy person in the room, it's like they zero in on me right away. I think what happens is that I attract their attention with my size -- people generally seem to notice when I walk into a room -- but then instead of being intimidated, they see right through my facade of scariness and know that I won't be mean to them.

And I won't be. I can't be, really. I don't know how to be mean to people who aren't mean themselves. So crazy people come up and talk to me. And talk. And talk. And talk. They seem to know I won't hurt them, or even be rude to them, unlike a lot of people. And once they start talking, I have trouble getting away. I don't know how to get rid of them. I can get rid of almost anyone I want to by looking scary and/or being minimally responsive (usually I have to work harder at not getting rid of people I don't want to get rid of), but that doesn't seem to work on mentally ill people. Not the talkative ones, anyway.

I think I actually have something in common with them in terms of seeing through facades. Being mildly or borderline Aspergian, I tend to miss some cues in social situations. And I think some of the cues I miss are deceitful ones. When I meet -- or see on TV -- mean people, dishonest people, insincere people, and so on, I often see right through them, even when they fool many other people.

I don't think it's because I have some special insight. In fact, I think it's actually probably the opposite. I think people like that must be giving off false cues that convince many neurotypical people of their niceness, honesty, sincerity, etc. Since I simply miss many of those cues, I see something else, sometimes something that just seems a little "off," but often something that screams to me things like "Mean!" "Liar!" "Phony!"

So I've always been largely immune to people like salesmen, preachers, psychics, and politicians (not to say that all people in those fields are phonies, by any means), and I've never been able to understand how other people are able to trust some of them. I often find myself thinking, "Don't they see? How can they not see?" It's purely instinctive -- I couldn't tell you why I see a particular person that way -- but I'm pretty confident in my accuracy (even allowing for confirmation bias).

I wonder if that's just me, or is it something common among people on the Asperger's/autism spectrum...?

Monday, February 23, 2009

My very own favicon

Hey, notice anything new about the blog? Look up there by the address bar. See it?

It's my new "favicon."

Favicons are those little pictures that go on the address bar or next to bookmarks/favorites. Mine says tsujigiri, which means, of course, "To try a new sword on a chance wayfarer."

I can't explain why, but successfully adding this kind of thing makes me absurdly happy.

Here's a Blogger tutorial if you want to add one to your own blog. Make sure you follow the link in "3." on that page for proper placement of the HTML code. Also, you'll need to follow Zofia's tip in the comments on the second post in order to get your favicon to work with Safari.

That's a lot of links, unfortunately, but the actual process isn't very complicated. Good luck!

Sunday, February 22, 2009


The only way to get rid of an earworm is to give it to someone else.

So this is how it feels to be lonely
This is how it feels to be small
This is how it feels when your word means nothing at all

"This Is How It Feels" by Inspiral Carpets

I sure hope it worked, because that's one depressing earworm.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (2/16/2009)

Consumers: Oh, FDA, excuse me, FDA, there's a fly in my soup.
FDA: So what?

In the Maggie project, a woman wearing an odd mask and vaguely retro clothing is photographed in various settings. The results are strangely haunting.

Everything goes better with bacon.

And finally, the Worst Pun Ever. (Which actually makes it the Best Pun Ever, since the worse a pun is, the better it is.) H/t: Language Log

Friday, February 13, 2009

YouTube Favorites (February 2009)

The ideal evening commute, Metaphor-Free Radio, prison break Fail, Mexican pro wrestling is cool, when you believe in love, even a gang bang can be romantic, David gets a little too much NO2 at the dentist, and Darth Chad Vader also gets a little too much NO2 at the dentist.

I would probably be willing to work in a corporation if this were my evening commute.

Tired of obscure song lyrics? Metaphor-Free Radio is the answer. (Includes some bad language.)

Two prisoners in New Zealand try to make a run for it. Only problem is, they're handcuffed together...

Mexican wrestling: Mascarita Dorada!

When Huey Lewis and the News perform "Do You Believe in Love?" even gang bangs are romantic. (Jump ahead to about 1:40 to see what I'm talking about.)

David gets a little too much NO2 at the dentist.

Darth Chad Vader gets a little too much NO2 at the dentist as well.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

I'm reading "Twilight," so you don't have to (ch. 15)

Our Story So Far

Here's my synopsis of Chapter 15 of Twilight, by Stephenie [sic] Meyer.

Chapter 15. The Cullens

Bella wakes up. She sits up fast because she remembered what happened the night before. Sitting up fast makes her dizzy. Edward compliments her by telling her her hair looks like a haystack. Bella jumps into Edward's arms. Then she jumps out of Edward's arms, because her Dad might be home. But he's already gone. Edward wants Bella to jump back in his arms, but she's afraid she has morning breath, so she goes and brushes her teeth, washes her face, and combs her hair.

(But she doesn't pee. I guess that sort of thing doesn't happen in Twilight World. Actually, it's kind of funny to imagine Bella using the bathroom with her Beautiful Sparkly Vampire boyfriend in the next room: "With his superhuman senses, Edward could surely hear everything. He could smell everything. I groaned. How could anyone as beautiful as Edward love someone who has to pee? Faint with despair, I slipped off the seat and slid into the toilet with a splash...")

Bella comes out of the bathroom. Bella and Edward embrace and talk about love. Edward says it's time for breakfast, and Bella jokingly acts like he's going to kill her. Since Edward has no sense of humor, he doesn't think it's funny. Bella carefully examines his gold eyes to make sure she's forgiven for making a joke.

They go downstairs and Bella eats while Edward watches. Edward says he wants her to meet his Beautiful Sparkly Vampire family. Bella is scared, but not that they'll eat her. She's afraid she's unworthy of their Beautiful Sparkliness. Edward also says he wants to meet Bella's Dad. Bella doesn't like that idea very much either.

Bella goes upstairs to change clothes. When she comes back down, Edward kisses her. Bella faints. No, really. Honest. She actually faints. Edward acts exasperated, but he doesn't really mean it. (Because what guy doesn't want a girl who's helpless and dependent? "Twilight Moms," when your daughters read the book, make sure they don't miss this crucial point about how to act around boys.) Bella says it's because Edward's such a good kisser. He asks Bella if she's going to barf. She says no, it's not that kind of fainting.

They drive to Edward's house in the woods, and there's a lot of descriptive stuff like "gloom of the forest," "primordial cedars," and "protecting shadow." In other words, the house is Beautiful, but not Sparkly. They go inside.

Edward's Beautiful Sparkly Vampire "parents," Carlisle The Wise Leader and Esme The Motherly One, are waiting for them. Edward introduces them, and they're nice to Bella. Alice The Nice One shows up too, and she's nice to Bella also. She says she smells tasty good. Jasper The Other Boy One shows up too. He can manipulate emotions, so he calms Bella down. (It's OK for him to manipulate emotions because... um... er... well, it just is. He's Beautiful and Sparkly, so he can do what he wants.)

Edward has a piano. He plays something complex and luxuriant. He wrote it. Then he plays something inspired by Bella, which is unbearably sweet. (The music, not the act of playing it.) They talk about Edward's family. Carlisle The Wise Leader and Esme The Motherly One like Bella. Jasper The Other Boy One has to keep his distance so he won't eat Bella, but he doesn't dislike her or anything. Emmett The Big One is OK with her too. Rosalie The Mean One still doesn't like her, but it's only because she's jealous because Bella's a human. (After all, the only reason anyone could possibly dislike Bella is because they're jealous of her.)

Edward says Alice The Nice One has seen some other Beautiful Sparkly Vampires coming, so Edward's going to guard Bella all the time. Edward shows Bella around the house. He tells her that Carlisle The Wise Leader became a Beautiful Sparkly Vampire during the 17th century, and that he's about 363 years old.

Carlisle The Wise Leader was the son of a vampire-hunting preacher man. He took over for his dad when the dad got old. One day Carlisle The Wise Leader got bit by a vampire he was hunting. He went off and hid while he turned into a vampire.

(Check the pull-down menu under "Ongoing Series" in the left side-blog for more Twilight chapters.)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (2/11/2009)

Post-racial: still scared of the black guy

The Sopranos uncensored: every F-word and S-word in the entire history of the show... It's 27 minutes long.

Poe's Law* in action: The Ex-Masturbator t-shirt. *Strictly speaking, it's expanded concept #3.

"When I grow up, I want to be like Mommy."
"Dear Mrs. Jones,
"I wish to clarify that I am not now, nor have I ever been, an exotic dancer."

Also, there will be an "I'm reading Twilight, so you don't have to" post some time today or tomorrow.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Australian fires

News of the Australian bush fires is being crowded out of US news outlets by the recession and other stories, but it's grim. The final death toll is expected to exceed 200. Being from So Cal, where brush fires are an annual concern (although I never personally suffered any loss from one), I empathize.

Australian news coverage.
If you have resources you can spare, you can donate to the Australian Red Cross.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Book review: "Masterpieces: The Best Science Fiction of the Century"

I don't read much short fiction in general -- I've always preferred novels -- so I haven't read many of the great science fiction short stories. I've read The Martian Chronicles, of course, although arguably it's a novel rather than a story collection. My mother got me an anthology of early Gardner Dozois stories when I was in junior high school. I remember being deeply moved, disturbed even, by "Chains of the Sea." I've also read most of Philip K. Dick's major stories, and a few other collections here and there, but not much else.

So I was pleased to run across Masterpieces: The Best Science Fiction of the Century, edited by Orson Scott Card, in the library while looking for Ursula K. Le Guin's "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" because of something I saw on Daily Kos.

I can't say whether the book lives up to its title. It includes the biggest names, like Heinlein, Sturgeon, Asimov, Clarke, and Bradbury, as well as many I'm less familiar with, but I'm not knowledgeable enough to say whether anything was left out that should be in (though I wish "Chains of the Sea" was in it). But I found most of the stories to indeed be excellent ones.

To me, Theodore Sturgeon's "A Saucer of Loneliness" was the most moving -- or maybe I should say "elevating" -- of the stories, although I also found the ending of "Dogfight" by William Gibson and Michael Swanwick to be suddenly and unexpectedly wrenching. I also particularly enjoyed "Sandkings" by George R. R. Martin (I'd only read his "Song of Ice and Fire" books before) and "The Road Not Taken" by Harry Turtledove (first time I'd read him).

But again, I found most of the other stories, including the thought-provoking "Omelas," Harlan Ellison's "'Repent, Harlequin!' Said the Ticktockman" (what a wonderful title), and "Who Can Replace a Man?" by Brian W. Aldiss to be excellent as well. So I highly recommend Masterpieces: The Best Science Fiction of the Century.

Friday, February 06, 2009

My grandfather was a Nazi

So, I was reading Roger Ebert's blog -- it's excellent, BTW. I think it's the second-best written blog I know of, after Grace Undressed, which I wrote about on Blogroll Amnesty Day, and has the best comments, often with responses from the Great Man himself, which is pretty unusual for someone of his stature. Anyway, I was reading his blog and he wrote about the movie The Reader, and how it isn't a "Holocaust movie," it's a movie about a moral dilemma. And that reminded me of something I'd written before, but never put on my blog:

My grandfather was a Nazi.

My grandfather was a schoolteacher in Bochum, Germany, during the Nazi regime. By law, all public employees, and schoolteachers particularly, were required to become members of the Nazi party. Opa, however, didn't join for several years. Ordinarily, a teacher would have been presented with an ultimatum -- join the party immediately or lose his job -- shortly after the rule went into effect.

My grandfather, however, was protected by his status as a World War I vet -- he lost a leg in combat, was awarded the Iron Cross Second Class, etc. Essentially he was a war hero, the German equivalent of a Purple Heart veteran, a type of person for whom the Nazis professed great respect. By 1942, however, things were coming to a head. Some of Opa's friends learned there was a movement to have him fired. A delegation of his friends went to him and told him what would happen if he didn't join the party.

Opa had never been a believer in Nazi ideology, and he was no anti-Semite. My mother has a vivid memory of him angrily telling her never to talk that way the only time she repeated an anti-Jewish remark in his presence. But he was 45 years old. His disability rendered him unfit for manual labor, the only kind of work he would possibly be trusted with -- if he avoided prison -- if he were fired for refusing to join the party. He had a wife and four children under the age of 10 to support.

So he joined the party. He became a Nazi in 1942. Nothing else changed; he didn't go off and work as a guard in a concentration camp or anything, he just went on teaching school. As a member of the Nazi party.

What would you have done?

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Blogroll Amnesty Day

February 3 is Blogroll Amnesty Day. Blogroll Amnesty Day began as a day for big, famous blogs to "free" themselves of all the small blogs on their blogrolls. But Jon Swift the reasonable conservative, skippy the bush kangaroo, and Blue Gal turned that idea on its head and made it a celebration of smaller blogs.

Celebrating Blogroll Amnesty Day is easy. You don't have to put up a tree or a poll or buy candy or flowers, wrap presents or risk your life playing with dangerous fireworks. All you have to do is link to some smaller blogs that you like or celebrate the idea of linking or blogrolling in any way you see fit.

So, I have three blogs I want to call to your attention. (These are some I've never really written about before, but I read regularly. I also recommend all the blogs in my blogroll [it's in the right side blog], especially the ones listed under "People.")

Grace Undressed is by Grace, a former (or not so former) stripper. In some ways her world is alien to me. I don't know anyone like her IRL. But she's fascinating. I don't mean that in a condescending or, God forbid, some sort of Jerry Springer freak-show way. What I mean is, she's beautiful. Deeply and truly, and a little sadly, beautiful. Her writing is sublime. It's as good as any writing anywhere. I only wish she'd post more often.
(And I guess I have to add, it's for adults only. It won't be everyone's cup of tea. But I think it's the best-written blog I know of.)

Dorkman's Blog is by Michael "Dorkman" Scott of Ryan vs. Dorkman and Ryan vs. Dorkman 2 fame. I kinda sorta made his acquaintance at TheForce.Net's fanfilm forum, where I was briefly active as DarthMeekAndMild while I looked into the idea of making an epic fanfilm of my own. (Never got past the script stage, unfortunately, but it would have been seriously epic if I'd been able to make it.)
Anyway, Dorkman's gone on from fanfilms to become an aspiring director. He blogs mostly about filmmaking, but also about religion/atheism and miscellaneous stuff. He's a talented and smart guy with a very bright future, and I'm "following his career with great interest."

Andrea just showed up at my blog one day and started leaving funny comments. She never even mentioned that she has a blog called Serious Injury Inflicted. It's a seriously funny slice-of-life blog.