On Asperger’s and Violence

Well, this is going to be a bit of an unusual post for me. I don’t normally deal with anything this serious; if you’ve read my blog you know it’s usually me complaining about something for a few paragraphs or so. Much as I enjoy complaining, there’s something a bit more…weighty, shall we say, that I feel needs to be addressed.

On October 1st I was in class when one of the students, browsing CNN during a five-minute break, reported to the teacher that there had been a college shooting in Oregon. Naturally, I and everyone else who had brought a laptop to class immediately hopped over to the news websites to follow the situation. I don’t recall very much else of note happening during the day – I don’t make a habit of following the news and this wasn’t much of an exception, as horrible of a person as that makes me sound like. To be honest, there didn’t seem to be a lot of information available that day anyhow.

After the fact, I talked with my dad about the issue with school shootings. Among other things we talked about the relation between these shootings and autism. At the time, I wondered if the UCC shooter would be revealed to have Asperger’s or autism. Turns out I may have been right – some Googling shows that the guy’s mother at least claims she had Asperger’s and so did her son. Jury’s out on the accuracy of this information so please cut me some slack if that’s not right. I feel what I need to say this anyway.

With this information and also with the Newtown shooting a few years ago, the shooter was linked with Asperger’s. I would like to stress that most people on the spectrum absolutely will not be involved in anything like this. To quote statistics from my criminal justice class, most people with any form of mental illness are in fact many times more likely to be the victims in a criminal act than the perpetrators.

As an example I submit myself and one of my friends – the only two people that I both know relatively well and know to have an official diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome. Neither of us are particularly likely to do anything like this – my friend is perhaps the overall nicest person I’ve ever met in my life and while I do lose my temper from time to time and it tends to involve a lot of yelling and swearing, I have an extremely long fuse and I absolutely refuse to vent my anger through violence – I’ve done that, and after a broken door, two holes in the drywall and a busted monitor, I’ve decided I don’t care for breaking things, much less people.

That said, I can…well, sort of…make a guess at how someone with Asperger’s could get so far gone as to consider unloading a gun into a school. The disorder’s biggest problem has always been the immense negative impact it has on communication and interacting with one’s peers. Without a group of friends around them to provide support, and with family unwilling or unable to help fill the gap, it’s relatively easy to see the consequences. They may not be murderous, or even criminal, but they’re always destructive.

Finally I’d like to say something, though first I’ll qualify it by saying I do not in any way condone these actions. At all. Seriously, this is some of the most abhorrent behavior I can possibly conceive of and I do not make that statement lightly. But these shooters are people too. They’re lashing out for whatever reason and we as a society can stop it. They may feel like outcasts, like they’ve never had anyone they could call a friend, never had anyone to listen to them, to share a laugh or a smile with. And they don’t just snap all of a sudden – typically, according to a lecture on active shooter situations I attended at my college, they will post something to social media or mention their plans to someone.

Basically what I’m saying is that I believe the best option by far is to reach out and never let anyone fall so far that the only thing they can think to do is to resort to hideous acts like this. I don’t know how – I’ve never been good at reaching out and connecting with people and I won’t pretend to for the sake of appearing competent in a blog post. But there’s a way to stop this. The first casualty of every shooting is the shooter. If we save them, we spare dozens if not hundreds of families unimaginable pain and heartbreak. That can’t be anything but good, right?

Stuff That I Have Itemized

If I wait any longer to write this post it won’t get done, so let’s do this.

Item One: I’m still in college.

Honestly it’s not that bad. I heard loads of conflicting reports on the subject before I actually applied. On the one hand my parents assured me it was nowhere near as bad as high school…not that that says all that much, really. On the other hand, I had a couple of friends who had gone to college and promptly vanished off the face of the earth. I only saw them online rarely and they were never available to actually do anything – it was just homework all the time.

Naturally I wasn’t pleased at the idea. However, I really don’t have an awful lot of homework. Sure, there’s a bit of reading but I read at 200 pages per hour and I finally have an effective note-taking system (in the form of a laptop and Google Drive) and other than that most work is spaced out. Granted I’m not in a math class yet, but still. The only annoying thing I’ve had to deal with thus far has been one of my teachers stating at the beginning of the semester that he hated busywork – and then promptly giving us two busywork assignments later on. Well, I guess he didn’t make any promises, but still, that’s annoying as all get out.

Item Two: I may have solved my procrastination issues.

What I have found to be extremely helpful is to keep a Google document with a list of everything. When I was younger I was hardly seen without a notebook and a writing utensil and I made exhaustive lists of everything. Frequently in church, as it kept me from disrupting my parents’ experience and was quiet. Plus since it wasn’t electronic it magically was less distracting. The gist of it is that one time during youth service I randomly decided to write down all the playable races for Dungeons & Dragons that I could think of off the top of my head. I don’t remember why, honestly, I just remember that it is very nice to have these things catalogued.

Now, the problem with that is that paper and pen only goes so far. If you have a list that you want to keep in alphabetical order, but you need to add something, you’ve got to either start over or wedge it in the minimal space you have available. Sure, you could argue that pencil would work, but if you need to add a new line you have to erase everything that comes after and at any rate I hate the scratching sound and feel of pencil lead or an eraser being used.

Google Drive solves that problem handily, with a Chromebook at all my classes and the same document available on my gaming PC, I can edit it whenever I need to. I could use my phone as well but the keys are REALLY small and annoying so I rarely do. Anyway, I have a document in my Drive called The Masterlist, which has lists of everything I can think of. The one exception is my list of Minecraft mods because that is about three pages long and I need to share it with friends anyway. At the top of this document where I can easily access it I have notes to myself, a list of college assignments, and a daily to-do list. The to-do list pulls items from my lists of things to do in general and assignments, so that I have a general idea of what I want to get done on a specific day.

For example, I may list a class, then laundry, then groceries, then a blog post, then homework. I will then get those done, usually in the order that they’re listed, but I don’t put down deadlines other than the end of the day. This way I don’t feel constantly pressured – if I have any sort of deadline for a job I will freak out under pressure and if I set a deadline for, say, playing a video game, I then feel pressured to enjoy that time because it’s running out really fast – which in turn leads to frustration and rage if things don’t go as I planned. So far this plan has worked out relatively well, though I’ll be sure to (belatedly) inform you all of any further developments on the subject.

Item Three: The Elections

Assuming you live in America you’ve no doubt been deluged in political drama surrounding the candidates for Presidential candidacy. Honestly I don’t have much of an opinion on the subject – politics has never been something I found particularly interesting and this latest storm of debates is little different. The one thing I’ve done relating to politics recently is a quick Google search for “donald trump autism.” According to a Facebook group for Aspies, Trump said something about autism being a disease. Rather than give a knee-jerk “Trump is Satan” reaction I Googled it, and while he is possibly wrong about autism’s cause, he’s not saying anything particularly vile about autistic individuals. Which is good, I suppose – I’ve already gone into detail in a previous post on how much I despise that attitude.

Regardless of Trump’s knowledge of the spectrum, my stance on the Presidential debates is that the election is a full year away and frankly I don’t trust the news anyway. I’ve got that year in which I can find relatively impartial articles to make a decision on who I want sitting in the Oval Office and for the moment there are far more pressing matters to attend to, like organizing my newly-bought collection of Nintendo games and making sure my blog and Youtube channel don’t die.

Where No Flagmouth Has Gone Before

So, yeah. I’m in college.

…the heck happened to all my free time?

In all seriousness it’s not so bad as that. College is pretty much nothing like high school, aside from, y’know, classes and such. The interesting thing about it to me is that rather than math-science-English-history-foreign language classes that not everyone is interested in, at the moment I’m just taking classes related to criminology and computers. Okay, fine, there’s a composition class too but honestly it’s a lot better by virtue of being more specific.

It’s also nice to not have the silly short time periods between classes. In high school, as I believe I’ve ranted at length over, you have five minutes to plow through all the stupids who want to sit in the middle of the hallway and chat before you can get to your next class. Here, the shortest interval between classes is…let me math this out real quick…three hours. Granted, one of those three hours is spent driving home from one campus and then driving off to the other but on the whole that’s not bad.

The instructors seem far more approachable as well. I believe I’ve stayed a short while after class to speak with each of them, with the exception of my composition instructor because I’m taking that class online. All of them have been incredibly helpful and are a great resource for these sorts of things. Which is a great improvement over high school where I had at least three teachers whom I had an adversarial relationship at best.

Honestly, the biggest problem I’ve had is not my own experience at college but rather my friends’. The past week was effectively the first week of classes – my own college started up the preceding Thursday but nothing really happened until a week ago anyway. The point is the colleges my friends are in started a week ago and as such this is effectively the first week of classes for us. Until Saturday I did not have the chance to speak with any of them other than the sole remaining high schooler among us, between homework and assorted other college-y things. Of course, I found this immensely frustrating. I’m of the opinion that once I complete my own work I should be allowed to have some free time to spend with my friends, but instead I get them either doing their own work or busy with other things. My dad says I should get more friends…yeah. I’ll get to that. Maybe not in this post but I will.

So along comes Saturday. I’ve been trying out a new update in Terraria, one of the games I can play, and I invite them all onto my game so we can do some stuff. All’s well and good for a while, until somebody walks into a dorm room and just…I don’t even know. What sort of mental process is it that leads a person to see someone playing a video game, headphones in, mic turned on, Skyping with friends, and decide “Oho! I shall conversate with them and stop them from playing the video game because they’re talking to myself! This is a fabulous idea that makes all the sense in the world!”

…uh, no. Get out.

Anyway this guy keeps yakking on for a good fifteen minutes or so, stopping the friend he’s talking to from actually, y’know, playing the game. Because why not. I’m sure interrupting is polite or something like that. Jeez.

And then later it happens again, just this time with the other friend who’s in college. I mean, he lives in a fraternity house (I think, don’t quote me on that) so I don’t expect him to have perfect silence on the other end of the mic or anything, but again, people decide to interrupt others who are playing video games.

Please imagine for a moment the sound of my head hitting my desk or a wall in measured and appropriate exasperation, as there’s no way to type that out in text.

So I’ve decided I definitely never want roommates. I tend to be very loud while playing video games with my friends, which are of course the best kind of video games. That’s not as much of a problem in my house. I rent a room in the basement, which is ludicrously effective at muting me for the most part – I once got startled at three in the morning playing a video game and screamed an obscenity at the top of my lungs. And my lungs are pretty tall, I used to play tuba.

Nobody noticed.

But in a tiny apartment or a dorm room, my roommate is sure to get annoyed. To say nothing of the people next door, or above or below. Rather than temper my reactions I’d just spring for a little extra privacy. Plus the fact that, while if you get a decent roommate things can be all well and good, I’m well aware of what constitutes “decent” in my book and the sheer volume of people who don’t qualify. Seriously, it’s better for all of us if I don’t room with someone else.

But yeah, other than issues with my friends’ housing college is alright, at least right now. There was a brief altercation where I was outraged at my friend’s calculus professor for assigning something at nine o’clock Sunday morning, but once my friend found out (and told me) that it was due on Wednesday and not Monday that was fine.

More updates as events warrant – probably that post on getting friends and such. Unless I’ve already done that, I dunno. I tend to forget what I’ve already posted.

America’s Roller Coast

The second part of my vacation took place after the last post – fortunately by that point we were out of New England so the drivers were approaching sanity again. Although….there’s something to be said for listening to your dad’s reactions to the incredible reckless driving.

Now, that aside, our final stop on vacation was Cedar Point, the best roller coaster park in America and possible the world. You’d have to ask my brother, he knows a ridiculous amount about coasters. Anyway, I enjoyed the time I spent actually on the coasters, but not the time spent literally anywhere else. It was a VERY hot day and bright and sunny for the most part (more on that later). Which means I hated it. I spent the entire time the sun was out feeling like a slug or something, coated in a constant film of mingled sweat and sunscreen.

That and there were people EVERYWHERE, constantly talking and making noise. Thank God we went on a Wednesday, because that meant there was a significantly smaller amount of attendees than there would be on, say, the weekend. Yeah, no thanks, there were plenty just that Wednesday. At least there was actually space in which to do things, not like my high school’s hallways.

Oh, and the coasters were really good. When I strap myself down my brain decides that now is the best time to review all the things that could possibly go wrong and what would happen to me if they did. Unhelpful in the extreme. I suspect it was lodging a protest of some sort. Anyway this continues until I get to the top of the hill, at which point we go down and I’m too busy enjoying the ride to think about things like death and dismemberment.

So yeah, the coasters were amazing, but I didn’t really think they were worth the sheer agony of the waiting for them. Didn’t help that I was developing a headache at the time, but that’s situational. Eventually we had to go back to the hotel because it started storming – the parking lot could have done with some storm drains, because it was literally half a foot underwater in places. Since I’d purchased one of those woven conical hats and was wearing it to keep the rain out of my face I felt like some sort of Vietnamese rice farmer. There’s a certain point where you give up keeping your feet dry because your socks have turned into sponges and you make this squelching noise with every footstep. Not fun.

But that was not the most important thing on the trip. There’s a place near Dayton, Ohio that sells red velvet cake malts. Which are exactly as good as they sound, if not better. Worth the vacation just for that.

New York City

For the record, big cities aren’t exactly my thing.

Of course, when I say “not exactly my thing” I really mean “the closest I can get to hell on Earth.”

There are WAY too many cars. By a full order of magnitude at least, plus what cars there are are driven by maniacs who probably obtained their license by holding the instructor at gunpoint. Walking is always a pain, but it’s the least hellish of the options for traveling around the city – and if you know me you know how much I hate walking. Seriously, it’s that bad.

The subway and the buses are also pretty terrible. Unless you have amazing timing or just shove everyone out of your way there’s no way in hell you’ll get an actual seat, so you’ll have to stand there hoping nobody picks your pocket and nearly falling over every time the vehicle stops or starts. Which if you’re in a bus, will be exceedingly often.

I’m not kidding. My dad is a better driver than I am, and honestly I’m better than most by this point (‘course I’m an excellent driver…) and he refused to try to navigate this city in his car. We enlisted the help of a friend who lived in the area, and even he had trouble.

That and the NOISE. For God’s sake, every two seconds someone in earshot will decide it’s time for a surprise car horn inspection and hammer the thing like there’s no tomorrow. If you’re really lucky they’ll do it two inches from you and blow your eardrums clean out of your head.

And the people everywhere, none of whom are going to get out of your way so unless you want to ram straight into them you need to basically dodge everyone on the sidewalk. And there’s a hell of a lot of people to dodge as well, so good luck. Plus half of them are smoking about as much as a coal-burning steam engine so say goodbye to your nice clean lungs. And even once you find somewhere to sit down, people walking by will try and sell you stuff or whatnot. I don’t know about you but if I’m sitting there reading a book I don’t want to be petitioned by door-to-door salesmen wannabes, seriously.

That said, we’re at least situated in a hotel fairly close to a view of the new World Trade Center. Take a good long look, Al-Quaeda. You suck forever, and we win.

*ahem* We’re not going there.

That said, I can’t be too hard on New York City drivers because honestly they’re better than the ones in Massachussetts. Although maybe only by virtue of not having as much room because of all the bloody buildings, but eh, I’ll take what I can get I suppose. Unless people want me to rant at them, which I’m only too good at.

And I haven’t taken a taxi anywhere. According to my dad that’s an adventure, so we’ll probably have to do that before we leave the city for good tomorrow.

Just a quick update while I’m on vacation to tell you what I think of the city, I suppose. Hope you found it useful.

Zoo Trip

Recently, as in a full week ago, I went on a trip with my family to the Henry Doorly Zoo. We were, initially, planning on a trip to see my grandparents out of state, but that was canceled on the grounds that in a week we will be leaving for a VERY expensive trip to New York City for a while and as such my parents are monitoring their funds very carefully. I was upset about this cancellation because I had been informed by one of my friends who had visited the zoo that they had added cuttlefish. For the record, cuttlefish are my favorite animal. I’ve probably already said that but it’s worth saying again, I like them just that much.

A compromise was made. Instead of a trip super-far out of state, we just went to the zoo. Which meant I got to work for most of last week as well – probably a good thing, I could always use more money. Anyhow, we went to the zoo (after staying the night in a hotel and watching Battlebots) and the very first thing we went to was the aquarium. We pretty much blitzed through most of the beginning stuff – there’s only so many fish you can look at before the “normal” ones start to blend together. As such, the only ones we really spent time at were the penguins and the big shark tunnel – you know the one, where you walk through a glass tunnel surrounded by sharks, big grouper-type fish, sea turtles and stingrays.

At that point we hit the jellyfish exhibit. Now, I’ve always been a big jellyfish nerd. My username, Flagmouth (Flagmauth for my Youtube channel) is derived from the order Semaeostomeae, a group of jellyfish that tend to be the biggest and most impressive-looking ones. So when I got to see my first real jellyfish exhibit (which is to say it wasn’t a bunch of moon-jellies that looked like plastic bags with four-leaf-clover tattoos) at Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, I was excited. I saw a sign saying that they had lion’s mane jellyfish. My inner nerd started rattling off statistics faster than most auctioneers: “Cool, those things can be ten feet wide and a hundred feet long I can’t wait – oh.”

Yeah, they can be that big but Shedd’s jellyfish were only about four inches in diameter, if I’m being generous. I was, understandably, disappointed.

Going to Henry Doorly’s aquarium I expected this same size difference – I went there last year too, on a trip to my grandparents’ place. But this time I had a question. I looked at the tank for purple-striped jellyfish (labeled as purple-stripe sea nettles but that’s neither here nor there) and noticed that there were six of the little things drifting around. Going back to my Wikipedia-reading days, these things could grow up to three feet in diameter and twenty feet long. The tank wasn’t big enough to hold one jellyfish that size, let along six of them.

Being the obstinate borderline-OCPD Aspie that I was, I waited near a staff door and when an aquarist came out I proceeded to interrogate him. He confirmed that the jellyfish weren’t fully-sized (their coloration also indicated they were juveniles) and said that they never would be, because they couldn’t provide the food for animals that big. Turns out, the reason why so many aquariums have moon jellyfish is because they make really good food sources for anything with jellyfish on the menu, which makes me feel rather silly for not having figured that out on my own. But aside from that, he brought up another point (which I had anticipated this time, go me). The aquarium simply didn’t want jellyfish that big. Whether it was the purple-striped ones or the neighboring egg-yolk jellyfish (which can grow up to the size of washing machines in the wild – obviously not at Henry Doorly Zoo, though) a bigger jellyfish tank would be a building and maintenance nightmare.

The reason is that jellyfish can’t just be stuck in a tank like about every other marine species in an aquarium. They’re drifters, so in an ordinary rectangular tank they’ll end up stuck in the corners unable to get out. And nobody wants to spend all day yanking them back to the middle of the tank so they impress visitors. So they need a cylindrical tank with a constant current in order to keep mobile. Also, remember in Finding Nemo? That filter intake that sucks Nemo in? Those things eat jellyfish. And no aquarium worth its salt (ha ha, pun not intended) wants their animals turned into confetti.

So, with that question answered, I pointedly ignored the sea anemones begging for attention and moved on. Then we found the cuttlefish.

And we stayed there for a good fifty minutes. Among other things I saw one of the animals cosplaying as a Reaper from Mass Effect (and immediately stopping when I called it out, given that I’ve played Mass Effect the cuttle probably feared for its life and/or plans at world domination) and one of them exchanged peace signs with my brother. Or possibly flipped him off European-style. Cuttlefish don’t live in American waters so I’m beginning to suspect the latter. Which is hilarious, either way.

Once we FINALLY got tired of the cuttlefish and decided to let other people see past us, we pretty much spent the rest of the visit doing mostly nothing. We ate some stuff, hated that one bat exhibit that smells like rotten fruit, didn’t see any prairie dogs because it was raining and interviewed a meerkat on sentry policies in desert dome exhibits. Also I refused to move from an exhibit until I saw burrowing owls. I eventually played my ADHD card and left anyway, but the next exhibit had a burrowing owl in it anyway that wasn’t being antisocial so we stared at him for a while.

He just might have been a Weeping Angel because he didn’t move at all while we watched him. Granted he didn’t turn to stone either, but hey, maybe he’s a special Weeping Angel.

Difference of Opinion

Let me put this as delicately as I can: Sword Art Online is a terrible anime.

I believe this to be objectively true. A while back my friends finally convinced me to start watching anime, which is a worthy pastime. At least, if you can put up with the fact that some of the animators are convinced they’re making porn. Seriously, if I wanted to watch porn, I’m pretty sure I could find it. Give me well-animated fight scenes, thanks.

Back on topic, one of my friends had sworn up and down that Sword Art Online was easily the best anime of all time. Having no frame of reference, I believed him. Why wouldn’t I? The guy generally has good taste in this sort of thing. Sure, when I looked it up opinions seemed rather divided but I still went in thinking I’d enjoy the anime.

Well, that turned out not to be the case.

It was awful, much more so because I had just finished watching Attack on Titan, which is amazing. The story started with a good premise, good character ideas, and it seemed to be shaping up for a good show – and then the author threw it all away. The main character turns into an overpowered god akin to Superman back before kryptonite, the side characters’ lives all revolve around him, and the main premise of the show is OUTRIGHT IGNORED for a good ten episodes or so. Then the author must have gone “Crap, there was a plot I needed to get to!” and solves the whole thing in two episodes. By introducing someone who FINALLY beats the main character, except nope, deus ex machina.

Just…just no.

And amazingly there are people who LIKE this. I literally am incapable of understanding how such a thing is possible. But whatever, I’m widely considered insane by my peers and am fine with that.

From what I have seen so far, this is objectively poor writing. And I would like to point out that I went in trying to like the anime. I tried so hard. But…I just couldn’t enjoy it. It made me very sad.

And of course, I tried to explain this to my brother when he watched SAO and said he liked it. I said it was fine if he liked it as long as he acknowledged that it was poorly written – the two things are separate in my mind. He told me that the poor writing was in my opinion, and proceeded to respond the exact same way no matter how much I argued with him.

Now, whether or not I like something is definitely my opinion. But really, by every standard of writing this is terrible. It’s like Twilight – the writing sucks, the romance is terrible, but it’s wildly successful…somehow. Whatever. People can like and dislike whatever they want (except Frozen. You will like that or I WILL FIND YOU.) but there are some things that are just poorly written. I doubt anyone could say that the stories I wrote in first grade about Battlebots stopping an alien invasion were any good, objectively.

The problem, of course, is that objective standards for writing are in and of themselves questionable. You can’t create a mathematical scale for measuring how well something is written. Hence the ability of my brother (and dad, at one point) to just stand behind their “In your opinion” argument. But there are differences. For example, the first anime I ever watched, Infinite Stratos, was similarly terribly written with a rather wasted premise. I enjoyed that one. I have no idea why I enjoy IS and hate SAO, but the contrast has made me try harder not to say that something is “good” or “terrible,” because that’s very hard to back up unless you’re a professional critic. And even then people are more than capable of disagreeing with you. If you ask me about something like that I’ll usually say what I personally thought about it and then what I thought from a more objective viewpoint.

I do prefer to account for others’ opinions on the matter, after all. Except regarding Frozen. That’s the one thing I’ll allow myself leeway on. You don’t like Frozen, all bets are off.