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.