You may not have heard of it

(Personal)

2011-09-03 12:24
Comment

There is a running joke about hipsters being really proud of how obscure the bands they listen to are. (So well-known that a friend of mine was able to make use of a “hipster vampire” in a story. He was a vampire before it was cool. He’s from Transylvania; you may not have heard of it.)

This got me to thinking, because I have heard of a book called 100 Trillion Sonnets.

Write a suitably indie-rock-sounding song. Have 30 or so guitarists record the guitar part, have 30 or so vocalists sing the vocals, and so on. Now. Using software, assign unique names to each combination of musicians. Sell the corresponding single to hipsters for $20 with the promise that they will never meet anyone who has heard of this band.

Peter Seebach

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Taking the "practical" out of "practical joke"

(Personal)

2011-09-01 00:15
Comment [1]

Okay, so. We coin a bunch of neologisms, and organize a number of writers, artists, singers, and so on, to get these words into widespread use quickly; so widespread that they enter dictionaries.

Why?

So that in a couple of generations, when people encounter:

“To find a rhyme for silver, or any ‘rhymeless’ rhyme
Requires only will, verbosity, and time.”
—Stephen Sondheim

they will have no idea what he was talking about, because silver, being one of the most easily-rhymed words in English, is the word that crappy pop love songs use over and over to avoid having to look for anything interesting.

Peter Seebach

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I have the most awesome knee injury ever

(Personal)

2011-08-24 09:49
Comment

Something happened (no, I don’t know what) a couple of weeks back as a result of which my left knee was horribly sore for a few days. Then the lingering part: Horrible pain trying to walk up stairs, and this part seemed to be actually getting worse.

Then I discovered: Although I can’t walk up stairs, I can run up stairs. No pain, no hassle. Just run up stairs. SOLVED!

And a day or two later, it feels a lot better since I haven’t been stressing it, I’ve just been running up and down stairs a lot.

Peter Seebach

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Aspie twin powers, ACTIVATE!

(Personal, Autism)

2011-08-22 23:42
Comment [3]

Turns out that, yes, Beloved Spouse is autistic. We had been suspicious on and off, but had been thrown because most autistic people do not find other peoples’ emotional states overwhelming… But apparently some do.

Getting a formal diagnosis is a sort of big deal. To celebrate, we sat around the house reading.

… No, really. We like being home most of the time.

Peter Seebach

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It made sense at the time.

(Personal, Autism)

2011-08-21 23:21
Comment [1]

Today, I bought a six-pack of fluorescent highlighters.

I bought it because they’re all six colors of the rainbow, and they were out of order, and I couldn’t open the package to reorder them without buying them.

In my defense, fluorescent highlighters are nearly always useful.

Peter Seebach

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More random ideas!

(GeekStuff)

2011-08-19 09:54
Comment [1]

So, I got to thinking. How does anyone know that the One Ring can only be destroyed in the fire in which it was forged? And how common is that kind of limitation?

This got me to thinking that there ought to be an urban fantasy in which a car is assembled from bits and pieces of other cars, and it turns out that this car can only be disassembled in the chop shop in which it was made, which is somewhere in the suburbs of Chicago.

It does seem like the question of how a given unique thing can be destroyed is a necessarily hard one to have existing research on. If anyone had done it, the thing wouldn’t be there, so all we really know is what doesn’t work. One imagines specialists who maintain lists of methods of destruction which have succeeded in the past. “Hmm, Class 3, original creator still alive but no longer human. Either melt it down in the fire in which it was forged, or teach it the meaning of friendship.” A couple of My Little Pony episodes later, it’s off to Mount Certainly Nothing You’d Want To Happen On Your Birthday.

Peter Seebach

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New Japanese restaurant in Northfield

(Personal)

2011-08-17 17:32
Comment [1]

So, the former Wendy’s has reopend as a Japanese restaurant. The Northfield News says the Tokyo Grill is open, and since Jesse’s a fan of Japanese food, we went.

It’s pretty good. They’ve been open several hours as of this writing. They don’t have all their drinks online yet — pop or water. The various teas, liquor license, and suchlike are still coming. What they do have is sushi and various Japanese entrees.

Jesse had agedashi tofu. This wasn’t on the menu, but the waitress knew what it was, and got it for us anyway. I had a teriyaki chicken bento, and my mom had jumbo prawns. There were also gyoza and some kappamaki (aka cucumber rolls).

Everything was good, although I couldn’t try the gyoza sauce (I don’t get along with sesame oil). What really stood out, to me, was the kappamaki. Cucumber rolls are not one of the great glories of the sushi chef. They’re not fancy, they’re not expensive, and they tend to be tossed out without much care. These… The cucumber wasn’t a single squareish piece of cucumber, it was a bunch of finely chopped slivers. They were, apparently, delicious; the plate had a beautiful little decorative thing made with wasabi sauce (apparently excellent) and something called eel sauce (also apparently excellent).

A chef who takes that kind of care with kappamaki is a chef who is gonna make good sushi in general. We also got some california rolls (?) with the bentos; we haven’t tried them yet, because we ended up with too much food, but they look beautiful.

In the cities, we liked to go to Kikugawa and Saji Ya for Japanese food. My impression is that Tokyo Grill will be as good or better; certainly, everything we saw was good, and this was their first day. Given time to hire a few more people, fill in the menu, and so on? It’ll be amazing.

For those who happen to live in the Northfield area, give it a look!

Peter Seebach

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The Gospel according to a little old lady

(Religion)

2011-08-16 19:34
Comment

A friend of mine, who goes by the nym “borealis” on a few forums, posted a thread entitled My Mother’s Religion on a forum I hang out on. I repost the text here with permission:

My mother is 85 years old. Most of her life has been lived quietly and necessarily frugally in a rural area. She married the love of her life in 1948 and had three children in the next twelve years. The greatest sorrow of her life came in 2001 when my father died. Other than that, and the other family deaths which always are cause for sorrow, she’s led a pretty good life.

The religion of her childhood was fundamentalist – Gospel Hall – but she joined the United Church of Canada after about twenty years of marriage because that was the church of her husband, and she was very much a ‘follow your husband’ kind of woman. She has been a devoted ‘church lady’ until recently, when age has slowed her down. Always ready to help with the cleaning, the cooking the washing up, that every church seems to require of its female congregation. And she sang, her beautiful alto decorating the choir until very recently.

But during that time, any mention she made of theology was to complain about the shockingly ‘modern’ beliefs promoted by the UCoC. She almost left the church over their acceptance of gay ministers. She once told me evolution made absolutely no sense to her, it sounded like crazy talk. She wouldn’t go so far as to say Satan planted all the fossils, but I suspect it would have eased her mind if she could have believed that.

I never directly discussed religion with my mother, and certainly not theology. All three of her children have always protected her from our more radical ideas about God, especially me, being an agnostic. Only a few years ago, that admission from one of her children would have filled her with terror regarding our fate. So we didn’t talk about those sorts of things.

Two weeks ago, I was home with her, and in the evening I played guitar and she played her keyboard and we sang a lot of old songs and a few gospel tunes, and we talked. And when she said “I’ve been reading the Bible a lot lately.”, I braced myself for a sermon. Imagine my shock when she hesitated briefly, then said firmly: “I think half the Bible is just made up! It’s mostly a bunch of men telling stories and making themselves sound important. I was reading and it just came to me, a lot of it makes no sense and I can’t believe God is like that. I don’t believe it.”

It was a struggle to haul up my jaw, but when I did I asked her if there was some particular thing that bothered her. No, she said. Well, perhaps it was because of something she’d been thinking about for a couple of years that seemed wrong, and it got so it seemed so wrong she couldn’t accept an inerrant Bible anymore, and when she felt there was one thing wrong, a lot of other things began to look suspect.

And there it was, the last thing I would have expected to test my 85 year old mother’s faith. Homosexual marriage. because about ten years ago, a more than middle aged gay couple moved in down the road. They’re in their sixties, have been together over thirty years. They have a couple big friendly dogs, a pretty garden. And they are tremendously open hearted and generous men. They’ve become great friends with my sister’s family, and they are very well liked throughout the community, invited everywhere and always ready to offer a cup of tea to visitors. Over the years they’ve helped my mother with any number of little chores, especially when my brother in law was recovering from heart surgery.

And if my mother has any say in it, they are not going to hell. And probably nobody else is, either, because my mother has taken her eighty plus years of worship and prayer and belief and told God that parts of the Bible are just wrong and no decent deity would ever act like that.

And this is the Good News that the early Christians used to preach: God is not mad at you. You do not need to do anything, you are not in trouble, go be nice to people. Love your neighbors. Not because you are required to, but because you should.

One can only imagine how joyful she must be.

Peter Seebach

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Some of my best friends are crazy.

(Personal, Autism)

2011-08-10 21:19
Comment [2]

No, I don’t mean eccentric. I don’t mean “differently abled”. No, I mean crazy. This is a distinction I learned about a long time ago, when a nice man in a wheelchair explained it quite succinctly:

I am not “differently abled”, I am a fucking cripple.

The word “crazy” is not necessarily a bad word. It sorta is. It’s certainly got negative connotations, and you know what? That’s because mental illness is actually pretty disruptive. It can be a big deal. And because it can be a big deal, it’s very hard for people to include any kind of mental illness in stories unless the story is entirely about mental illness, or the mentally-ill character is just a two-dimensional bit player.

So, along comes one of my crazy friends, Luka. No, I didn’t ask permission to call him crazy; I just like the word. (Followup: Better judgement arrived, and I later asked; see below.) I know Luka decently well; we lived in the same house for some years, we’ve road tripped together. Luka is a great person to know. Heck. Luka is a great person. But… Luka is a great person who will occasionally declare that some object would Give Me Food Hands, and be totally unable to touch that object. I once saw Luka get lost in an elevator. Yes, really. (And yeah, it was one of the ones which open on different sides on different floors.)

Luka has pretty strong feelings on the question of how people talk about and deal with mental illness, and decided to address this with storytelling. Luka’s a great artist and storyteller, and decided to do a fanfic for the webcomic Homestuck. The fanfic has its own blog, brainbent.

In this fic, which is based off the characters from Homestuck, various of the characters are depicted as patients in a mental health hospital. They are there for, frankly, pretty good reasons.

One of them, who has serious self-loathing issues and is definitely non-sane, refers to himself in this fic as “crazy”, and… the drama llama arrives. See, according to some participants, it’s horrible and degrading and awful to call someone “crazy”, or to use the word at all in any way, or whatever. And battles ensue. We are told that only people who have been patients in mental hospitals are ever allowed to talk about them, because otherwise it’s “triggering”.

For those who are unfamiliar with the term; “triggering” is a term of art when dealing with mental health issues, especially traumas. “Triggers” are things that hit your buttons in a way that makes you unable to respond rationally, or causes you to freak out.

Part of writing respectfully is writing truthfully. The truth is, some people do in fact consider themselves crazy. I will happily tell you how cool it is being me, and how much I enjoy living in this brain, but… Yes, my brain is defective. It does not work in the way that some other brains do, or indeed, most of them. The average toddler can do things cognitively that I can’t. And I don’t think anyone is made better off by pretending that this is not in any way a problem.

Yes, Luka is writing a story about crazy people. Luka is a crazy people. (And yes, for the curious, I asked before saying that; Luka pointed out that I have a psych degree, and ought to use the technical term, which is “cuckoo for cocoa puffs”. True dat.)

To the person all upset about this:

Yeah, it’s upsetting to you, but you gotta own your triggers, here. You don’t like it, so don’t read it. Don’t go telling the rest of us we can’t have a meaningful story in which people we might find easier to relate to are portrayed as having more than one trait, or more than one interest. You can’t demand that no one ever anywhere use nuts in food because you have an allergy, all you can do is avoid things that have nuts in them. If the very concept of a fiction set in a mental institution bothers you… Don’t read it. It is not some grave crime against humanity for someone who has real live mental illnesses of the sort you get medications and therapy for to, well, write about mental illness. Heck, it’s sort of nice to see the topic being dealt with competently and respectfully, by someone who is really, really, aware that there is more to crazy people than being “crazy”.

The theory that only people who have been in mental hospitals should ever be allowed to talk about them is… well, frankly, and pardon the term. It’s crazy talk. That is not how writing works, that is not how literature happens. For that matter, what on earth makes you so sure that all the fans, and the author, are all completely free of mental inpatient care histories? I’ve never been crazy in a way which mandated being locked up, but I’ve had more than one friend get “institutionalized” (what a clean, sterile, word that is!) for good cause. It happens.

Just… If you don’t like it, don’t read it. Don’t go around trying to convince people, many of whom have been through just as much hell as you have, that they’re not allowed to be recovered enough to talk about it, or write about it, or heck, even think that some of this can be sorta funny sometimes.

For your drama-heavy postings, I hereby sentence you to listen to the 20% cooler remix of “Giggle at the Ghosties” for an hour.

Me? I’m gonna go order pizza for the friend who hasn’t been able to eat all day because nothing sounds like food because she’s stressed, then talk to the bipolar friend about funny Internet drama, then watch My Little Pony while rocking in my chair and possibly hugging myself or flapping my hands. Crazy? Yeah, that’d be us. Thanks, Luka, for keeping it real.

Peter Seebach

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Gifted child syndrome

(Personal, Autism)

2011-08-09 21:31
Comment [7]

A lot of “gifted” kids end up pretty messed up. There’s a lot of reasons for this, but one of them sorta came into focus for me recently. A friend refers to it as “the entity theory of intelligence”.

Here’s the thing. Say there’s a kid, and the kid is really smart. Knows lots of words, does math, stuff like that. A lot of parents and teachers then draw the following conclusions:

  1. The kid is emotionally mature and not still growing up normally for a kid of about that chronological age, give or take.
  2. The kid fully understands the likely outcomes of their actions; if they do something, they intended the results they got, and if they say otherwise, they’re lying.
  3. The kid does not need help, and it is inappropriate for the kid to ask for help when other people obviously “need it more”.

You know what this produces? Kids who have never developed basic functionality, because everyone simply declared that they obviously already had it and didn’t need any help. Kids who feel that their emotions and sense of identity are meaningless and wrong because they’ve been told over and over that they are not competent to know themselves.

The reality is this: Intelligence as “just one thing” is at best a misleading term. Yes, cognitive abilities are positively correlated. That theory that people who are good at math will suck at other tasks? Not actually true. People who are good at one thing are typically better at other things, too. But. Keep in mind that “typically”. And keep in mind that things like autism-spectrum disorders or ADHD can produce kids who have weird cognitive shortcomings that are not predicted by the observation that they’re reading three grade levels ahead of where they’re expected to be.

One of the things that I am really grateful to my parents for is this: When I asked for help, they didn’t laugh at me, insult me, or tell me I was lying. They helped.

When I was a little kid, I did not understand doors. The failure mode was this: If I knew a door would push, I would run up to it and push it as hard as I could, then try to turn the knob. The thing is… All that force could, for many doors, be enough to make the latch stick because it was being pushed against the frame. I was totally unable to solve this problem. My mom figured out what was wrong, and taught me a protocol: “Pull, turn, push.” I did this and suddenly doors were (quite literally) opened.

Now. You know what I was reading at the time? Professor E. McSquared’s Calculus Primer.

Some people might have concluded that a child who was skipping the exercises in a calculus text because “they’re obvious” might be reasonably expected to master the challenging art of opening unlocked doors. But instead of reaching that conclusion and then ignoring me in favor of some imagined child who was easily capable of opening doors and choosing not to in order to get attention, my mom assumed that I was a child who had not learned some things and had learned others, and helped me get one of the things I hadn’t learned.

Just a reminder: Kids are still kids. Even smart kids. You can be pretty smart and not be born with complete knowledge of what kinds of things may anger other people. You can be really smart and still lose your temper when baited a lot. And no, it’s not reasonable to expect the gifted kid to magically be able to resist baiting or whatever; that kind of thing is beyond the capabilities of most adults, and expecting it from a kid is just plain stupid.

Peter Seebach

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Comment [7]

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