The long and short of it

It’s going to be a long day; I can tell already.
Last night I finally got eight hours of sleep, aside from several prolonged coughing fits.  The previous three nights I’d only gotten four hours of sleep.  You’d think the extra rest would make me feel better, but I’m still running short on good sleep because I have this bronchitis or whatever (we’re waiting on the lab results from the nasal swab to see if I have Pertussis, holy shit).
At least I only have to work one job today.  But I’m teaching an evening class and I suspect that by then some of my cognitive functions will be running on Reserve Power.  At least it’s a subject I’ve done several times before, so I can get by with using a lot of verbal scripts.
It’s going to be a long day; I can tell already.  That’s because I’m already running into “System Overload: Error Messages”.
P.S.  I’m going to have a bowl of Mint-Chip ice cream and see if that doesn’t do anything for me, since the efficacy of Häagen Dazs Vanilla Swiss Almond ice cream isn’t up to par. Thanks, Bev!
[now clink on this link for System Overload: Error Messages where post continues]

Weather's here, wish you were fine

Summer sucks.  I hate the heat, the humidity, the sizzling sun boring into my head, unpeeling my limbs from each other, the restless nights spent searching futilely for a cool spot on the sheets and being sleepless for the lack of the comforting weight of blankets, the lack of appetite, the omnipresent glare, the complete lack of energy … it’s depressing, and won’t get better until fall weather arrives in late September.  I don’t even have the respite of an alpine vacation to look forward to.
Raynaud’s is weird; my toes and thumbs can still go numb, even when I’m hot.  WTF?!
Plus, now I have a head cold, the whole sniffly-scratchy throat-more aches-feel crappy routine.
“How can you have a cold?” asked my coworker yesterday, “It’s summer!”
“Back in the 20th century, they discovered that cold are caused by viruses, not by cold weather,” I sniffed.  (OMG, now I’m officially Old, I’m saying, “back in the 20th century”.)
“I’m just kidding,” he grinned.
Oh, right.  I realised that about the time he said it.  Nothing new there, either.  (File under: Aspergers, misses jokes.)
My sunglasses broke.  Things around the house keep breaking (kitchen drawer track, drawer pull, cabinet front, bathroom ceiling paint, tub’s chipped, towel rack needs to be masticked back on, kitchen needs painting, bedroom needs painting, kitchen flooring’s gouged, back patio’s settling, double pane-windows are fogged up, ad nauseam).  And the thermostat is broken and won’t set the air conditioning below 83°F.
The cats keep fighting.  My son can’t find a job.  And my daughter is nine months pregnant and belly-aching, as is every pregnant woman’s right.  But the house is hot and none of us are sleeping well.
::bleh::
But, a good distraction is the latest Circus of the Spineless, over at Bug Girl’s blog!

"All we want are the facts, ma'am."

Sergeant Joe Friday of the old American cop show, Dragnet, was famous for asking witnesses — in characteristic deadpan delivery, “All we want are the facts, ma’am.”
Sounds good to me.  Not just facts (albeit they’re tremendously useful, especially when you have them in variety), but also the focus upon transmitting information, without a lot of accessory fluff.

“I don’t know how to put this,” my ex-husband would hedge.  He was always loathe to break negative news, and would put off doing so for long stretches of time before tiptoeing around the subject and throwing up paragraphs of waffling pseudonyms.

“Then just say it.  Spit it out already!”

Bluntness when it’s simply being straight-forward is not a social crime in my world.
Furthermore, I don’t go inventing insults where none are intended. Unless you are calling me (as some of my students with behavior disorders do) a “fucking bitch” or something equally blatant, I’m not going to assume that speaking plainly is meant to be an affront.
I will confess that (even into my late 40’s) I am still sorting out the reasons why people say the things they do:

  • There’s the “social noise” that is meant as non-confrontational space-time filler, to promote social ease in a sort of verbal grooming behavior or stress-displacement behavior.
  • There’s the exchange of opinions and veiled insults meant to establish or maintain odd social status arrangements. (I understand what those are, but I really don’t understand why they exist, aside from the practical necessities of organisational status for allocating responsibilities.)
  • There are the jokes, compliments, and stories meant to promote inclusion and establish group identity by creating a culture of common experiences, affirmation of values, and recognition of effort.
  • There’s the philosophical or creative exchange of ideas, including word play, humor, and problem solving.

Then there are the murkier forms of communication that I have trouble fathoming, even when I can (after a few minutes or days’ consideration), identify what is going on.  These include the more oblique types of flirting, the affective persuasion of political campaigning (including the sort that happens at work and other organisations), and other mysterious interchanges that involve even less emphasis on word choice, and more upon paraverbal and nonverbal delivery.  (“Paraverbal” is how the words are said, the inflections; “nonverbal” is the accompanying body language.)  I’m actually not sure what these are, but sometimes I can sense that something more is going on, and I’m not sure just what it is that I am missing.
At school, I spend all day surrounded by people who are constantly negotiating with each other to get what they want or feel they need at the moment (what in Functional Behavioral Analysis is described in the dichotomy of providing a means to Get/Obtain or Protest/Escape/Avoid).  A lot of the interpersonal transactions are fairly simple to understand, as most of the students lack subtlety.  At the garden center, the focus of my interactions revolve around the transmission of factual information, and the curious scripts of commerce that combine both “cheerful servant” and “autocratic cashier”.  The latter set is usually easier, and I’m even beginning to pick up on the “Thank you,” that really means, “I don’t need any more information now”.
But after interacting with people for twelve hours a day, I find that my brain turns to mush from the burdens of doing my physical jobs with focusing lots of working memory on perceiving, analysing, and replying to all the heavily-coded and loaded talktalktalk.
Sometimes I miss the simplicity of working in a lab, where one could spend their day simply transmitting facts.
Of course, I later found that even that was a misperception.  There was all the office politics going on just at the edge of my radar, and there was the inevitable problem of others assigning meanings to my para/nonverbals that I was not really intending to transmit, and there was the third problem of others being annoyed or dissappointed because I had not picked up on their para/nonverbals and thus missed a large chunk of what they “really meant”.
Life would be so much simpler if people would just mean what they say, and say what they mean!

Nicely Non-verbal

One of the things I like about garden center work is being able to help people select plants for their different needs, and discuss how to care for them.  There are few things more pleasant than being able to share information about one of your special interests with other enthused people.
But the other day there was a storm heading in, and customers at the garden center were few and far between.  Until it was time to put things away for the night, there wasn’t a whole lot of sales work to do.  So the other clerk and I contentedly tended the plants.
Free from the heavy cognitive demands of dealing with fractious students, or of trying to make chit-chat while running a cash register, I peacefully filled in the gaps on the benches with fresh stock, and groomed the plants by removing the old flowers and leaves.
My coworker was in another area watering the the endless flats of geraniums.  When I came by to empty my debris bucket, she commented that it was a nice break from the intensity of her other job as an interpreter.  “I like being able to just ‘veg out’ with the plants,” she sighed happily.
After a few seconds’ delay to shift back into conversational gear, I replied, “Yes!  It is nice to be non-verbal for a while.”  And then I went back to silently puttering around with plants.

Piques and Valleys

So, I’ve been rather absent from bloggery lately due to spending evenings sorting through vast boxes of paper archives, moving books, applying for jobs to keep a roof over our heads, or attempting to sleep off this virus. I now have removed a cubic meter of paperness from our house, and transferred a few hundred books from one room to another. I still have the virus (or maybe a second one, as our students have not the best hygiene), but not the second job.
(Now, if anyone is looking for an experienced secondary or college tutor or after-school care for special-needs children, let me know via andreasbuzzing care of my gmail account.)
But aside from all that, there have been some thought-provoking ups and downs in the news that I don’t want to let pass before they become “olds”:
In an brief article in the New York Times, researchers from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine studied some 11,000 third-grade students, and found that Continue reading Piques and Valleys

Requesting your thoughts, please

Howdy folks,
This morning I’m again in pain and rather stiff.  I know that many of you have rather specialised knowledge, and would appreciate your thoughts on getting diagnostics.
I have a number of conditions, both common and uncommon, including Raynaud’s, migraines, cough-variant asthma, tinnitus & hyperacussis and Auditory Processing Disorder, motor tics, and assorted neurological glitches including prosopagnosia (face-blindness) and ADHD. Getting these things diagnosed over the past decade has been wonderfully helpful for those that can be medicated, figuring out how to make accommodations for those that can’t, and being able to prove to others that I have documented reasons for difficulties, and that I’m not being lazy or stupid.
However, the crux of this post is that I also have Continue reading Requesting your thoughts, please

Being remote / mis-emoting

“What’s the matter?”
“Nothing.”
“No, tell me.”
Nothing.
“Seriously, what’s wrong?”
“NOTHING’S wrong; I’m just working on this article.”
“Well you don’t have to be so rude.”
“I wasn’t — I’m just trying to work already.”
Apparently I don’t always “emote” (physically express my emotional state) the way people expect me to. Apparently my “thinking” face looks like a scowl.

“Are you annoyed with me?”
“No.  You’re fine.  I’m just thinking.”
(But if you keep bugging about why I am/not annoyed, I will probably become annoyed…)
Maybe I should research Continue reading Being remote / mis-emoting

Family Traditions

My daughter and son had a long conversation the other day.  They knew what they were talking about, within this twin-like patois built upon years of shared jokes.  It made sense to them, for all that anyone else would have found the banter of movie and TV quotes to be strings of non-sequitors.
“You know, the baby won’t learn how to talk if this is all it hears,” I jested, referring to my future grandchild. “The school will call and say, ‘We think your child is autistic; he just speaks in scripts’!”
I was mostly joking of course; conversing in “scripts” hasn’t prevented either of my kids from being able to speak.   Like in many families, sometimes the scripts imply whole paragraphs of dialog familiar to members.  They can serve as conversational shorthand or crutches to encode the meaningful transmission of information when someone is in a hurry, feeling ill, or just making a joke.
Like all the other forms of communication shorthand we use at home, it’s just one of those traditions that creates part of the family culture. (And what better way to hide things from mum than a secret kid argot?)

You Can't

(These quotes are real, at least to the gist of what was told me.)

“You can’t — no, no whining!  You just sit here next to me and wait quietly for the doctor.  You are NOT going to bother people by grabbing all the magazines and lining them up on the floor.  Don’t even ask ‘why’ — I’m tired of all the Why’s.”

“Will you quit repeating things over and over. What the devil’s gotten into you?”

“Oh, just stop flapping about every time you’re upset!  Your baby sister doesn’t go around doing weird things like that!”

“Sit still, Andrea, no rocking.  We don’t do that in school.”

“Stop doing that!  You’re going to kill the grass, spinning around in circles like that.  Now come inside and quit making a spectacle of yourself.”

“What were you thinking, Continue reading You Can't