Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Passive aggressive

Two people were talking about me like I wasn't there.

"AS4L isn't very open, he's quite protective."
"I disagree, he's likely to get into trouble as he often just tells it how it is."

I guess they’re both right...I don't speak much but when I do you'd better listen :)

Saturday, 4 December 2010


It's that time of year again; it's not only coming but accelerating. In January I jumped off a very tall building and have been telling myself "so far so good, so far so good" but now the ground is in sight and it's coming up fast. I'm going to hit it hard.

There is an acquaintance I usually spend some of Christmas day with, or at least have lunch and maybe a drink with, it helps the day go by, helps me feel normal. I am standing still, though, and like everyone else he is moving and is now married and living with his wife and they are going away for Christmas this year. So for the first time in maybe 10 odd years I'll literally be on my own for Christmas. The longest day of the year.

I'm in training for it already, I'm regularly attending the gym and regularly not drinking. I'm back on the wagon so that the inevitable fall isn’t so bad. This year I firmly intend the entire day to drown in an alcoholic daze.

Although I suspect it's not just going to be Christmas itself that is the problem. I've kinda got involved-ish with a girl and I won't go into details but needless to say it's my usual modus operandi. It's another long-distance thing, another girl I've managed to woo with words. I've been to visit to her and mustered all of my efforts to fraudulently appear as normal as I can. To be honest I don't find it that hard to maintain normality for an evening with people I like and haven’t seen for a long time (I had a list of things to talk about pre-prepared on my phone's "To do" list that I referred to through the night so that I'd have something for when she stopped driving the conversation - there's a little tip for you).

For a week after meeting her I was in a pretty bad hole. Depression featuring heavily through my days and drinking through my nights. I felt like I was grieving for something but I don't know what. Meeting her made me feel normal I guess. Even if for just one night, and it was crushing me that I couldn't have that normality forever. In a way it was like I was playing a cruel joke on myself. A horrible bait and switch.

I've arranged to meet her again just before Christmas so I'll see if I can muster this sense of normality again or be faced with the fact that it was a fluke. I'll also see if I fall down a hole again afterward. I know it will be harder this time around, not only because my "To do" list was almost exhausted, but because I plan on telling her we can't really meet again. There are lots of reasons, not all of which I'll tell her...the main one is that there are reasons that will make any relationship between us too hard for both of us (she knows these reasons but it's something I can't really go into here, nothing related to my Aspergers). There is also the distance element. Plus the fact that I know she hasn't really seen the real me, and I think maybe I can quit while I'm ahead.

I also had to cancel my work's Christmas party to go and see her so that's that decided too. I just hope the meeting doesn't fall through due to the bad weather we're having at the moment.

I was telling a work colleague about this girl, the same one that gave me the previous ill-fated advice over my love life. He was frustrated about my negativity concerning this relationship, but he doesn't really understand. He asked me how old I was, and I told him. He asked me what I was doing, but I didn't understand so asked him to elaborate. "What are you doing with your life? You should be married with kids by now." No. He just doesn't understand.

Monday, 22 November 2010

You will not fix me

The problem with non-visible disabilities like Asperger's Syndrome is that people seem disposed to forgetting about them, and dare I say even deny them. If I had no legs and I got into a relationship with someone they wouldn't think to themselves "Sure he has no legs now, and needs a wheelchair, but after going out with me for a few months he'll grow those legs back." "Sure he's blind now, but once he meets my friends he'll be seeing in no time."

Because no-one can see your disability they soon forget all about it, maybe even think it's an act, but the overall and lasting impression seems to be that you're just shy and just need to come out of your shell. That being dragged here and there and thrown into deep-ends will have you waving and not drowning. As the months drag on they begin to realise that it's not an act, that you'll never change, that this really is just how you are.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Social Reciprocation

There is an aspect of Asperger's Syndrome (AS) around social reciprocation, and it is said that people with AS are less likely to share or to point out things of interest. I had quite a good example of this happen to me today. I had to walk into town at lunch as I had to buy a birthday card, and on the way to the card shop I witnessed quite an unusual and fairly serious accident. People from all over were rushing to help...people that were on the street anyway, people came out of nearby shops to help. Myself...I had a birthday card to buy and things seemed to be in hand so I just walked on. While inside the card store I heard ambulance sirens, and leaving the shop the press were in attendance also.

About half an hour after lunch ended I was back at work and someone sent around an e-mail saying there had been an accident in town. This person hadn't witnessed it but they were on the scene a short while after and had taken pictures, called an ambulance etc. Pictures were attached along with a description of the events. For a good 10 minutes after the e-mail went around the accident was quite the buzz of the office.

I had actually witnessed the accident and didn't even think to tell the people I sit next to, never mind construct an e-mail (with pictures) and send it around the whole office. The worst thing about it...I had a killer joke regarding an observation around the circumstances of the accident and I thought long and hard about replying to the global mail with my joke but in the end, what with the concern people were showing, I decided against it and I think that was the right decision.

I suppose it's one of the reasons we're so bad at conversations and small talk; we never really have anything we think is worth talking about whereas NTs seem to find all manner of minute absolutely enthralling.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Comedy Observations

I'm a big fan of comedy and I enjoy watching stand-up on TV and also going to live comedy gigs. One of the things I like about TV comedy are the crowd shots. They always try and intersperse the comedy with shots of the audience and they try very hard to pick their subjects. The people who get the close-ups have to be attractive and also visibly enjoying themselves...that's not who I'm looking at though...I'm scanning the background audience. No matter how much a knot of people are enjoying themselves there is always one person no more than 4 seats away who is sat there stony-faced, arms folded, thinking "this isn't funny in the slightest."

The main thing I've noticed though, is that when people are laughing they almost always look toward their partner. There doesn't seem to be a hard and fast gender divide; sometimes the man looks toward the woman, sometimes the woman to the man. I'm not completely sure why this is. I think it is part of NT behaviour to share experience and ensure your companions are also enjoying themselves. Maybe the glance is in case the couple want to add any in-jokes of their own to the proceedings. When I go to see comedy and I find something funny I just laugh...I have never had the desire to look toward anyone I happen to be with.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

It's good to think - but not too much

As I was reading this news link I was thinking about it being related to autism before it was even mentioned.


Friday, 15 October 2010

Secret house against the world

There is an aspect of my Asperger's Syndrome (AS) that I still haven't come to terms with, or decided on how to handle. At work today there was a presentation at the end of the day at the local pub and when it was done everyone hung around and within moments the whole place was just like any other weekend view...everyone was chatting or waiting at the bar and smiling and mingling. There is a yearning in me to fit in, an aching almost. These opportunities don't come along often and I always tell myself to grasp them when they do. Here it was...and there was I...on the outside, not really knowing what to do with myself. Not really knowing how to inject myself anywhere, not knowing how to act or what to say. Not really wanting to either. As the chatting rose to white noise I did what I always do; I left to come home and be on my own.

I feel this constant jealousy and I'm not sure why. I don't enjoy socialising so why am I jealous? I don't really like talking to people so why do I care? It's like I'm a small child who only wants a certain toy because someone else is playing with it. I don't think it's the socialising I'm jealous of, I think I'm just grieving for normality. I see people be happy, I see people enjoy themselves and I think that's what I actually want. I don't really care what it is that they are doing that makes them happy, I just want to be happy too and this is how others seem to do it. Their lives all seem so full. My life is filled like darkness fills a room, like silence fills a forest.

I also know this girl I asked out is going to end up going out with someone else from work. They'll meet the way normal people meet, while socialising outside of work where hair is down and happiness high. That will just be another constant reminder of my failures.

This inability to handle group social situations is the last thread I'm hanging onto. I still keep trying it and I still keep failing. I don't know if one day I'll just officially give up and stop trying, I mean I might as well. But something inside me doesn't want to. It's almost like trying this is the last thing I have and turning my back on it means having turned my back on everything. There will be nothing left and I will have officially given up on life. Thrown in the towel. Admitted defeat.

Coming home today I resolved to not even attend this year's work Christmas Party... like the end is drawing near already. I know I still have some fight left, so I'm going to try and go to the Christmas Party and just hope it isn't the final nail in the coffin. I also mulled over my decision about not telling anyone about my AS. Sometimes I want to...but then I ask myself what good it will do and the answer is "probably none". I ask myself how I'll ever know unless I try? Ultimately though it always, always comes back to the same thing...information is one way - once you've told someone something you can't ever take that back. If I was to "come out" at work and there were downsides then I'm stuck with those downsides. It's just too important, this secret is something I can't afford to gamble with. Something people can just never know. I'll just continue to carry its crushing weight.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Call me Mr Somebody

Months of pretentious work finally came of use at the weekend, culminating also in the vindication of an earlier post. I was eating out with an ex-colleague who had brought along a friend who is a painter/poet and is currently writing a book. The subject of books in general came up and as I've spent most of the year reading the classics I had them all covered. I was able to give opinions and analysis and bring other books into the discussion. Granted I probably sounded far better-read than I am, and I was obviously only relating other books that I'd also read, but I still pulled it off. This was exactly the situation I've been training for...when anyone literate discusses books I want to have read them, I want to have opinions and be knowledgeable. The ex-colleague drove the artist home and the feedback he received was that the artist found me "interesting" :) The ex-colleague also confessed that he was surprised at my spontaneous and thorough literary knowledge.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Pinocchio pt II

She sent me an e-mail today (coward :) ) apologising for her reaction, explaining that I had taken her by surprise. She said it was lovely that I asked but she already had a boyfriend. Schoolboy error! I have to admit I did think about talking with her close work colleague as a preliminary. I considered ensuring through that colleague that she was actually single, but I decided against it as it smacks of schoolchildren asking friends if their friend would go out with them. I'm still glad I didn't and chose to take the action I took as I got valuable life experience from it and I'm a firm believer that you learn from your mistakes and that you get better at things the more you do them. There is bound to be some awkwardness going forward but nothing insurmountable. We were both in a meeting today for example, and we've been e-mailing each other on a professional basis too so things are already back to the way they were before.

So on the surface it's like it never even happened, but underneath there ebbs and swells a hidden secret....tide or undertow, only time will tell.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010


Sometimes the best place to start is the beginning. There's a girl at my work that I kind of like and I think she might like me, it's hard to tell. I deal with her through my job occasionally but not a whole lot. There is someone else at work that I used to work with in a previous job and he is sometimes my port in the storm and we play pool together a fair bit. Pool's a great activity as it fills the time but you can spend most of it in silence as the activity fills the space, and you just talk a little here and there. In one of these spaces between shots I confessed to him the situation I found myself in. "Oh she definitely likes you" he said. He would though, that's his job. It's what people do. I asked how he knew and he says he can see it in her face when she comes over to deal with me. It was one of those odd moments where I'm reminded that other people see things that I don't. But it also got me wondering if he was telling the truth or if he was just doing his job of dutiful companion, egging me on and boosting my confidence.

I've been sitting on the situation for a while and it's not going away. In fact it is occupying more and more of my thoughts. My concerns are many-fold. For a start I'm kind of happy in my life right now, mainly. Do I need change? Am I ready to be in another relationship? I am also worried that I don't really want to be in a relationship with this person, I just want to know that someone likes me. Also do I really want to get involved with someone I work with? If it goes wrong I don't think I'm robust enough to be around someone I've been in a past relationship with. I mentioned this concern to my colleague who told me it was no way to think. I'm also minded that I never get a chance to meet women apart from at work. My colleague was of the opinion that I should "go for it" but he would say that, it's his job.

I sat on the situation some more and it got to the stage where it simply had to stop. I had to do something to end how I was feeling. I was anxious a lot of the time so finally resolved to take steps. I was finding that confiding in my colleague was making things easier for me so made my plans known to him. I had made my mind up that I was going to try and push things onto "the next step".

But how? I'm never really alone with her, so over a game of pool I asked my colleague what he thought about asking her over an e-mail. He laughed solidly for about 3 minutes. When he had regained his composure he said, with a grin, "You can't do that" then continued to laugh again. The saddest part is that I'd already written the e-mail out, it was sat in my "Drafts" for want of a "Send". It was full of my literary style, my humour, rhythm and flow, my way of phrasing things. It was dynamite. The only women I have ever managed to seduce have always been through the written word. Is that bad? It's who I am after all. I know real men don't do those things; real men hitch their belts, grab their crotch and ask girls out on dates. Was it so bad that I didn't want to do that? It got me thinking...here was a rare chance of me doing something that normal people do. Asking a girl out...in the flesh. But I know I'd be rubbish at it, and the as-yet-unsent email was solid gold. What was more important to me? To pretend to be normal for 5 minutes even though I'm not normal, or to just be me? Half of me was excited and half felt like a traitor.

My plans were delayed slightly when she was off ill, but when she was back at work I knew I had to do this, I had to bring this thing to a conclusion one way or the other. While calm on the outside my insides were raging. My mind was racing, my heart was thumping, the adrenalin was surging. My stomach was in knots and at points felt like it was entangled in my throat. I did some dry runs, I paced the corridors, in my head I envisioned how it might all happen, and I realised something...the crashing fear was never going to go. The pure and utter dread was never going to end. This must be what it is like doing a bungee jump or a sky-dive. Standing on the precipice gripped by utter fear and nothing you can say to yourself will calm or sooth you. Nothing is going to take away the fear. In those situations you can either back down, or do it with the fear. You either take a step back from the edge and retreat, or you grab the fear with both hands, bear hug it and take it with you. I knew I couldn't back down, I knew this had to end...I knew I had to do this despite the fear. I had to do it fear and all.

I approached her desk "Can I have a word?" It was nothing out of the ordinary and she thought nothing of it, as I said we do occasionally deal with each other. She stood to follow me and I pointed to the hallway and as I opened the office door and stepped out I heard her side to a colleague "...it's an outside word?" I was petrified. I had stepped off the precipice and now I was free-falling. Inertia gone, momentum carrying me on a journey that I now could not stop even if I wanted to. The pavement was coming up fast. I was praying the corridor would be empty and for once my prayer was answered.

Sometimes the best way to say something is to just come out and say it. "I was just wondering if you'd like to come out for a drink some time?" I think that's what I said. To be honest my memory of the whole experience is somewhat vague. "What?" In a previous failed attempt to steady my nerves I had gone over the various ways I thought this conversation could go, but "What?" wasn't one of them. "You know...a drink..." "What? Sorry?" Words were failing me now so a "how about it" shrug had to suffice. "Sorry, I didn't quite get you for a while there, I'm still recovering from being unwell" was her response. At that point the Earth opened up ready to swallow me whole. Well...not Earth exactly but the elevator that I had the foresight to summon when we first entered the corridor. "Are you going out?" she said, spying my escape route. "To the shop across the road" I said. "Ok...we'll talk about this later" were her parting words as the cold metal doors slid between us and took me down to Hell.

At lunch I relayed the debacle to my colleague over pool who was upbeat about it and keen to point out the positives. But he had to...that's his job. He said that she was probably just a little shocked and didn't know how to react right away. She was too shocked to say "yes" but not shocked enough to enunciate "We'll talk about this later"? My colleague paused, then said that maybe today wasn't the best day to ask. He said that she had just come back to work from not feeling well and you could tell she was still down and not feeling herself. I asked him to elaborate and he explained that she wasn't wearing any make-up so probably wasn't feeling that great about herself so wanted to go and talk it over with her friends first. Who spots these things? Who realises that a woman isn't wearing make-up? Again I'm half wondering if this is my lack of social observation or him just trying to make me feel better.

I may be a social retard but I've learned enough through the years to know that "We'll talk about this later" is just a polite way of saying "No." The thing is though...at least now it's over. Now it's done with. Now I can get on with things and I'm feeling quite relieved. I don't think we'll ever have the "later" talk, she'll probably never speak to me again. If my colleague was maybe encouraging me a little too much I'm not overly concerned. Because I did it. I actually did it. Maybe I chose the wrong day, wrong time, wrong location and the wrong method...maybe I was a bit full on...but I took a girl to one side and asked if she would like to go for a drink. I completely exposed myself and made myself vulnerable. I made my intentions perfectly clear, I put myself out there and I said "here I am, this is how I feel now take me or leave me." I did it...I'm a real boy now.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Butterflies and rocks

In my head I see the conversation we have in situations I lack the courage to engineer. I wait like a coward instead. Wait for the situation to occur naturally, of its own will as I lose mine and remain silent like a coward instead. You walk off to your life, I walk back to mine.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

New brain scan to diagnose autism

A brain scan that detects autism in adults could mean much more straightforward diagnosis of the condition, scientists say.

Link to full article

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Clue to getting a good night's sleep discovered

The following article was on the BBC's website;


A process in the brain plays a key role in blocking out sound during sleep, they say, and it appears to be more effective in certain individuals.

I'm wondering if this is the root of the issue of insomnia in people with Asperger's. One common symptom is the inability of the autistic brain to filter out unwanted noise and unwanted stimulus. If the key to a good night's sleep is how well your brain can filter out sound during sleep, and our brains have problems filtering out sound during the day, then is there a correlation here?

The article mentions that it might be possible to enhance the functioning of this process through medication so maybe a new brand of sleeping pills might be available soon? Further more, maybe this new form of medication will help autistic people during the normal day as well as an aid to sleep? Maybe it will help give us more focus, especially in noisy environments?

Thursday, 12 August 2010

My job the prophet; I can see the future and make money off it

I've already mentioned my terrible procrastination when it comes to most things, and my terrible handling of all things financial. So as you can imagine my credit card bill has been the bane of my life. I used to get quite a lot of "late payment" fees…not because I didn't have the money to pay it, but because every month when the bill came in I never really got around to paying it.

The solution to that was to set up an automatic monthly payment, but you only have two options; pay the full amount each month or pay the minimum amount each month. I didn't want to pay the full amount in case I want to split payments of something over a few months, so I set a payment up for the minimum payment so that at least I wouldn't get any late payment fees. Thing is…when the bill comes in even though I have the minimum covered I still never got around to paying more on top, so only ever paid the minimum and that's the interest for that month plus a few shekels. If you only ever paid the minimum amount then it would take forever to pay off the full bill, but I suppose that's what the credit card company want, they want you to never be free of their debt. It's not so bad for me as it's purely my own fault I'm only paying the minimum, but if you could only afford to pay the minimum you'll be saddled with that outgoing forever as the debt will never be cleared. Such an immoral way of running a business.

The craziest thing about all this is that I do actually have the money to pay my bill in full, I'm just such an awful procrastinator that I never get around to dealing with it. I don't know why, it's just that when it comes to these things everything else suddenly seems a more important use of my time. So I decided that when my bill next came in I was going to pay it off in full. Well…that was last month :) This month I made the same decision and this morning the bill was on my doormat so I went to work as normal, went to the gym as normal, and getting back from the gym all full of vigour I tore that bill open, grabbed my phone and I paid it in full. Finally! In debt to you robbing bastards no more!

Now that they're making nothing a month from me I wonder what their following gambit is going to be. I suspect next month I'll get a letter from them telling me what a marvellous customer I am, how they value me, so they have generously decided to increase my credit limit along with some suggestions about what I could use it for. New car? Dream holiday? Well no luck because I'm on holiday already; from your charges.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Call me Mr Nobody

It seems to me that conversations have different levels that are obtained in sequential order. When people initially meet, they grab the first rung of the ladder which is social chat; chit chat and the like. Nothing of any depth, just conversing about whatever. Like two boxers eyeing each other up in the ring…circling and throwing the odd, testing jab to see their opponent's form, style and reach. During this stage of conversation two people get a gauge for if they like each other and how much they enjoyed each other's conversation and general countenance.

If people are driven to spend enough time with each other, or if they just connect strongly enough, they move up to the next level of conversation where things are more meaningful. They may discuss on their opinions and views of things, now safe that their companion is sympathetic to their views. They may be more candid about their life situations, or they may discuss in detail about the things that interest them now they know their companion is reciprocal. As people tend to like people with similar interests there is more range of things they can talk about in a more in-depth manner. If sense of humour is similar then they can add a humorous angle to their experiences, or bring something into conversation purely down to the fact that they found it amusing. It is from these types of conversation that lasting friendship can spawn.

The thing about me, and I guess most people with Asperger's Syndrome, is that I am actually a socially boring person. I'm not a boring person, I can converse in-depth and with articulation and knowledge on many, many topics. I also have a pretty good sense of humour and can throw the odd joke or humorous observation into most topics. When it comes to the upper-rungs of the conversation ladder I can hold my own along with the best of them, I just can't handle that first step. If a stranger were to come up to me and attempt to spark up a conversation they'd soon find themselves frustrated and bored, as general meaningless chit-chat isn't something in my vocabulary.

As you can well imagine this is quite frustrating. I know I'm a fairly decent guy with a lot to offer, but no-one else does. Not through any fault of their own, but mine. I have things to say and discuss and talk about but no-one to really share my thoughts with. I realise I give off an impression to people that I'm curt and uninteresting and I suppose in these initial moments of meeting they're right…I am a socially uninteresting person.

Even though I can converse at those upper rungs of the ladder, I myself still can't instantly jump there. I can't approach a stranger, or have a stranger approach me, and converse on higher subjects right away; I too need that initial phase where you get comfortable with people, but for me that stage involves much less conversation :) So how do we get past that first rung of the ladder? How do we convince people to persevere with us? How can we drag them to our heights? If I had the answer I'd bottle it.

For me anyway, two things do help. First is working with people via your job. That way you're forced to be around each other and spend time with each other. In this captive situation you can conduct the "getting to know you" stage at your own pace. On-line situations also help where people tend to be in the same community due to a shared interest, and again you can get involved in a level you're comfortable with.

I mentioned the frustration before; having all these things inside you that you feel are going to waste. But the other aspect of frustration is when other people insist that you "just need to come out of your shell" and "stop being shy". I have no shell and I'm not shy. Yet again it is just that our worlds don't align, that I'm a square peg trying to fit your round hole because your round hole is what is considered to be correct.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Health and Fitness Myths

In the interests of that classic Asperger's Syndrome trait of honesty, I thought I put together some bits of information regarding health and fitness. I'm not the first person to ever say these things, but no-one wants to listen to the truth as well-packaged lies are always more alluring. These basic truths just get lost in a sea of disinformation, so if you're looking to lose a few pounds then read on and do with this what you will.

1 Why am I fat?

You eat more calories than you use.

When you take in calories that you don't expend, those calories are stored as fat. When you use more calories than you eat your body makes up the calorie shortfall by converting previously stored fat back into energy.

2 Spot Reduction

Spot reduction is the theory that working a body part makes that body part slimmer. Spot reduction is a myth, it doesn't exist.

Will sit-ups give me a flat stomach? No.
Even if I do 1,000 a day? Even if you did 1,000,000.
Will squats give me thin legs? No.
Will thigh/leg/bum exercises give me thin legs? No.

Think about what spot reduction is implying...if working an area reduced the fat in that area it is implying that your muscles somehow absorb the energy it needs from fat in the surrounding tissue. If that is how muscles work (which they don't) then how do you move your jaw to talk all day? How do your fingers work all day? How do your toes work? There is almost no fat in the surrounding area of those body parts so where do they get their energy?

Compare it with your car...chances are the engine is in the front, but you put petrol in the back however the car still moves. That is because your engine doesn't absorb petrol from the surround area through its structure...it is fed petrol via fuel lines that come from your tank in the rear. In the same way your muscles are fed oxygen etc from the blood pumping around your veins. Your muscles get their energy supplied via your body's distribution system, not the surrounding tissues.

Fat is just excess energy that has been stored, and you lose fat when that fat is turned into energy for your body to use. So how do you get a flat stomach, thin legs etc? The bad news is that you cannot control where you body stores or loses fat. Think of your body like a balloon. As you blow into it do you get to control the shape it takes? When you let air out do you control the shape as it deflates? Can you make it inflate or deflate more in one place than another? No...and your body is the same. When you gain weight your body decides where that fat is stored, and when you lose weight your body decides where the fat comes off. Rather than trying to target an area for weight loss, you have to aim for general weight loss and you lose it where you lose it.

Something else to think about...when women gain weight they tend to put it on the chest and hips, and when men gain weight it tends to go around the belly. These are also the areas the weight is lost from too. If where weight was lost from was a factor of what kinds of exercise you do then why do women gain/lose from the same areas and men gain/lose from the same areas? The reason is that where you gain and lose fat is not a factor of what exercise you do, it is dictated by your body and genes and you have no control over it.

3 Endless leg exercises

This is mainly one for the women and carries on from spot reduction. Observe most overweight women in the gym and they go from one leg machine to another, lifting very light weights on each. What good is this doing you? None. You now know that spot reduction is a myth and you're not losing fat on your legs, so what are you doing? If you are lifting a lot of weight and pushing your muscles then you're just building muscles underneath your fat which is going to make your legs bigger, not smaller. If you're not pushing your muscles by using sufficient weight then you're not building muscle, so what good are you doing? Honestly? None. You're spending the calories it takes to move your legs, you might as well just go for a walk.

If you're overweight and want to lose weight then resistance exercises (where you use weights) won't really help you much, you have to do cardio vascular work; you have to cycle on bikes, or row, or do anything that gets your heart beating. That is the best way to burn a lot of calories (see point 1). What happens to people doing pointless resistance work is that they never see any results so just give up going to the gym, and instead lament to their friends "oh I've tried everything, even the gym didn't work."

Why do women want slim legs anyway? Let's imagine for a second that spot reduction does work and isn't a myth...do you really want slim, slender legs but a bloated torso? Wouldn't that just look odd and imbalanced? So forget the endless leg exercises, get on your bike instead.

4 SlenderTone etc

These devices simply cause muscle contractions which use minute amounts of calories. Nowhere near enough to make a difference to your weight (see point 1) and the working of the muscles does nothing for the surrounding area (see point 2). Save your money. This also goes for anything that vibrates, shakes etc.

5 Toning exercises

Toning exercises don't exist, there is no such thing as toning. Being "toned" is a term given to the dual conditions of having muscle mass combined with having low amounts of body fat. Think about huge, husky men...they can have a lot of muscle but it is under a lot of fat so they just look fat. Think about lanky, skinny men...they have low body fat but look scrawny because there is no muscle under their skin. Being "toned" is the middle ground of lowish body fat over some muscle mass which gives your body an athletic shape. There are two things at play here...gaining the muscle and losing the body fat; they are two separate processes, no exercise both increases muscle mass in that area and also reduces body fat in that area (see point 2). If you want to be toned you need to work on gaining muscle and losing body fat as two separate tasks.

6 Excuses

I have a slow metabolism. No you don't.

Here's something that'll probably shock you...if you're fat you will have a faster metabolism, not a slower one. Fat is a living thing, it needs blood and maintenance just like everything else in your body. As well as your fat needing a blood supply, your skin is the largest organ in your body and it needs life too. When you have so much mass, so much area and so much weight your body is working overtime trying to keep it all alive. My resting heart rate is 60 - if you are overweight then take your resting pulse and I'll eat my hat if it is under 90.

Your biology is no different from anyone else's on the planet. You are not unique, you are not special. If you are fat, see point 1. Those women you see on chat shows saying "I've tried everything and nothing works...every diet, even the gym" are lying. Mainly to themselves.

7 Low-fat food

Eating low-fat food will help me lose weight. No it won't.
If something is low-fat it will help me stop putting weight on. No it won't.

Ever heard of a beer belly? It's well known that alcohol makes you gain weight and is very fattening. How much fat is there in alcohol? None. Zero. Zilch.

Your stomach is like a giant blender. It doesn't matter what form calories come into your stomach, they all come out in the same form...energy that is either used or stored. In terms of weight loss it doesn't matter if those calories have come from fats, saturated fats, non-saturated fats, trans fats, sugar, carbs, protein, alcohol...it really doesn't matter. They all go in your stomach and come out as calories, their original form is irrelevant. It is excess calories that make you fat regardless of where they came from. See point 1.

Have you seen foods advertised as low-fat? Have you seen foods advertised as low-sugar? Ever seen foods advertised as both? Things that are high in calories taste good (it is your body's way of tricking you into getting it fuel). Things that are high in fat taste good and things that are high in sugar taste good as sugar and fat are both high in calories. If something is "low-fat" then it will be high in sugar to maintain the taste, and if it is "low-sugar" then it will be high in fat to maintain the taste. Either way it is high in calories and that is what counts.

8 Should I do any resistance training?

I've mentioned above that resistance training with low weights is useless, and resistance with high weights just builds muscle under the fat you already have. However if you're looking to lose weight then a little bit of resistance work is still a good idea. First of all it gives you some variety...no-one wants to just huff and puff on a bike at the gym all day. It also helps your body maintain a good structure and posture, keeps things in place and a bit of strength is always good, and it can also help bone density etc.

The crucial thing that might well tip it for you is that muscle takes more effort for your body to maintain than fat. Just having muscle makes your body burn calories at a greater rate, even at rest and while sleeping etc. It helps raise your general metabolism too.

I don't want to do weight training, I'll get big and gross. No you won't.

If you're a man then it will take a lot of very hard effort over years to look like a "beefcake". You're not going to turn into Arnie with moderate weight training. If you're a woman you're more likely to use this as an excuse not to use weights, but here's another secret...see those butch women you see on TV shows with gross muscles? They’re injecting massive amounts of male hormones, steroids and all sorts of things. You will not ever look like that, ever. Not even remotely. If you're a man the same thing goes. Those guys on body-building shows...steroids. Stay off the gear and you'll never look anything like that.

9 Spending hours weight lifting

Let's say you're hitting the weights pretty hard, how much muscle do you think you build after one hour of weights? None. After two hours? None. Three hours? None.

You don't build muscle in the gym, what you do in the gym is stimulate muscle growth and that growth actually occurs when you are resting. Hitting the same muscles over and over and over in the gym is pointless. Work them then move on.

10 Big effort but little reward

You might kill yourself for half an hour on the bike or the rower and the calorie counter on the equipment is telling you you've burned off two bags of crisps, then wonder what the point is. Well for a start at least it's two bags of crisps, however exercising at the gym doesn't end when you leave. Exercise kicks your body up a gear and increases your metabolism for the hour or so after, so you're burning more calories in the hours after than you would have done normally. If you're building some muscle too then that's also helping on an ongoing basis (see point 8), and if you're pushing your heart and getting fitter then some time in the future you'll be burning three or four bags worth of crisps in the same half hour.

11 I hate running and jogging

Good. If you're training for a marathon then I'm afraid you have to run to get your body used to it. If you're not training for a run then don't run in the gym and don't jog either. Every step you land is a big impact on your ankles, knees and hips. Just imagine your whole weight banging down on your knees over and over and over. That is why those exercises are called "high impact" exercises.

Instead do "low impact" ones, ones with no big or sudden jolts. Try using the exercise bikes, the hand bikes, the rower or even just go swimming. There is no point in hurting your joints if you don't have to.

12 Getting on the scales

Don't use the scales, use the mirror. There is one saying that actually isn't a myth, and that is that muscle weighs more than fat. If you're working on your cardio to lose weight and also doing some resistance training for the reasons in point 8 then you're losing some fat and gaining some muscle. Your weight might go down, stay the same, or go up. Your weight is just a number though, go by what you see in the mirror. Do you look better? Yes? Isn't that all that really matters?

Don't obsess over the scales, especially when you start an exercise regime. If you do want to weigh yourself then weigh yourself when you get to the gym, not when you leave. Your arrival weight is your true weight. That weight will lower as you sweat (a litre of sweat is 1kg or 2.2lbs) and go up as you drink water. By the end of your routine it will either be artificially low from fluid loss (the weight will go right back on when you drink) or artificially high if you drank more than you sweated but that will also go when you go to the toilet. For similar reasons as point 9 you don't lose any fat when at the gym. Yes, you heard that right…none. What you do is use up the chemical energy that is floating around your body for instant use, and that energy is replaced by depleting your fat stores when you're at rest and that is when your fat goes. Just to reiterate…any weight difference between you arriving at the gym and leaving is down to fluids, not fat.

13 What is fat?

Here's something you might not know...you neither gain nor lose fat. You have fat cells around your body (mostly under the skin) and those cells enlarge and deflate as fat is stored in them, or taken to be converted back to energy. So the cells themselves get bigger and smaller, but you don't ever gain fat cells or lose them.

So what happens when you have liposuction? When you have lipo those fat cells are physically removed...you lose them forever. The areas where you have lost those cells now do not grow and shrink like the areas where you haven't had lipo. So if you have lipo then put on a lot of weight you're going to look pretty odd indeed as you'll have patches and areas where you lack fat, and the surrounding area will be bloated like normal.

This is also why you can't just keep getting fat then having lipo. Fat isn't something that is introduced via your mouth (see point 7) and shoved under your skin for a surgeon to just come along and remove, then be replaced and removed again. Your fat cells remain consistent in number; it is their size that changes, so lipo should only be done in certain areas under certain circumstances.

It's not the panacea you might think it is.

14 Wait a minute...

So what you're saying is that diets are a waste of time? Yes.
Those exercise programmes I see in magazines to tone up for Summer are a waste of time? Yes.
Those products I see advertised are a waste of time? Yes.
So the entire health and fitness industry has been lying to me? Yes.

Think about it...if diets actually worked then the health and fitness industry would be over. What industry wants to bring about its own destruction? When that diet fails you go back to them to buy the next diet, and the one after that, and the one after that. When your SlenderTone doesn't work you go back for the Roller Ball, then back for the Twister Stepper and so on.

Have you also noticed how these days it is almost as if losing weight requires a PhD in nutrition? People talking about all of these chemical processes and scientific terms, and dictating that it's not how much you eat but what you eat, when you eat it, what it's chemical make-up is and yadda yadda. When you hear all of this mumbo jumbo science just remember one single thing...point 1. It’s not rocket science, trust me. Eat less, move more...that's all.

They want weight loss to sound complicated so that you think you're too stupid to be slim. They want your diet/exercise regime to fail so that you keep going back to them for the next solution that this time might work.

But why do people keep going back? Simple...by selling you a product and that product failing, it is the product you blame, so the answer might be a different product. However, what if the problem wasn’t the product, what if it was you? If you finally woke up and realised that, you'd also realise that no product they sell will ever be the answer as it’s you that is the problem.

See point 1.

Monday, 5 July 2010

It's 2am on a Saturday

The streets are filled with energy and anger. Mostly anger. In nooks and crannies men are trying to bring their women around from some situation or other, or people are shouting on the phone to people they've become separated from probably by design rather than accident.

I see striped shirts are out now and checked shirts are in. The streets are a sea of check over blue denim and men loiter in gangs whilst shouting. Spatial context is gone and they roam and wander with no regard for anyone else and you're constantly dodging some zigzagging 80s arm chair in a world of his own, oblivious to everyone else. Women strut down the street in defensive stances, their arms crossed and tucked squarely, only breaking form to occasionally pull their skirt down from 1 inch below their ass to the maximum extent of 2 inches. Packs of men hunt down the solo females and posture in a contest to devour them as the females strut on, eyes fixed forward and praying inside. Being the biggest, loudest fucking asshole you can be is obviously appealing to women.

Homeless men sit on benches and call out to you as you pass. I don't hear them as I'm listening to music through my earphones but I know they're calling out as they always do. Homeless females prefer to sit in doorways looking downtrodden, luring men into their lair. Men always want to save women when they're drunk…not because they want to free them but because they want to own them. Men kneel down in their check shirts to offer trite words of advice about giving up drink and drugs, which the homeless women toss away, and money which they keep, ready to be saved by the next man too.

Outside the popular pubs are schools of men in check shirts, and women of all sizes in short skirts. Fake tan and pink Stetsons cause a feeding frenzy that I have to carefully pick my way through as I know the slightest knock or nudge could alert the sharks to my presence. Voices are raised everywhere as men either pick out victims or look down at illuminated faces of phones, women flirt with doormen while they pull their skirts down, some sit on the pavement with kebabs in their laps and their knickers on show while the pavements around them are a collaboration of streams coming from doorways where men are pissing like animals.

I get to my destination; a small shop just beyond where the pubs thin out. "No alcohol" the angry man barks as I come in, the same as he does to everyone. I take a diet coke to the counter which he rings up in silence. I look at the price on the till display and pay, then he hands me my change in silence. I think "no alcohol" is the only English he knows and as I leave a gang of men dressed as marathon runners pour in to a chorus of "No alcohol".

Walking back the way I have come I once more walk through the chaos and anger, the fear and the desperation, and the further I walk the more the women thin out having all but been picked off. The city seems to work as one; a predatory eco-system with everyone hunter of some and victim of other. Men have returned home with their trophies, or their hangovers, and I have returned home with my diet coke.

I don't even need diet coke…I just have an urge to be among people that are, like it or not, my peers. I need to prey on them, I want to experience them even if it is at a distance. I hate them but it is the jealous hatred of a child who can't have what he so desperately wants.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Study identifies 'many more' autism genes

"The largest ever genetic study into autism has identified many more new genes involved in the disorder."

Read the full story

Monday, 7 June 2010

Autistic Superstars

The BBC are doing a series of programmes about people with autism and on the whole they've been very good (such is the advantage of license-funded television :) ) and one such show was Autistic Superstars. The show aims to show-case the savant-like talents that some people with autism can exhibit, although it was concentrating mainly on those with musical talents.

One such chap I want to concentrate on is Derek Paravicini, who is a blind pianist. One of the party tricks he did on the show was for people to shout out songs and he would play them as an example of his incredible memory for songs. The thing is…is he a musical genius? Or just someone with an incredible memory for songs? For him is a song just a series of notes, like a computer program is just a series of ones and zeros for me? It is also known that autistic people can have a talent for patterns so this all that Derek is actually demonstrating? Not music per se, but patterns.

When he was playing his songs there was an incredible lack of warmth in his playing, the songs were mechanical and cold. I know it's a hard thing to put into words, but his songs just don't "sound right", they don't sound like music. This was best shown when someone shouted for him to play "Poker Face" by Lady Ga Ga. I assume you're aware of the piece :) It's not quite Beethoven, and it has some rather repetitive elements with a certain note in particular being repeated, and when he came to the repetitive bits he just literally hit the exact same note in time with the song. Ok…it might have been technically correct…but it wasn't music. What song has a pianist just hitting the same note, twice a second for 5 seconds and nothing else? It was like he knew the notes and the order and the timing but he was unable to interpret and produce what we consider to be music. He wasn't able to inject warmth or emotion.

There was another girl called Carly Ryan who could sing, however there were incredible similarities with Derek. Was she really singing, or just replying those ones and zeros in the right order with the right timing? When she spoke she would often use lines from movies and songs as sentences and she would recite them in the same style as they were uttered at the source…almost like an imitation, so she would seemingly break into an American accent while reciting what seems to be a sentence but is actually a line from a movie. Were her songs just imitations too? If she was given a new song to sing could she sing it? Did she know what notes were and how to hit them?

Obviously I don't want to knock these people for their extraordinary talents and abilities; I just thought it was quite a fascinating insight into what is maybe going on under the covers with these savant-type skills.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

My telephone poles, my dark trenches, my broken windows, my park benches

Well my holiday is almost all but over and it's been a journey of mixed emotions. I really enjoyed by trip back to my home city, however it only reminded me how much I'd love to live in a big city again, a thriving city full of things to do and places to go. It is a city of options and opportunities. A place one could truly get lost. I did have one "AS moment" though when my companion and I tried to get into a particular bar one evening. I did what I normally do…head down and no eye contact as my companion satisfied the social requirements of entering the premises. I could hear the usual pawns being exchanged such as "Y'all right?" and I stood, fixed on the door waiting for the bouncer to open it. Then an unusual move, "Y'all right?" I know enough that "Y'all right" is rhetorical and never repeated so I looked at the bouncer who was staring right at me with incredible intent. "Y'all right?" "Yeah" I said and tried for a moment to be "normal", I looked him in the eye and answered "yeah mate". He stared suspiciously then said to my companion "Not tonight…yeah?" and with that we left. I'm guessing he took my lack of eye contact to be a deliberate attempt to conceal some form of narcotics use and my detachment from the world as being the smoking gun. The irony was that I was stone cold sober, I was just being me.

That aside, during my long-weekend back home I really felt that I had re-gained something that I'd lost since my diagnosis. I spent a long time in the company of others and of course there were lots of silences…I doubt I'm ever going to be a social butterfly and unless it is a topic I'm interested in conversation will always dry. But I pretty much pulled it off. If I ever revealed my dirty secret I doubt they'd be surprised, I don't think "but you seem so normal" would be the first thing they'd say. I did re-discover some confidence though and I came back feeling quite happy and pleased.

Though naturally I was still delighted to get back, back to my current home, my current town. By the end of the week I was even actually enjoying my time off. I was enjoying just pottering around and not doing a lot. Enjoying not having the stress of work. That didn't last though…come Saturday I started feeling a lot of anxiety, and today was no different. I've been anxious all day, pacing up and down, every second feeling like an hour. This is all too familiar to me…that wait for Monday when I can recommence my routine of work and gym. Only then will my happiness return. It's not just the anxiety though…everything has fallen apart. In the week since my holiday started everything has broken…my flat is a tip, clothes are everywhere, nothing has been done, dishes are piling up, rubbish is piling up. I'm just watching the clock, for tomorrow will be truly magical.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Hands upon my back again

Tomorrow is my last day at work for just over a week as I've taken some time off. It's a good time for me to take a break as the job is definitely more stressful than my last job and it's been 8 months with no break for me now. Plus I really need to use the holiday up before the end of the year.

It's just that I've been here before. So many times. I hate taking time off, I hate breaking the routine. Most people would be joyous and excited, whereas I am fretful and nervous. It's not just the break in routine but once more I am pushing myself out of my comfort zone and travelling back to the place of my birth (only for the long weekend, the rest I'll spend back here). Further more I'll be staying with someone rather than staying in a hotel, and I don't do well in the constant company of others. What I'm wondering is if this "comfort zone" stuff is actually worth it. None of this stuff gets any easier the more I do it, so if it never gets any easier, and makes you feel uncomfortable, then is it worth it? Am I actually making things better for myself in the long-term, or just worse for myself in the short-term?

I just hope that when I get back I'll be blogging that I don't know what I was so worried about and that it was great and that I had a great time. We'll see.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

A life half lived

When I was younger we had a board game called The Game of Life. Despite its facetious name I suppose it was fairly accurate. You went to school and got a degree, got a job, married, bought a house, had kids then retired. In a way that's what life is to most people. Now that I'm getting on in years I see that people around me are all in long-term relationships, or getting married, or having kids, or buying houses, or planning retirement…playing The Game.

When I was a kid we spent our days pulling pigtails and playing computer games. Now that I'm an adult it's kinda weird how everyone else is playing The Game but I'm still pulling pigtails and playing computer games. I don't dwell on it, but sometimes I think about all of the normal things I've never known, and probably never will know. Time is marching on relentlessly but I'm staying the same, getting more and more distant from my peers, never being able to advance beyond those first few squares. They're developing their lives while I'm treading water. Next they'll all be dying, just to make me jealous.

I suppose in a way my current abstinence from alcohol is simply a subconscious furtherance of this retraction from life. I was never the social butterfly, but when I was drinking I did at least have a reason to leave my house at the weekend when the sun was down. I wasn't socialising as such, but at least I was out among people. I wasn't diving from the high board, but at least I had my toes in the water. At least I was rolling the dice.

Every day when I go into work and hear about the lives of others it's dawning on me what "life" is supposed to be and the pleasure people get from it. If they knew the truth, my life to them would seem like the plot from some futuristic horror movie. They don't know the truth though, so instead each Monday they ask "What did you do at the weekend?"; faces aglow with fresh memories and enthusiasm.


Sunday, 9 May 2010

Lazy Journalism

For the last few weekends the supplements in the papers have carried articles on the "cougar" phenomenon. There are a few issues at play here... First of all the "cougar" thing isn't entirely new, it's been around in the world of pornography for some time, but what's interesting is the media's new-found fascination with it. Why now all of a sudden are the weeklies carrying articles focussed on "older" women who seek out younger men? Interviewing them, and lauding their way of life? What was the trigger? Television.

Is it a coincidence that the media have latched onto this only after an American sit-com on the subject staring Courtney Cox was aired in the UK? Now I can barely flick through a glossy without Trumpesque housewives pictured under headlines such as "I love younger men, so what?" with articles peppered with ubiquitous cliché such as "they're not exploiting me, I'm exploiting them". Are journalists really just sitting there as popular culture passes them buy, doing nothing but watching TV and when TV introduces them to something new they think they might look into it? I don't doubt for a second that they are.

Lazy journalism aside, the other issue at play here is the age-old one of the double standards that pervades most studies of the sexes. Aren't old men who chase young girls disgusting perverts and paedophiles? People to be hounded by the press, not celebrated by them?

There are even TV shows that do nothing but re-broadcast things they have found on YouTube. And other comedy-based shows are increasingly turning to YouTube clips to pad-out their running time.

Even looking at the output of respected journalists such as those who feature on the BBC's website, you can see reams of articles that are nothing more than passing on what people are saying on Twitter, or Facebook. Or "the blogsphere"…what a self-congratulatory term that is. Am I a journalist? Hell, no. But looking at what journalism seems to be becoming it probably wouldn't be hard to give it a go.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Fay Ripley wants me destroyed

I caught a re-run of Room 101 that had Fay Ripley as a guest and one thing she wanted to put into Room 101 was shy people. She was of the opinion that being shy was akin to being rude. She lamented diner parties and the like where people struggle to return conversation, exclaiming it was just a drain on her energies. It seems that we shy people were only put on earth to spoil her social occasions and act as a bar to the furthering of her pleasures, to such an extent that she would rather we just don't exist at all.

Luckily Paul Merton recalled his own childhood experiences, and so refused to consign us all to Room 101 saying that some people can't really help being shy and it doesn't make us bad people. If I ever appear on Room 101 I'll put 40-something women with breasts like Spaniel's ears wearing push-up bras into Room 101.


Friday, 23 April 2010

Update on godliness

I'm still an atheist.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Update on cleanliness

I had the pleasure of my landlord coming around recently so I had the usual panic of cleaning up and making my flat suitable for human habitation. In the past I've always told myself I'll keep the cleaning up but I never do so I've stopped promising myself. Thing is, having a clean flat is more than just being able to have people over with less than a week's notice. It genuinely does bring your whole mental state down when you live in a tip. When you have to say goodnight to a pig sty, then wave it goodbye as you leave for work in the morning only for it to still be there when you get back, it's just depressing.

So this time I've promised myself I'm going to keep my flat clean from now on :)

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Update on literature

My quest to be better read is jogging along nicely. After finishing "The Picture of Dorian Gray" I went straight onto Dostoevsky's "Crime and Punishment" and now I'm reading Joseph Heller's "Catch 22". In the wings I already have "To Kill a Mockingbird" and "Frankenstein" waiting. Personally I think "Frankenstein" is bending the rules slightly so I'll be careful with what I choose to follow that up with.

So far though…what can I say? If this is the best literature in the world I'm glad they invented movies :)

"Catch 22" isn't that great for people with Asperger's. I have social blindness so I find it hard to build and maintain profiles of characters in books (and movies too sometimes) and Catch 22 throws lots and lots of characters around and things happen between characters that are revisited over the twisting chronology, but for me every chapter is almost like reading about these characters again for the first time. Crime and Punishment was easier as there were only a handful of main characters and it stuck to a standard time-line. There was some difficulty with the names as the characters all have at least three ways they can be named and there is little rhyme or reason as to which name is used at any time so it takes a while to realise who is being referenced. Dorian Gray was the easiest of them all as there were very few characters, a basic timeline and people only had one name :)

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Update on work

I've been at my job for over 6 months now and I've pretty much settled in…as have others settled with me. The person I sit beside has already remarked that I eat the same thing for lunch every day. Winter's gone so at least I'm not getting comments about never wearing a jacket any more. It also turns out an ex-colleague went to university with someone at my work. I know their name but I'm not too familiar with them as a person. I had met up with this ex-colleague and he asked me if I know such-and-such and I said "not really." Someone else who was there asked "does he know AS4L?" to which the ex-colleague replied with a smile "oh, everyone knows AS4L". I don't know if that's good or bad. I'm hoping it is in reference to my legendary comedy skills :)

As for my colleagues in general…it really is same s**t different day. The things that annoyed me in my old place are just annoying me slightly less in my new place. It seems that other people's flaws are universal. Again I am finding myself frustrated at other people's lack of attention to detail and inability to come up with decent solutions to things. I know that the detail thing is maybe just me being too focussed on detail, but I don't know if it isn't also that they're just slack or don't care. Maybe it's a bit of both.

On a related note I can see myself doing some things that, in hindsight, maybe weren't the best ideas I've ever had. One colleague brought me to his computer for me to look at something they had finished but I didn't like the way they had done it. I didn't like it at all. I advised them of a better way that was in keeping with good principles and practices and would be more flexible for the client and less prone to errors but they didn't seem to care, in their mind the job was done. So when I got back to my own computer I completely re-wrote everything they had done. When my way was finished I showed the colleague my method and explained why it was better. It was only in the following days it dawned on me that it would probably piss me off if I showed something to someone and they went and re-wrote it. I suppose it could be considered disrespectful…but he should have taken my advice and implemented my method himself so I didn't have to do it for him :)

Similarly I went over reams and reams of another colleagues work and noted down every error. I fixed most of them but left the more complicated issues for them to fix. When I was done I sent them this big list of things I had fixed and a list for them still to fix. My intention of telling him the things I had fixed was so he was aware that he had done them wrong so he could look at the updated version and learn from it…but again it was only in the following days that I realised he probably just thinks I'm a prick :)

Monday, 19 April 2010

Medicated Kids

I saw an interesting documentary from Louis Theroux about America's habit of medicating children for mental illnesses. The great thing about Louis is that he is so skilful at bringing out from people themselves the very essence of what he wants from them. He always lets the subject show their true colours and it is for you to spot…there is never a voice-over to make obvious the significance of what the person has just said; you have to register it yourself.

It revolved around about three children in all, some featured more than others. One child he spent a lot of time with had Asperger's Syndrome (AS), as well as bi-polar disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. He was on medication for all of these (apart from AS, of course) and it really came as no surprise to find that his whole family were on medication too. Even the dog was on anti-anxiety medication. No…that wasn't a joke.

Now I have to admit I did see some signs of AS in him but who knows, he could have just been a typical surly 10 year old boy. Louis also saw these signs and I was impressed with the research he must have done for the show. Not only was he able to spot the signs of AS, he knew instantly every type of medication these kids were on and what the active processes in them were. At one point he talked to the parents to find out where this stuff all began, and they said it started with his bi-polar (there is some doubt if bi-polar even exists in young children) that they discovered via his suicidal thoughts. These thoughts came out when he was punished for something and threatened to throw himself under a car when they chastised him. When Louis managed to spend some time alone with the child he asked him about the incident and the boy was very straightforward and nonchalant about it, saying it was only a threat and he didn't mean it. He certainly showed no signs of having suicidal thoughts at the time; he came across as a typical boy of his age. So if he didn't really have suicidal thoughts are his parents just too quick to see things that aren't there and then turn to medication? If he isn't bi-polar, is he any of the other things he is being medicated for?

The coupe de grace came in his final talk with the parents where he said that he could see signs of AS in him, but not much else. Their reply was that that proved the medication was working. They can't medicate for AS so the fact that only that is showing is proof the other issues are being controlled. I immediately thought of The Simpsons where Homer claims that the "bear patrol" (paid for by a new "bear tax") is working as he sees no bears.

Lisa: By your logic I could claim that this rock keeps tigers away.
Homer: Oh, how does it work?
Lisa: It doesn't work.
Homer: Uh-huh.
Lisa: It's just a stupid rock.
Homer: Uh-huh.
Lisa: But I don't see any tigers around, do you?

Another child (around 6) also had the same issues (minus AS) and his main problem was that he was a bad loser. Ummm….ok. If he lost at something he would throw a tantrum, or hide under the desk, and these were the issues they were working on. When Louis visited them at home he brought out a simple game to play with the child, and he beat him at the game. So the kid throws a tantrum and goes screaming behind the sofa…but it was obvious to any observer that he was just playing, it was just an extension of the game. He was smiling and laughing at the camera as he was screaming behind the sofa.

Another family (same thing….OCD, ADHD, you get the picture) and the kids of this family claimed they actually felt better off the medication they'd been given.

I've always been of the opinion that people are medicated too much these days, mainly on the whim of the patient. It makes sense that these same types of people are also keen to cash in on the labelling craze and medicate their children too. I think a part of them has bought into the idea of perfect children that TV and movies preaches to us and they're neither prepared for, or happy with, the reality that children are actually difficult. Subconsciously are these parents really just hibernating their children? Turning them into zombies through the early years so they can start being real parents when the kids start being "fun"?

I also see it as an extension of the "mini-me" phenomenon where pushy parents try and stamp their own identity onto their kids. Forcing them to look like they do, to do the hobbies they do etc. Now they want them diagnosed and medicated like they are too. Having experienced many different takes on AS around the internet one thing that has struck me quite solidly is that a massive percentage of "people with AS" on the internet are not only self-diagnosed, but have diagnosed most people in their life with AS too. Or if not AS then some other "condition". There are genuinely people out there who, for some reason I don't understand, seem to revel in being diagnosed with something or diagnosing others. Almost like it is a game…like it's "fun" to be "special". Which brings me back to another poignant moment in the documentary where Louis asked the boy with AS how he feels about all of his diagnoses. "I like it." "Do you like being special?" "Yeah…it's fun".

Monday, 5 April 2010

Bonfire of the Vanities

I'd always thought that vanity was a negative thing, something to shy away from or be embarrassed about. I always thought that vanity was an insult you would hurl at people. Maybe it's the "Beckham" effect, maybe it’s the feminisation of men, maybe it's the stigmatisation of masculinity and the media's attempt to destroy all things male…but it now seems that vanity is passé. You can walk into any public bathroom and the man grooming and preening every hair and angle in the mirror rather than jumping at the shame of being caught, will instead continue his activities as if you weren't even there.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Eating in the fast lane

I made a fairly recent discovery of an eating establishment not too far from where I live. It's a bit "tea and scones", with the clientele's average age around 70. Sprinkled about the place are also some 40-something ladies-who-lunch. Despite not being in their target demographic, they do a damn fine burger and nice coffee so I like to pop in, even if the tables are a little cramped.

Last weekend I tried to sneak in a cheeky burger on Saturday afternoon but to my dismay there was a queue about three deep already waiting to be seated. It's not a huge place, but there are still about 10 tables. I decided that the quality of the food was worth hanging around at least a short time to see if a seat would become available. As I was waiting I cast my gaze over the grazers and you know what I discovered? No-one was eating!!! People were just sat there chatting. Elbows on table, stilts for their heads over empty plates hovering around post-lunch conversation. What annoyed me more than anything was, yet again, people's complete and utter disregard for anyone but themselves. I'd be lying if I said I've never over-stayed a welcome at a table, scooping the froth from a dead cappuccino into my mouth while I finish off the funnies in the paper. But not if there is a queue three deep waiting!

Restaurants need some form of special, express-style seating section. Now this is quite novel so bear with me…but it would be a special area in a restaurant for people who want to eat. Radical concept, I know, but I think it might just work.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

I'm "that guy"

Today at work I had a triumph and an "AS" moment all in one. We have a mailing distribution list for "off topic" emails such as jokes, funny videos etc. I've always fancied myself as a bit of a comic and if I can blow my own trumpet a little I think my contribution to the list is rather well received. Of course I don't post many e-mails, I find no humour in just "passing on" something I've found, but my responses to other e-mails and the like have not gone without note.

For background information, there is someone at work who seems rather well liked by the ladies and if I put my "AS" hat on, I'd say it is a combination of him being flirtatious, as well as him being engaged. I think women respond favourably to men who are attached as they can indulge in "harmless" flirtation themselves. Maybe it gives them an even greater boost to know that they can still turn the head of someone who is engaged to be married, to flirt and cause them to flirt back. He is also very keen (scarily keen) to share his flaws with others and I think that's something women might be responding to; someone "in touch" with themselves rather than just touching themselves. Whatever it is, it's certainly not his looks and I'd love to drink a bottle of it.

Well there is a girl in particular at work that I've noticed he has a bit of a relationship with that a man who is engaged should not really be having. Nothing is "going on", but I can tell the flirting is just something more than flirting. Well today was most unfortunate for this woman, as she responded to an email he had sent to this "off topic" list obviously intending it to go directly to him, but she had sent it by mistake to the distribution list instead. The mail wasn't "terrible", but for a man who prefers to read between lines more than on them, the language used betrayed this hidden relationship of theirs that I think they have. More so I feel that maybe they are verbally acknowledging this relationship to each other in secret. Feeding off it.

Now a man has an option of simply ignoring the mistaken email to hide the embarrassment of all involved. He also has an option of responding to the distribution list highlighting the mistake in a cleverly worded fashion for comic effect… I'm not completely without a conscience and my finger did hover over the "Send" button for a moment while I told myself, internally, that if I didn't have Asperger's I probably wouldn't be sending the e-mail I was about to send. But on the other hand it was f**king hilarious. So I sent it.

The reaction was fairly instant with stifled laughter being heard around the office, I could even hear in some corners my very name being mentioned; "Did you read AS4L's email?" Responses came to me direct with all manner of grandiose exclamations of how funny it was and how much they had enjoyed it. Yet not a single, solitary person sent to the distribution list that they thought it was funny…the replies all came directly to me. Directly in a way that said "I've always thought there was something up between those two, I'm just glad someone came out and said it, and I'm glad it wasn't me who was that guy."

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Turning off

Since I've started my new job I've been almost over-stimulated mentally and I'm finding it hard to switch off when I leave. It's not just when I leave either; I often work through a bit of my lunch too. It's like I'm so focussed on what I'm doing and what the next step is, that I just want to get to that step. Usually I'm lifting my feet up for the cleaners while everyone else has gone home, just wanting to do that little bit more. When I finally leave I just can't turn off and what I need to do the next day just goes around and around my head.

In the evening I usually send an e-mail from my home account to my work account detailing what I have to do the next day and in it I make any notes about things I need to check, things I need to make sure other people are doing and so on. It seems to help me and I do go down a gear after I've sent the email, almost like it's the full stop to the working day. It can be worse on Friday as I have the whole weekend to mull things over before I can get back to it!

I'm sure it's partially just the novelty factor and it'll wear off, but I've obviously had jobs before and don't remember ever being like this. It's good in a way as it shows I am focussed…but it's bad because no-one wants to come home and be plagued with thoughts of work - you want to relax.

Something else I'm having to deal with is the meeting culture. I'm rubbish at multi-tasking and switching tasks. I like to do one thing and see it through, but when there are meetings set up left right and centre you just have to stop what you're doing to attend. It isn't just you but other people have all resolved to get together at that time and you need to attend there and then.

Sunday, 28 February 2010

Killing time

Sunday, 6pm. I haven't left the house all day. I got up late and did French toast for lunch, started playing my xbox and here I still am. Not only a stranger to the outside, but also to clothes. I put the controller down, get dressed, gather up The Picture of Dorian Gray and head to my local by way of the newsagent. I haven't showered or washed since Friday night.

It is bitterly cold outside but the pub is warm, if loud, and fairly busy although there is a table free so I stay. I order a diet coke and sit at the free table and place my paper down. I lament at the growing redundancy of newspapers as the last sections are "sport" (in the UK sport is a euphemism for "football") that I have no interest in so never read. It seems to me that there are two kinds of men…one who reads a newspaper from the back to the front, and me. Leaving the professional lives of footballers to face the table, I turn over the first, second, third, fourth and fifth pages of the front of the paper as they are adorned with the personal lives of footballers that I have no interest in.

My paper spent, and me no more educated, I sit still for a while and listen to the music that, for once, is quite pleasant, if a little loud. It feels like that special effect you see on TV where the protagonist stays still while the world flurries past in a stop-motion blur. To my left are a group of musicians that are killing time waiting for their gig to start at the venue next door. To the right of me are a group of men, standing up in the glow of the television that broadcasts sport. Having lost the power of speech, everything the say must be shouted and enforced with fists on tables and unreasonably loud and raucous fake laughter. If they can address someone at the other end of the room rather than one beside them it is all the better as they can scream and shout all the louder.

At the bar is sat an off-duty barmaid. It seems that when you work at a bar it becomes your life. You're there when you're working and socialising when you're not. She is an attractive girl with a good body that she refuses to show off. Queen bee in human form, everywhere she goes there is a swarm of men buzzing around her and she flits her attention between them all, flirtatiously running her fingers through her honey-blonde hair.

The time I used to kill with alcohol is now left to me to spend in regret. I wonder if I actually don't want to be social, or if I've just given up. A part of me envies these people and their circle of friends, spending time instead of killing it. Filling their moments with joy and happiness while I fritter mine away. A part of me remembers the two unanswered text messages on my phone and remembers who I am.

Leaving the room to themselves, I open my book and continue to read while I try my best to block out the environment. When I'm done reading I'll go home to my xbox. I'll have something to eat. I'll watch a movie. I'll wait for the day to end.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

How to get what you want

There is a series of TV programs running in the UK at the moment that is pseudo-science titillation dressed up as informational programming. It is called "How to get what you want" and features a team of people who can show you tips and tricks on how to be successful. Each show covers a different topic and not being very well equipped for life I thought it was the kind of thing that someone with Asperger's Syndrome should watch.

I recently caught the one on how to be successful with the opposite sex. Something I certainly need help with. The panel consisted of (and I quote) "a brain scientist" as well as your usual "relationship expert" and an expert on body language. The show comprised of information about how people's minds work and what behaviours they exhibit that they might not be aware of. They also ran a series of experiments to demonstrate various hypothesis.

What it didn't really do was tell you how to get what you want. It showed how people flirt what why they flirt and there was some explanation of what men look for in women and what women look for in men. The experiments involved a group of young, attractive 20-somethings in bar scenarios. However none of these people were being told what to do...everything they did was natural behaviour. So if we do these things naturally…what exactly is this show all about? I am guessing it is implying that if you're not successful with the opposite sex that maybe you are not doing these things so you should start doing them. In other words, be fake.

Other things that were revealed were how men concentrate on physical appearance when they first see a girl, but girls tend to draw conclusions about a man's personality from how he appears. They also demonstrated that first impressions can actually be changed so it is possible to turn someone around with conversation.

Regarding what a man wants, they want someone who looks young and healthy. So tips for women were to wear flattering clothes and make-up to enhance good features and cover bad ones. Wow, really? I'm sure that was a revelation for many. Regarding what a woman wants, they want a man to be masculine, broad-shouldered and have the appearance of someone who can protect and provide and is healthy. When it came to tips for men they fell short of saying you should hit the gym, they simply said that if your strengths are health, or youth you should show them. If you have wealth you should show that too.

Now my problem here is that I despise outward displays of personal attributes. I can't stand seeing guys in tight tops and vests showing off muscles. I can't stand people with flash jewellery and designer clothes. I think it is vulgar and shallow to behave that way. So is that why I'm not too successful with the ladies? Should I be spending my money on Dolce & Gabbana sunglasses, an Armani suit and a Rolex watch? Yet again an advice show is telling me to attract women I'd have a better chance if I pretended I was someone I'm not. Is this how normal people behave?

Then in a display of serendipity I was watching another show where I gleam psychological knowledge of the workings of the woman's inner mind. It's called Take Me Out and comprises a line of about 30 girls each with a light to demonstrate they are still interested in the current male contestant. As each guy is introduced they have to endure a few rounds that include their introduction, a display of talent, sometimes their own VT or that from their family or friends. With each round the women turn off their lights if they are not interested. At the end if the guy still has girls with lights still on they can choose one to go on a date with.

On an episode I saw today a guy came out in his twenties I guess, not ugly but not the most attractive person on the planet either. He was dressed the way most contestants are, in jeans and a clean white cotton shirt. His hair was styled the same way most contestants have their hair styled. He was your common or garden guy…looks the same as every other guy. After the introduction a few girls turned their lights off. For the second round his "trick" or "talent" was simply to reveal that he was worth £10m. From that point on only two girls maybe turned their light off and similarly in subsequent rounds almost no-one turned their light off. Also from that point all he did was talk about money or his yacht or his lifestyle and how he has a lot of gold-diggers, how he wants to avoid gold-diggers blah blah blah. If you want to avoid gold-diggers why not just not tell people about your money?

Long story short, by the end of his rounds he had more lights still on than any other contestant I've ever seen. Yet if you asked women I'm sure they'd express utter revulsion at the idea that they'd date a man because he was rich. Yet here it was…spelled out in black and white. No matter what women say about how they're not shallow, and how money doesn't matter, here they were throwing themselves at a man who has done nothing but reveal he was rich.

I wonder if the Rolex shop is still open.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Better dead than red

When I was younger I used to read a lot but my reading habits were maybe typical of someone with Asperger's Syndrome. Almost exclusively, I read non-fiction. The rare times I did read fiction it was something that was about whatever I was interested in at the time. I used to think that reading a fiction book was a waste of time. Why invest all that time in something purely for pleasure when you could be educating yourself and learning instead?

Now that I'm older I have to admit I've all but stopped reading books, and even the rare books that I do read are fiction. Oh, the irony. I'm not sure what caused this change. I think maybe I realised that when you read a non-fictional book about something you're only really getting one person's view of the facts with selective evidence to back it up. I think also when I was younger I didn't appreciate that the language that makes up the book can be art itself, the art was not just the finished product.

It's been a while since I read any books so I recently made a decision to make myself better read. I'm not sure if I'll find anything that will change my life, or even anything I'd want to read more than once (the concept of reading a book more than once is something I don't think I'll ever understand). On the other hand I do expect to read a lot of crap that I have to struggle through then curse that I ever wasted the time.

One of the reasons I want to be better read is because I want "in". I want to see what it is about these books that everyone talks about. I want to experience something that is an important piece of people's lives, and an important artifact of our collective culture. If I'm honest, though, a little piece of me wants to read these books because I'm a snob and I think reading books will make me a "better" person.

I want to concentrate on "classics" and have few books in mind already and I know some people who know some people who read some books so I'll seek to get recommendations too. I'm currently reading "The Picture of Dorian Gray" by Oscar Wilde. It's a bit of a cheat first book and I know I'm easing myself into this exercise as I know the story very well (I've read Will Self's "Dorian" and I've seen the movies too) and it is something that piques my interest. Couple to that Wilde's famous wit, of which I have enjoyed and admired many of his quips, and I think it's a good book to start with.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Big spaces and small spaces

After my initial introduction to my new company I have been moved into the general population…namely the main open-plan office. I know many people with Asperger's Syndrome have problems with open-plan offices and such but I'm not that bothered by it. I'm missing the reduction in screen privacy, and I guess I am occasionally annoyed by the idiotic discussions that go on around me, both technical (someone didn't understand why when updating something using jQuery the html in view->source did not also change (sorry if you don't understand that)) and non-technical (someone telling an anecdote about someone they knew who worked at a bank and programmed the computers to siphon off spare money…I swear this actually took place, I couldn't bite my lip and had to inform him that wasn't an anecdote, it was the plot for Superman III).

Stranger than the open-plan office is the lift that I need to take each morning, and each evening. It's only a few floors but when you’re in a confined space with someone you're constantly thinking in your head "please no-one start a conversation"…but they always do. We're in there for 20 seconds or less…how can you have a conversation? Gah! This morning I had to actually go the wrong way out of the office so I didn't cut my co-converser off mid anecdote (he was telling me about his friend who got bitten by a radioactive spider). Then on the way home rather than go to the car park I had to walk half way down the road so I didn't cut off someone else mid-anecdote.

Saturday, 6 February 2010


While walking around among other people it seems that I am the most impatient person in the world. I am the only one who appears to ever have an agenda or somewhere to go or some place to be. Apart from me, everyone just seems to not care. They all dawdle and crawl and clump together causing nothing but blockages and nuisance.

It's not only when on the move, but everywhere. They can't use an ATM in under 10 minutes, they can't have their money ready when getting to the counter or the ticket machine. They can't have already decided what they want to eat when coming to order.

I think the phenomenon at work is that other people enjoy the journey, where I am just looking to reach the destination. I always have somewhere in mind that I am going to, and I just want to get there. Other people seem to enjoy ambling so that they can use the time to talk and socialise.

That explains the walking around…but why can't people use an ATM in an expedient manner or show efficiency when their actions affect others? I suppose people are just selfish.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

I am Jack's lonely liver

Last year when I had that time off between jobs and went on a tour of the country, I entered into that state where you drink so much it just has no effect on you any more and you're drinking purely for the 2 seconds it wastes lifting up your arm then putting it back down again. When I returned I vowed to dry up a little. I mainly had my new job in mind as I wanted to stay acute and focussed, not obtuse and hung-over.

My problem is that "moderation" isn’t in my vocabulary. I've tried cutting back, I've desperately tried not drinking on Sundays so I am fine for work the next day but all I end up doing is breaking promises. I guess I'm just an all-or-nothing kinda guy, so I decided to just stop drinking altogether. I was off the wagon for Christmas and New Year as I knew I couldn't possibly handle the stress and anxiety without it, but that's been my only blip so far in four months now.

In terms of the health benefits I've already lost over half a stone which isn't bad seeing as I haven't changed what I eat or how much I exercise. My sleep is a lot better too. During the week I still don't get much sleep, but I haven't had to go to work with a hangover for a long time so I'm always fresh and alert in the mornings. At the weekend I usually turn my phone off when I go to bed and just sleep right through to the morning, waking up naturally. Usually when you're drinking you don't get a particularly restful sleep…but now I sleep for a good 7 or 8 hours and when I wake up I actually feel like I've had a good, solid sleep too. I feel really rested and rejuvenated, not all dehydrated and restless.

It's not all good though…obviously I do miss it and things just don't "feel right" at the weekend when you're not drinking. I still go out to see local bands and things but it's not quite the same when you're drinking coke at £3 a pint. When you're sat at home of a weekend watching TV, movies or playing games it's just not as relaxing without a few drinks. Having Asperger's Syndrome (AS) my mind is always racing and I miss the down time that being drunk gives me. In terms of work nights out and things, it's never fun being around drunk people when you're sober. So I'm not saying I'm teetotal now or anything, I'm just trying this out for now to see where it goes. Recovered alcoholics must have a terrible time; at least people who have never drunk don't know what they're missing.

Maybe my AS is actually helping me here. I'm always telling people who are "trying" to give up smoking; "why don't you just not smoke?" "You don't understand…" they bleat. Maybe as I'm so centred around routines I've just made this my new routine? "Not drinking" is now what I do.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Damn you, cruel fate!

There's a terrible twist to having Asperger's Syndrome that leads me to believe it was either designed by the devil, or I have been a very bad person in a former life. It goes without saying that I'm not the best face-to-face communicator which makes it all the harder for starting relationships. I can only really meet women in quite controlled circumstances… pubs and clubs are out of the question, as are overly noisy places or places where there are lots of distractions. Hopefully also a place the same woman habituates to allow me to gradually get to know her and work what little charms I have. Now let's throw into the mix the fact that all of my pastimes are either solitary or male-dominated, and it'd be easier finding a bacon sandwich in a mosque than a suitable partner.

My quiver is not entirely devoid of arrows though. Via a focused and controllable medium like e-mail where it is just me, the canvas, and time, I can be quite eloquent. When the social barrier that stops me taking part in the world is not a factor I can let my real self come out, I can express myself and engage with people. I imagine that the way I communicate through e-mail is the way normal people communicate face to face. These keys…these fingers…this is my face.

So at a certain level I am able to stir interest in a member of the opposite sex…but why do we e-mail people in the first place? Because we have no physical access to them, usually because they live far away. And that's the sand in the Vaseline. The one social skill I do have rendered completely useless.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Ben X

Tonight I watched "Ben X" which is a movie dealing with Asperger's Syndrome (AS). To say a few things, it is foreign language with English subtitles, and also that it is about someone who really does have AS, this isn't another "Big Bang Theory" where the "aspie" community have outed someone as having AS when they don't. Ben is a teenager who is relentlessly bullied at school, but seeks solace at night in the virtual worlds of on-line computer games. He teams up with a girl who plays the same game as him, his only real friend, and together they hatch a plan for revenge.

The movie shows an excellent knowledge of the subject matter, and as well as the scripted dialogue there are many unspoken, and sometimes fleeting, "moments" that people without an in-depth knowledge of AS would probably miss. Dialogue between Ben and other characters is cleverly filmed to highlight the way someone with AS perceives the world. I was really impressed with the way that not all of the symptoms were verbally rammed down your throat and explained in simple language…much of the film is exceptionally well underplayed.

Ignoring the AS elements for a while, this film has some of the short-comings of Mozart and the Whale in that for those not interested in the subject matter it's really just an "ok" movie. Perhaps even slightly sub-par.

It's also very intense; frequently harrowing, with very dark and desaturated visuals to hammer home the bleakness which never really lets up. The story is also incredibly bleak…don't expect to see an AS sufferer as "geeky and goofy but loveable nonetheless". Also don't expect to see a science genius who just has a few problems getting a girlfriend. No positive spin is ever given to Ben's AS - this movie focuses squarely on depression, loneliness, fear and anxiety.

If you have an interest in AS I'd say this is definitely worth watching. It's distressing but very well made and there are some really beautiful pieces of dialogue and moments that are so incredibly insightful you'll think the film maker has been reading the diary you only wish you could keep.